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Victoria Drummond

Victoria Drummond (1894 – 1978)
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Victoria Drummond (1894 – 1978)

The first woman member of the Institute of Marine Engineers



Victoria Alexandrina Drummond was born in 1894, in privileged circumstances and with Royal connections. She was christened with the name of her Godmother, Queen Victoria, and spent her childhood living in Megginch Castle, Perthshire, and on the Estate of her Grandfather Baron Amherst in Norfolk. 

Victoria Drummond showed an early aptitude for mechanics, but it wasn’t until the outbreak of the First World War that she got her first opportunity. In 1916 she started an Apprenticeship in Scotland, working first at the Northern Garage in Perth and then the Caledon Ship Works in Dundee. 

In 1922 she sailed for the first time as Tenth Engineer aboard the SS ‘Anchises’ of the Blue Funnel Line. She sailed with the company for four voyages to Australia and one to china before leaving to work toward her second engineer’s qualification, which she gained on her third attempt. Despite having gained this qualification Drummond sailed as fifth engineer for the British India Company in 1927 for one year.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s work was scarce and Drummond used this time to try and gain a British chief engineer’s certificate. Despite taking the exam on 37 occasions she failed each time, convinced at last that this was because of her sex. She was however successful in gaining a Panamanian chief engineer’s certificate. 

The social upheaval of the Second World War meant that a lot of women found work in industries that may never have been open to them otherwise. In March 1940 Victoria Drummond worked as second engineer aboard a Dutch vessel, which sailed the Mediterranean with cargo and was also involved in the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force in Marseille. Later that same year she joined the SS Bonita at Southampton. It was whilst sailing the Atlantic, 400 miles from land, that enemy bombers attacked the vessel. Drummond received an MBE for devotion to duty and ‘Lloyd’s war medal for bravery at sea’ after taking charge of the engine room alone, keeping the engine running despite damage to a vital pipe during the enemy bombardment. When the ship successfully came alongside in Virginia she was given a hero’s welcome.

This wasn’t the end of active service for Victoria Drummond and throughout the rest of her wartime career she sailed on various vessels around the world. In 1941 the vessel she was serving on was attacked again, the second mate and two other men were killed. She sailed amongst many convoys throughout the war across the Atlantic and to Russia and took part in the Invasion of Europe.

After the war finished in 1945 Drummond enjoyed a varied career. She superintended some Shipbuilding in Scotland, worked on short trips in the Mediterranean on cargo ships and tankers. From 1952 – 1957 she sailed as second engineer on various vessels, travelling around the world in the process. Eventually from 1959 until her retirement in 1962, she sailed as chief engineer.

Victoria Drummond died in 1978 having become the first female member of the Institute of Marine Engineers and having opened doors for the women that followed after her. She was buried at the place of her birth, Megginch Castle. 

Sources:

Oxford DNB

Cherry Drummond, ‘Drummond, Victoria Alexandrina (1894-1978)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 

[accessed1 Dec 2004: http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/66436]

'The Remarkable Life of Victoria Drummond' by C. Drummond

Victoria Drummond (1894 – 1978)
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