#AceHistoryNews – March 28 – Mavis Batey was a British student of 19, midway through her university course in German Romanticism, when she was recruited for a top-secret assignment during World War II.
“This is going to be an interesting job, Mata Hari, seducing Prussian officers,” she years later recalled thinking. “But I don’t think either my legs or my German were good enough because they sent me to the Government Code and Cipher School.”
In May 1940, Mrs. Batey — then the unmarried Mavis Lever — joined the team of code breakers at Bletchley Park, the British cryptography headquarters. Trained in the enemy’s language and endowed with a facility for words, she became a key contributor to a wartime project that remained classified for decades.
But by the time of her death on Nov. 12 at 92, Mrs. Batey was regarded in England as a national heroine. Working with Alfred Dillwyn “Dilly” Knox and other celebrated code breakers, she learned to decipher what she called the “utter gibberish” of encrypted German communications.
Like many of her colleagues, Mrs. Batey worked on a “need-to-know” basis and did not understand at the time the significance of her efforts. In recent years, with the release of British wartime records, it was revealed that her code-breaking helped the Allies cripple the Italian navy in 1941 and assisted the 1944 Normandy invasion.
Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime prime minister, was said to have called the Bletchley Park code breakers his “geese that laid the golden eggs but never cackled.” Fuelled by what Mrs. Batey described as “ersatz coffee,” they toiled in secrecy to decipher the encoded messages spat out by the Axis powers’ Enigma machines.
By Emily Langer, The Washington Post
Posted Nov. 17, 2013, at 4:44 p.m.