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One Of ‘last Surviving’ World War Two Codebreakers Dies Aged 99

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Margaret Betts died aged 99 (Image: PA)

Margaret Betts, one of the last surviving female codebreakers who served during World War II, has died aged 99.

Ms Betts worked at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire for about two years, from the summer of 1943 until Victory over Japan, VJ Day, in 1945.

Thanks to her good grades, she was headhunted in 1942 aged only 19 by “men from the ministry”, her son Jonathan Betts said.

She is believed to have agreed to become a codebreaker as she had recently lost her brother, whose ship was sunk by a German U-boat.

Her son said: “It was absolutely tragic, he had just married a few weeks before, the whole family was in terrible shock and desperate to do something. 

“She was just told it would be highly secret work and that eventually she would be told what it was, but meanwhile she was to pack her bags and go to a clearing house.”

The codebreaker died on August 26 at a nursing home in Minehead, Somerset, having lived most of her life in Ipswich, Suffolk.

Ms Betts “kept her sharp brain right until the end”, her son said.

Despite playing a key role for Britain during wartime, Ms Betts “played down” her contribution to her country, her son said. 

He recalled: “She said, ‘Yes, I know it was incredibly important, our part in it, and I know it was highly secret, but please don’t come away with the idea that we’re all Alan Turings, because we’re not.

“‘We were there operating the machines, we were obeying orders, we were applying logic to do what we were told to do, and we were doing so efficiently and intelligently, but we didn’t design the machines for decoding. We were the service staff who were operating them’.”

But, much like others across the UK, Mr Betts, acknowledged the importance of Bletchley Park codebreakers. 

He said: “Without their work the war would have lasted longer – some people reckon it would have gone on two years longer if they hadn’t been able to break the German and Japanese codes. She contributed a small part to a very important element in winning the war.” 

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