‘Women codebreakers deserve to be recognised’

Bryony Norburn at Bletchley Park PNL-140815-111300001
Bryony Norburn at Bletchley Park PNL-140815-111300001

Were women codebreakers discriminated against?

A free talk will shine the light on possible evidence.

Bryony Norburn, who is studying for a PhD at the University of Buckingham, will look at the role of women in codebreaking during the First World War in London, and during the Second World War at Bletchley Park.

The talk takes place at 6.30pm on Tuesday, September 2, in the university’s Chandos Road Building. Drinks and nibbles will be served.

About 10,000 people worked at Bletchley Park at its height during the Second World War. And around two thirds of those stationed there were women aged 18 to 24.

Yet only a handful, including Mavis Batey, Margaret Rock and Jean Clarke, were breaking codes at the highest level. Much has been written about the male codebreakers at Bletchley Park but little is known about the women who played an equally vital role cracking codes.

“It is an area which I find very interesting, but also an area that not much research has been done” said Bryony.

“They joined some of the best and brightest minds of the time working on codes for the war effort.”

Bletchley Park was the central site of the UK’s Government Code and Cypher School during the Second World War.

Bryony said: “It wasn’t until 1916 that women started codebreaking, but they soon proved to be a match for their male counterparts. In both wartime and peace, they showed they were every bit as good, if not better, than men.”

Bryony was inspired by meeting Mavis Batey in 2011.

“I was struck by the accuracy of her memories and the stories she had to tell,” said Bryony. “It is an incredible story and one that I want to share with other people.

“These women deserve to be recognised.”