Female codebreakers reunited at Bletchley Park

May 6th, 2014

The 88-year-old was part of the Colossus C watch at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire in 1945, and was pictured alongside almost 40 female colleagues at Woburn Abbey, where they were housed.

Their identities had been closely guarded secrets but now six surviving members of the group, all members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (Wrens), have been reunited. The gathering was coordinated by the National Museum of Computing after the women got in touch having seen the photograph.

The Codebreakers at Bletchley Park in 1945

Among them was Margaret Kelly, 87, from Monmouth, Wales, who joined the Wrens aged 18. Mrs Kelly, who now has 33 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren, recalls “whizzing” off messages from the machine to be translated from German.

“It was lovely to see the other Wrens after such a long time and I hope we will meet up again,” she said.

The group also included Margaret Mortimer and Margaret O’Connell, both 87, as well as Lorna Cockayne, 88, who had all worked feeding tapes into Colossus.Betty Warwick, 89, who lives in London, worked at Bletchley Park as a registrar before going on to become a speech therapist after the war.

She said: “I had a call from Maggie (Margaret Mortimer) to say she had spotted my picture in the photo which was printed in the Telegraph. I then got a copy and recognised myself.”

Mrs Chorley added: “It was lovely to see everyone and be together again after such a long time.”

At the gathering the women were shown a fully-functioning Colossus Mark II, which had been rebuilt.

Regarded as the world’s first digital, electronic computer, Colossus was built to speed up codebreaking of the Lorenz cipher. By the end of the war there were 10 functioning machines.

The women described the gathering, which was held in March, ahead of a film of their reunion to be shown on the BBC’s The One Show on Wednesday evening.


World War Two

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