Thursday, November 21, 2013

MAVIS BATEY: R.I.P.

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.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well done, Mavis! The good Lord and his holy guardian angels have surely welcomed you with open arms.
Blessing on you and may your loved ones be comforted both here and up there with you.
Jacqueline Jett Griffey

Anonymous said...

May the good Lord and his holy Guardian Angels welcome you with open arms.
Jacqueline Jett Griffey

Vallery Feldman said...

I believe Mavis was mentioned by the tour guide when I visited Bletchley in May. He said that the commanders running the British defense also listened to her suggestions.