Today is the A to Z Challenge’s second Sunday break for the month but since I usually post every day or just about, I thought I’d write one of my normal Saturday segments.
Throughout history women have made their mark in a wide variety of ways. In WOW, I usually highlight one of these remarkable women and write about their life from birth to the grave. To keep with my theme for this month’s A to Z Challenge, today I write about women who contributed to the war effort through science and mathematics but only about that aspect of their life.
Women Codebreakers of Bletchley Park
Mavis Batey (nee Lever, 5 May 1921 – 12 November 2013) was an English code-breaker that worked at Bletchley Park during World War II. She had been studying German at University College, London when the war began. She was initially employed to check the personal columns of the Times for coded spy message but in 1940 she was recruited for Bletchley Park to work with Dillwyn Knox. Batey was closely involved with decryption and became so familiar with the styles of individual enemy operators that she could determine that two of them had a girlfriend called Rosa and this lead to developing a successful technique. In December 1941 she broke a message between Belgrade and Berlin that enabled the Bletchley team to work out the wiring of the Abwehr Enigma machine. She met fellow codebreaker, Keith Batey at Bletchley and married him in 1942. After the war, she was involved with the Diplomatic Service and had three children; however eventually she became highly involved in the world of gardening. She was awarded Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1987. She died in 2013.
Margaret Alice Rock (July 1903 – August 1983) was an English cryptoanalyst who worked as a codebreaker for Bletchley Park. Due to the Official Secrets Act 1939, so much of her work was not revealed during her lifetime. She was educated at Bedford College, London where she studied French and mathematics. Like Mavis Batey, she was recruited by Dillwyn Knox in 1940. Dillwyn said of Margaret Rock
‘Miss Rock is entirely in the wrong grade. She is actually 4th or 5th best of the whole Enigma staff and quite as useful as some of the ‘professors’. I recommend that she should be put on the highest possible salary for anyone of her seniority.’
She was awarded the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1945 and retired from working for the government in 1963. She never married and died in August 1983.
Joan Elisabeth Lowther Murray (nee Clarke, 24 June 1917 – 4 September 1996) was an English cryptanalyst and numismatist (study of currency) best known for her work as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II. Her important role in the Enigma project against Nazi Germany’s secret communications earned her awards and citations such as being appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1947.
Joan received a scholarship to attend Newnham College, Cambridge where she gained a double first degree in mathematics and was a Wrangler (a student who gains first-class honors in the third year of the University’s undergraduate degree in mathematics). She was denied a full degree, however, pursuant to Cambridge University’s policy of awarding degrees only to men. 😦 That policy was abandoned in 1948.
Joan went to work at Bletchley Park in 1940 and became close friends with Alan Turing. Alan Turing developed a cryptanalytic process called Banburismus a process to help break German Kriegsmarine (naval) messages enciphered on Enigma machines. Joan became a practitioner. After the war while still working for the government, she met and married Lieutenant-Colonel John Kenneth Ronald Murray. She retired in 1977 at age 60. She died in 1996. Due to the Official Secrets Act, the full extent of her accomplishments remain unknown.
These are just a few among the women who contributed to the success of the work at Bletchley Park. Over seventy-five percent of the persons employed at Bletchley Park during the Second World War were woman.