The Guardian reports the death of Mavis Batey, one of the top codebreakers at Bletchley Park.
Mavis Batey, who has died aged 92, was often described as one of the top female codebreakers at Bletchley Park
but, while she was always too modest to make the point herself, this
diminished her role. She was one of the leading codebreakers of either
sex, breaking the Enigma ciphers that led to the Royal Navy's victory
over Italy at Matapan in 1941 and, crucially, to the success of the
D-day landings in 1944.
She was 19 years old when she was sent to
Bletchley, the codebreaking centre in Buckinghamshire, in early 1940 and
put to work in No 3 Cottage, in the research section, which broke into
new cipher systems that had never been broken before. It was run by the
veteran codebreaker and Greek scholar Dilly Knox, who had not only broken the Zimmermann Telegram,
which brought the US into the first world war, but had also pieced
together the mimes of the Greek playwright Herodas from papyri fragments
found in an Egyptian cave.
In March 1941, Mavis broke a series of
messages enciphered on the Italian navy's Enigma machine that revealed
the full details of plans to ambush a Royal Navy supply convoy ferrying
supplies from Egypt to Greece. The plans gave Admiral Andrew Cunningham,
commander-in-chief of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet, the
opportunity to turn the tables on the Italians, who were taken
completely by surprise. Cunningham's ships sank three heavy cruisers and
two estroyers with the loss of 3,000 Italian sailors. The Italian fleet
never confronted the Royal Navy again.
Read more here.
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