My Secret Life in Hut Six by Mair and Gethin Russell-Jones
Published by Lion Hudson
18th July 2014
Born and brought up in the sheltered environment of the Welsh valleys, Mair Thomas is amazed to discover her grasp of the German language and musical training make her an ideal code-breaker for Bletchley Park, and she finds herself working long shifts in Hut Six. Sworn to secrecy, she is so afraid of blurting out something she shouldn’t, she cannot sleep, especially not when her landlord tells her he will stand outside her room, listening. Ironically the man she loves is a pacifist, while her aunts think she should be at home, looking after her father.
As you may already know from this post here, as an historian, I love a book or two on Bletchley Park. The whole history and secrecy of the place, and what happened there, totally fascinates me, so I was keen to read and review another book by someone who worked there during the Second World War.
You can't imagine it happening today but Mair Thomas, in March 1941 is approached by a man who tells her he is from the Foreign Office. He clearly knows a lot about her, and asks if she would like to try out for a top secret project? He then goes on to tell Mair that she won't be able to tell anyone about this project at all, not even her family, but if she is interested, to write to the Foreign Office and express her interest. With that, he turns and leaves.
Mair does nothing further until a conversation with her friend Dora reveals that she too works for the foreign office but she is forbidden to say anymore. Igniting a flame inside Mair, she writes the letter, and a week later is invited to an interview in London.
The rest works itself out; Mair accepts the job and moves to Bletchley Park to become one of the many code-breakers stationed there. The book is written both by herself, and by her son, who only found out that his mother had been at Bletchley when she was 82 years old. Sworn to keep quiet by the Official Secrets Act, there are still many code-breakers who have kept the work they did during World War Two a secret, despite being allowed to speak out from 1978.
Published by Lion Books, the story does have a Christian element to it, as it also focuses on Mair's life both inside and outside of Bletchley Park, but if even if that side of the story doesn't interest you, this is another great account of the ordinary people who helped to shorten the war by two years.