Radio competition winner has a codebreaking past

Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park

A CODEBREAKING competition in honour of Bletchley Park trustee Tony Sale has been won by a lady whose mother used to work at the all important location during the war.

Angela Almond, a teacher from Leicester, won a BBC Radio 4 competition which was set by Captain Jerry Roberts, a wartime codebreaker in the Bletchley Park Testery section. The question was set in honour of Mr Sale who led the rebuild of Colossus, the world’s first modern computer that helped decipher the Lorenz codes.

Angela said she’d always been a whizz at completing puzzles and breaking codes, but didn’t know much of her mother’s past, even though she worked at Bletchley Park.

“One day as a child I returned home from school to tell my parents that I’d come top-of-the-class at codebreaking,” Angela said.

“My father said that he wasn’t surprised because my mother had worked at Bletchley Park during the war.

“But my mother never spoke about her work and we know very little of her time there.”

Last week, Angela visited The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park to collect her prize – a valve used in the rebuilt Colossus and a piece of Colossus paper tape.

She also received a Bletchley Park badge awarded posthumously on behalf of her late mother by Margaret Sale, Bletchley Park volunteer and wife of the late Tony Sale.

“My husband and I had a fantastic day at The National Museum of Computing and Bletchley Park,” Angela added. “I think we may have worked out what my Mum did at Bletchley Park.

“She was a clerk seconded from the Foreign Office, so she didn’t do the ATS or Wren jobs, but she may have compared the intercepted messages for errors.

“She knew Morse code and later in life she did a lot of proof reading so, although her wartime role is a guess, it seems to fit.”

Angela and her husband toured The National Museum of Computing and were fascinated by the machines they saw. One, a Research Machines computer, was the first type of computer she ever used in teaching in the 1980s.

The Museum’s store of vintage computing copies also reminded her of when she lived in a tiny flat stacked high with copies of PC World and Wireless World collected by her husband Bob, a keen electronics engineer.

The rebuilt Colossus can be seen each day at The National Museum of Computing.

The complete Museum is open on Thursday and Saturday afternoons and there are special tours on Tuesday and Friday afternoons.