Irish woman honoured for code-breaking during WW2

Image courtesy of The Irish Times - Leslie Greer Irish woman honoured for code-breaking during WW2
Image courtesy of The Irish Times – Leslie Greer

Leslie Greer produced reports based on decrypted signals at Bletchley Park

The British ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott, this week presented 98-year-old Eileen Leslie Greer with the Bletchley Park commemorative badge and a certificate, headed “The Government Code and Cypher School” and signed by British prime minister David Cameron.

The certificate expresses the British government’s “deepest gratitude for the vital service you performed during World War II”.

Greer was born in London. During the first World War, her mother was a motorcycle dispatch rider for the Royal Flying Corps, the then British army’s air arm.

She grew up in Dublin and went to Alexandra College, then in Earlsfort Terrace, and afterwards to Trinity College where she aced a degree in German.

 Irish woman honoured for code-breaking during WW2 - Leslie Greer produced reports based on decrypted signals at Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park

By her early 20s, she was lecturing at Queen’s in Belfast when the war broke out.

“It occurred to me,” she told The Irish Times this week, “that there was the war going on and it seemed to me that the war was more serious than teaching German.”

In 1940 Greer began working in Bletchley Park, an institution then masked by near complete secrecy and only popularly known today because of films such as Enigma (2001) and The Imitation Game (2014).

Bletchley Park’s war role was to crack the German communication codes, transmitted through Enigma and Lorenz cipher machines, and then use the information in a way that avoided alerting the Germans to their awareness of their intelligence.

Interviewed last year by TCD historian Eunan O’Halpin, Greer said she received no training for her work, her linguistic skills apparently being sufficient.

“The work was on the whole boring”

“Some of the information was unimportant,” she said. “But some was very important.

“We had one or two things come in that really got us all on our seats, [for instance] when something happened that showed the Germans were deciding to start something with Russia, everybody got excited.”

After the war, Greer continued working for the foreign office and was awarded the MBE.

Read more at www.irishtimes.com

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