Bletchley Park hero dies aged 97


One of the key figures from the wartime codebreakers at Bletchley Park has died at the age of 97.

Sir Arthur Bonsall played a crucial role in intercepting German communications during the Battle of Britain and later during the strategic bombing of Germany.

Many years later he became appointed head of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Bletchley’s postwar successor.

Born in Middlesborough, Sir Arthur was raised in Welwyn Garden City and studied at Cambridge. Aged 22 when war broke out he failed a medical test for military service, but in 1940 he joined the Air Ministry and was soon talent-spotted for the Government Code & Cypher School at Bletchley Park.

He moved quickly up the GCHQ after the war, heading sections intercepting Soviet communications with Warsaw Pact countries, before covering the Middle East following the Suez crisis. In 1973 he became the sixth director of GCHQ following a recommendation.

One of his first tasks was to fly to Washington to calm down the Nixon administration, in particular Henry Kissinger, the national security adviser, when Prime Minister Edward Heath refused to allow the US to use GCHQ’s listening station and air base in Cyprus during the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

Sir Arthur held the post of GCHQ director until 1978. He was appointed CBE in 1957 and KCMG in 1977.

He married Joan Wingfield, who had helped to break Italian navy codes at Bletchley Park, in 1941. She died in 1990. He is survived by four sons and three daughters.