Name: Midshipman Joanna Emerson Starling
Theater: Royal Navy
Nationality: British
Position: Radar/Radio Operator, WRNS


Midshipman Joanna Starling is a Wren officer (Women's Royal Naval Service) assigned to the HMS Viperous as a radar and radio operator. She's one of the slew of British women who've received RADAR training since the military began pushing the technology. A recent addition to the ship, she was previously assigned to RADAR operations on the coastal base at Portsmouth before volunteering for duty on a /real/ ship. She strives (perhaps too hard) to maintain an image of military efficiency, discipline and workmanship. Which can make her rather stiff to try and have a conversation with but she seems competent enough, almost preferring the company of electronic machines to people.

Her surname might ring a bell with older Navy men. Her father, Commander James Starling, is a career Royal Navy man, a veteran of the Great War currently assigned to the HMS Barham.


Joanna Starling is a young woman, early or mid-twenties at the most, though there's a professional severity about her that may make her seem older. She works to maintain an image of efficiency and discipline at all times. She's a little taller than average for a woman with a slender build that's been strengthened by military life. Her face is oval-shaped and fair-skinned, composed of rather sharp features. High cheek bones, a hawkish nose and steel blue eyes dominate. Her chestnut brown hair has been cut to several inches above her shoulders and its typically coiled into a thick bun at the base of her neck. Her accent is solid English with a lilt common in the southwest.

She's dressed in the uniform of the Women's Royal Naval Service (or Wren, in popular vernacular). Smart blue coat with a matching tie knotted under the collar of her white blouse. The uniform's been modified somewhat, consisting of tailored blue trousers rather than the skirt one would see on a shore-bound Wren. A blue sailor's cap is sometimes worn on her head, when the situation calls for it. She wears the rank badge of a Midshipman. She clearly makes an effort to keep the uniform clean and polished, and every button of it is worn with pride. The only jewelry visible is a diamond ring on the third finger of her right hand, set with a stone that's more tasteful than dazzling.



As far back as anyone in the family can remember, the Starlings have been sailing in defense of the British Empire. Old family letters describe great-great-grandfathers manning cannons against the Spanish, fighting colonial rebellion on the American coast and facing Napoleon's forces at Cape Trafalgar. James Starling kept up that tradition as a young officer in the Great War, sailing against the Hochseeflotte on a destroyer in the North Sea. He acquitted himself admirably, made a career of the Royal Navy and now commands a ship of his own in the fight against Hitler.

But this is not his story. James Starling also managed to father a daughter between sea tours, Joanna Emerson Starling. She's his eldest, the progeny of James and his first wife, London socialite Elisabeth Emerson. The Emersons were a good family, patriots who later sent their own son to the Western Front, and better moneyed than the Starlings. It seemed a good match at the time. They married, and James settled Elisabeth and his baby girl in the port city of Bristol while he went off to fight the Kaiser. Joanna grew up a proper Navy brat, listening to sailor's stories and playing with the officer's sons.

Elisabeth hated it. She was unprepared for motherhood alone, cut off from London society and (after the swift, violent death of her younger brother in France) disillusioned with the military. As soon as Joanna was old enough to be looked after by others Elisabeth found frequent excuses to retreat to London. Joanna was left largely to the care of her retired Navy grandfather during these visits, which did not improve her feminine refinement very much. Finally, after years apart and no real marriage to speak of, James and Elisabeth divorced. At the time the 7-year-old girl did not understand why, though as she grew she pieced together details of a rather public affair her mother had with a stage actor. He and Elisabeth wound up marrying and producing a half-sister for Joanna, though the girls did not interact much growing up. James eventually remarried a more suitable WRNS clerk stationed in Bristol who gave him two sons, James Jr. and Nelson.

Joanna lived mostly in Bristol, with what she always considered her true family, until she was old enough to be carted off to a boarding school of her mother's choosing. She loathed it but it gave her a decent education, which she continued through a Bachelor of Science degree at Bedford College in London. Educational standards in the Royal Navy were high and Joanna never questioned the fact that she'd enter the WRNS service. She did well in officer training and was assigned to wireless communications service at the naval base in Portsmouth. In truth, she was rather dismayed with her career options. A man could do just about anything he set his mind to in the Navy but a woman was relegated to being a glorified secretary, cook or nurse (the last two options would have been a complete disaster for Joanna). But history was about to open up far more opportunities for her. The first came with technology. RADAR, invented in the 1930s, was fast being adopted for military application and Joanna jumped at the chance to become one of the thousands of young women trained in it. The whole process fascinated her. There was soon no place she liked more than bent over an electronic screen, reading the squiggling lines that pin-pointed planes and ships. She also found professional respect. Some officers even remarked they "preferred women as radar operators and plotters because they appeared to be far more sharp and accurate than their male counterparts." (seriously, link:

Her personal life was never a priority but a woman is expected to marry, so she attempted to domesticate herself with a Portsmouth logistics officer named Andrew Webber. They've been engaged for two years, with no sign of a wedding date in sight. Andrew's a decent man but he's a more sensible match than a passionate one and Joanna's in no hurry to settle down with him. Nor he with her. The Germans provide a convenient excuse to put things off a little longer.

She went on in Portsmouth until she learned of the posts for radar operators available on the recently de-mothballed HMS Viperous. Even for a woman. She did everything short of begging when she volunteered for the assignment. Serving on a true Royal Navy vessel was something she'd never imagined she would do, and she was not about to miss this blessed moment. It wasn't exactly a coveted assignment, so there wasn't much competition from her male counterparts. And so, Miss Starling finds herself assigned to the Viperous as it prepares to lurch itself out of dry dock. Her father is both proud to see his daughter serving as a Wren and terrified at the thought of his girl going off to war. But they're both keeping a stiff upper lip about the whole thing. Andrew was NOT happy and the couple exchanged harsh words before she left Portsmouth, but his opposition was pretty much a non-issue. As for Joanna, she's both excited to serve usefully in the war effort and (though she won't admit it) terribly nervous. About proving herself to the men she'll serve with, about holding up under the pressure of combat sailing, all of it. How she'll fare during all of this remains to be seen, but she's thrown herself into it as eagerly as the patriotic boys shipping off to the continent.


Coming Aboard
Coffee and Trousers
Unknown Contact
In Which the Viperous Does Not (Really) Sink
You're here to be mothers, not lovers!
Broken Things


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