One of the last surviving Second World War Bletchley Park codebreakers dies aged 99

Margaret Betts worked at Bletchley Park during the second world war.
Margaret Betts worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Credit: Robert S. Harris (London)/PA

One of the last surviving female Bletchley Park codebreakers, who played a key role in helping to decipher enemy codes during the Second World War, has died at the age of 99.

Margaret Betts from Ipswich was headhunted by "men from the ministry" to work at the top secret location just outside Milton Keynes when she was 19, according to her son Jonathan Betts.

He said she wanted to help in "any way she could" after her brother was killed when the ship he was on was sunk by a German U-boat.

"It was absolutely tragic. He had just married a few weeks before. The whole family was in terrible shock and desperate to do something, to do their bit," said Mr Betts, 68.

Mrs Betts on her honeymoon in Switzerland in 1947 - two years after the war ended. Credit: Family photo

Mr Betts said that his mother was approached in 1942 and joined the world famous codebreakers a year later.

She stayed at Bletchley all the way through to Victory over Japan (VJ) Day in 1945, helping to operate the machines that converted secret German military messages.

"Like most of them did, she always played down her role," Mr Betts said.

"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."

Mrs Betts helped to decipher enemy communications. Credit: Family photo/PA

Mr Betts added that his mother never talked about her role at Bletchley, having signed the Official Secrets Act, and it was only when documentaries were shown on TV decades later that she eventually said: "You know, I was one of those."

Mrs Betts had five children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and lived in Ipswich for the majority of her 99 years.

She died on 26 August this year of natural causes, while in a nursing home in Minehead, Somerset.

"She kept her sharp brain right until the end," Mr Betts reminisced.

"We were all terribly proud to know (of her role). Yes, we heard what she said about it being humdrum but it was vital work they were doing."

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