Irishwoman to receive medal for vital work at Bletchley Park during WWII

19 Jan 2016

Bletchley Park, world-famous WWII code-breaking and intelligence-analysing institute. Photo: Shutterstock

An Irishwoman who worked at Bletchley Park during World War II will be honoured today (19 January) for her role at the code-breaking institute.

In recognition of her efforts as a translator and analyst, 98-year-old Eileen Leslie Greer will receive a medal – the Bletchley Park commemorative badge – and a certificate signed by British prime minister David Cameron.

These are awarded with the British government’s “deepest gratitude for the vital service you performed during World War II”, as written on the certificate.

Greer studied German in Trinity College Dublin – receiving a first for her efforts – and went on to lecture in German at Queen’s University Belfast.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Greer said: “It occurred to me that there was a war going on, and it seemed to me that the war was more serious than teaching German”.

She offered her services to the British government which, recognising the usefulness of her fluent German, appointed her to a linguistics team at Bletchley Park.

In collaboration with cryptanalysts, the linguistics team was responsible for analysing communications picked up from the Germans, and producing intelligence reports that would guide what the codebreakers looked for in future communications.

Greer has described the work as boring, saying that while some of it was hugely important, the bulk was largely unimportant.

It is estimated, however, that the work carried out at Bletchley Park – by people like Greer as well as the codebreakers, many of whom, notably, were women – dramatically shortened the duration of the war.

Today’s medal and certificate will be presented to Greer by the British ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott, in a ceremony to take place at the nursing home in which she lives.

This will not be the first time Greer is honoured by the British government. In 1976, during a period spent in South America with the foreign office, Greer was awarded an MBE for services to education in Latin America.

Main image via Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic