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ColossusThe secrets of Bletchley Park's code-breaking computers$
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B. Jack Copeland

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780192840554

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780192840554.001.0001

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An ATS Girl in the Testery

An ATS Girl in the Testery

Chapter 20 An ATS Girl in the Testery

Helen Currie

Oxford University Press

I joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in 1938 during the Munich crisis. At that time I was working as a typist in Fleet Street, and ‘Typist’ duly appeared as the classification on my enrolment papers. Being a Territorial I was called up at the very beginning of the war. Then, in 1942, I volunteered for work as a signals operator, and was sent to the signals school in Trowbridge. I was trained to locate German stations by means of their call signs and to write down (in five-letter blocks) the Morse signals being sent by the German operator. It was difficult work. I was promoted to lance corporal— richly deserved, I thought! Typists were going to be needed to operate the Tunny decoding machines, already in the process of being built. My record—typist, in the service since the outbreak of hostilities, trained in a branch of military intelligence, and with the rank of lance corporal (it was an army rule that only those with a rank could handle secret documents)—must have put me in the running. In the summer of 1942, after I had completed my signals course, I was sent to London to be interviewed by an awe-inspiring gentleman. I remember only two of the questions that he asked me. Would I like to work in the country? Could I keep a secret? I answered ‘yes’ to the first and ‘I think so’ to the second (my young life had not so far tested me greatly in this respect). Puzzled, I went back to Trowbridge. About three weeks later I was on my way to Bletchley railway station with another ATS girl, Mary. We were met there by a genial Sergeant ‘Tubby’ (I never did find out his real name). He took us to Bletchley Park, a mere 150 yards away. Major Ralph Tester was the head of the section that I now joined. He was a lovely, twinkly man and very kind. I signed the Official Secrets Act. Whatever the organisation was as a whole remained a mystery to me. It was emphasised again and again that not an iota of what I was doing should be talked about outside my section.

Keywords:   British Tunny machine, Morse code, Red Form

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