A saucy secret about Bletchley Park’s Enigma machine has been aired for the first time by a former wartime worker.
Betty Balfour has revealed how the famous code-cracking computer had an added and highly practical function – as a means of drying women’s underwear!
“During night shifts the Engima machine was the only warm thing about, so we used to wash our smalls and hang them around it to dry,” said the 88-year-old.
“It used to be festooned with bras and pants....back then it must have been a real sight,” she added.
Betty was a fresh-faced 17-year-old when she joined the Wrens in 1944. After six weeks training she was assigned to Special Duties X and posted to Bletchley Park.
She was picked to work on the top secret team headed by Alan Turing.
This week, as The Imitation Game film about Mr Turing soars to success, Betty gave an intruiging behind-the-scene glimpse of life with the computer genius.
She and her fellow codecrackers would watch him strolling about the grounds – walking backwards – with his nose in a book.
“We couldn’t help but giggle at him for how he acted,” she confessed.
“He was pushed into the background, but all these people with brilliant minds were a bit different in their own ways.
Betty recalls working 10-hour shifts in the chilly Bletchley Park buildings, where the warmth given out by the huge computers was often the only source of heat.
She spent each shift sifting through reams of code so secret that she could not even discuss it with her colleagues.
“None of use knew everything that we were working on. We each knew a bit, our own part of the puzzle, so if you were caught you couldn’t tell them everything, even if they
“We never knew anything. We never knew what we had done, or if we had helped to actually crack the codes.
“I never even told my parents because we signed the Official Secrets Act, so they died without ever finding out what I was doing.”
Earlier this year Betty returned to Bletchley Park to visit her old haunts.