Jane Fawcett, Bletchley Park Codebreaker, RIP

This is from the i paper :

Jane Fawcett was still in her teens when she received a letter from a friend in February 1940 …

“I’m at Bletchley and it’s perfectly frightful,” her friend wrote. “We’re so overworked, so desperately busy. You must come and join us.”

Fluent in German and driven by curiosity, Ms Fawcett – then known by her maiden name Jane Hughes – found work at Britain’s top secret code-breaking facility at Bletchley Park, about 50 miles north west of London. Of the 12,000 people who worked there, about 8,000 were women. Conditions in the single-story wooden buildings were hardly ideal.

‘It was just horrid; there were very leaky windows,’ Ms Fawcett recalled in a 2015 interview, ‘so it was very cold with just  frightful old stove in the middle of the room that lets out lots fumes. We were always working against time, there was always a crisis, a lot of stress and a lot of excitement.’

In May 1941, the British navy was searching for Germany’s most formidable battleship, the Bismarck., which had last been seen near Norway. Ms Fawcett was transcribing an intercepted message from the headquarters of the Luftwaffe when she noticed a reference to the French city of Brest.

In a reply to a Luftwaffe general whose son was aboard the Bismarck, a German officer noted that the battleship was headed to Brest for repairs.

Ms Fawcett relayed her discovery to her supervisors, and within a day the Bismarck ws spotted by the US Navy in the Atlantic, about 700 miles off the coast of Brittany. British warplanes and naval vessels descended on the Bismarck, which was sunk on May 27 1941. Moe than 2,000 German crew members were killed.

The sinking of the Bismarck marked the first time that British codebreakers had decrypted a message that led directly to a victory in battle. Cheers erupted among the staff at Bletchley Park, but their celebration remained private.

Ms Fawcett’s wrk was not made public of decades. Along wit everyone else at Bletchley Park, she agreed to comply with Britain’s Official Secrets Act, which imposed a lifetime prohibition on revealing any code-breaking activities. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that her role in the sinking of the Bismarck began to come o light.

“My husband had benign the navy and done all those heroic things in every quarter so of course we all talked about him an those brilliant young adventurers who saved Britain – well, saved the world,” Ms Fawcett said last year.

“So when everything we had done which we new had been very hard work and incredibly demanding suddenly showed its head and we were being asked to talk about it, ti felt quite overwhelming. I’d never told a soul, not even my husband. My grandchildren were verysrurprised.”

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