Research Reveals Women Who Secretly Broke Nazi Codes

Recognition was delayed by decades of secrecy
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2024 6:10 PM CDT
Research Identifies Women Who Broke Nazi Codes at Bletchley
Dulcie Klusmann, 92, discusses her wartime service in 2015 at a senior living home in Bozeman, Montana.   (Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP)

When Jane Monroe was asked what she'd done during World War II, her answer was "Oh, I made tea." Dulcie Klusmann later confessed, "We had to make up a bunch of lies." The reason is that the women spent the war breaking Nazi codes at Bletchley Park, bound by the UK's Official Secrets Act. That secrecy also kept the 77 or so female students at Newnham College who were drafted into the effort from receiving the recognition due them, CBS News reports. So Sally Waugh began working to uncover their identities.

Waugh, who attended and taught at Newnham, had run across Monroe's name in an article and learned of her wartime duty. The two were friends, but Monroe, a mathematician, had stuck to her vow. Waugh began trying to find if there had been more members of the secret team. Working with an archivist and historian, she came up with about 20 names, which she checked against Bletchley, leading to a total of nearly 80. They included mathematicians, linguists, historians, and archaeologists sent by the women's school to Bletchley, north of London, to analyze aerial photographs. The women deciphered messages sent by the Lorenz machine in addition to those from the Nazis' Enigma machine cracked by mathematician Alan Turing.

Among the decoders was Joan Clarke, who was played by Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game and stayed in intelligence work after the war. "Everything was quite mad, really," Mavis Batey told CBS in 2008 of her time at Bletchley. Klusmann said: "To me it was scary. I was only barely 19," per the AP. Despite her years at Newnham, Waugh told AFP, she had no idea that women from the school were drafted into the project; the secrecy held. But because of it, Waugh said, "Nobody was ever able to say thank you." (More code breakers stories.)

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