The incredible true story of the only woman to have worked during the Second World War as a codebreaker at both Bletchley Park and the Pentagon
Betty Webb is the only surviving codebreaker to have worked on both Nazi and Japanese codes at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. This is the tale of her extraordinary life.
Betty has had a ringside seat to history. Born one hundred years ago, she spent her childhood in the Shropshire countryside during the 1920s – without heating, electricity or running water. As a schoolgirl, thanks to her mother’s desire for her to learn to speak German proficiently, she took part in an exchange programme and spent time in Nazi Germany. It was 1937 and Germany was on the cusp of war. As a small act of rebellion, she refused to give the Nazi salute alongside her classmates.
Back in England, after graduating from school, Betty faced the usual limited opportunities for employment on offer to women at the time. However, with the war in full swing, fate intervened and in 1941, wanting to play her part in the war effort, Betty joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (Women’s Army). After being interviewed by an intelligence officer, she found herself at Euston station with her kit-bag, a travel warrant in her pocket and instructions to get off the train at Bletchley Park. There, having signed the Official Secrets Act with a gun laid next to her on the table highlighting the enormous importance of the work she was about to do, she joined the ranks of the other men and women ‘codebreakers’.
Between 1941 and 1945 Betty Webb played a vital role in the top-secret efforts being made to decipher the secret communications of the Germans and later the Japanese. In 1945, as other members of the forces returned home from the war in Europe, she was sent to the Pentagon and was in Washington DC when the atomic bombs fell and when Eisenhower announced the end of the war.
Betty was unable to reveal the true nature of her work, even to her parents, until years later. In this fascinating book, she revisits the key moments of her life and recounts the incredible stories from her time at Bletchley Park.
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