The Debs Of Bletchley Park

Six of the female Codebreakers have returned to Bletchley Park as a book featuring their stories is launched.

The women are among forty-five whose memories are included in a new book, The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories, written by Bletchley Park's chief historical adviser, Michael Smith.

They told Michael what it was like to be a young woman at Bletchley Park during WW2 and talked not just about their work but about every aspect of their lives there.

The women featured include:

Lady Marion Body, from Stanford Dingley in Berkshire, was a Foreign Office civilian working on Japanese encoded messages alongside HRH The Duchess of Cambridge's grandmother and great-aunt. She recently briefed the Duchess on what her grandmother and great-aunt did at Bletchley.

Jean Pitt-Lewis, from Monmouth in Gwent, was a Foreign Office civilian and member of the legendary Dilly's Girls, a group of young women who worked alongside the great Bletchley Codebreaker Dilly Knox breaking Italian and German secret service Enigma messages. The secret service messages were vital to the Double Cross deception which ensured the success of the D-Day landings.

Betty Webb, from Wythall in Worcestershire, was a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). She worked on German police messages in the Mansion at Bletchley Park. These messages revealed the beginning of the Holocaust with the massacres of thousands of Jews on the eastern front. Betty then moved to Block F to write intelligence reports based on Japanese Army messages decoded at Bletchley.

Marigold Freeman-Attwood, from Haddenham in Buckinghamshire, was a member of the Women's Royal Naval Service, the Wrens. She worked on Colossus, the world's first digital electronic computer, which was developed at Bletchley but the existence of which was kept secret for decades.

Margaret Mortimer, from Bramble Edge in Dorset, was a Wren working in the Newmanry Registration Room receiving German messages from the intercept site at Knockholt, near Sevenoaks in Kent on punched paper teleprinter tapes, preparing them for running through Colossus and logging the results.

Jean Tocher, from Poole in Dorset, was a Wren in the Bletchley Park Naval Section working on the "Allied Plot". This was a chart of the world covering all four walls of one room on which a number of Wrens plotted the movement of all the allied ships and their German, Italian and Japanese opposite numbers.

At the height of the war, there were 10,500 people working at Bletchley and its main outstations of whom around two thirds were women. Their roles ranged from the leading Codebreakers to the lowliest filing clerk. All played an essential part in a collective effort which saved countless lives by predicting which cities the German bombers would attack each night, helping to sink the U-Boats that were torpedoing the vital supplies from America and by playing a key role in allied successes in North Africa and Europe.

The Codebreakers also told British and US commanders what Hitler and his generals were thinking during the D-Day invasion and as part of that process Bletchley Park became the birthplace of the digital electronic computer.  

The women who attended today's launch all contributed to those successes.

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