Margaret Betts Obituary, Death – Margaret Betts, one of the last surviving female codebreakers from Bletchley Park, has passed away at the age of 99. Betts, hailing from Ipswich, Suffolk, was recruited to join the wartime codebreaking efforts during World War II when she was only 19 years old. Her son, Jonathan Betts, shared that she accepted the call to duty following the tragic loss of her brother, who died when his ship was sunk by a German U-boat. In 1942, she was recruited by “men from the ministry” for highly classified work and was initially unaware of the nature of her assignment.
She was stationed at a clearing house in north London, where she began her codebreaking work in 1943, continuing until Victory over Japan (VJ) Day in 1945. Margaret Betts worked diligently as part of a team operating machines called “bombes,” which were used to identify encrypted codes. When the machines detected something noteworthy, printouts were generated and then deciphered using captured German Enigma machines. If a significant code was revealed, it was forwarded up the chain of command.
Despite her vital contribution, Betts, like many codebreakers, downplayed her role, emphasizing that they were obediently following orders and applying logic efficiently. She highlighted that they didn’t design the decoding machines but rather programmed and operated them. Betts adhered to strict secrecy throughout her life, only sharing her wartime experiences when documentaries and books began shedding light on the Bletchley Park codebreakers. She had signed the Official Secrets Act, obligating her to maintain silence.
Jonathan Betts remembered his mother’s modesty and her view that the work, while important, was often mundane, involving long hours of monitoring machines. Nevertheless, he emphasized the crucial role these women played in shortening the duration of the war, possibly by as much as two years, by breaking German and Japanese codes. Margaret Betts, along with her fellow Navy Wrens at Bletchley Park, made an invaluable contribution to the war effort and is remembered with great pride.