A BLETCHLEY PARK GIRL
Born Pauline Hodgkinson in Carshalton, Surrey, she was the youngest of nine children. Her father, Sydney, worked at the Stock Exchange and her mother, Muriel Naylor, was a housewife.
After leaving grammar school, Pauline joined the Women’s Royal Navy Service (WRENS), because she liked their uniform. She was just 17 years old.
After she completed her basic training, Pauline was told she was suitable for ‘P5’. Nobody would tell her what P5 actually was. She accepted the job on trust and was then forced to sign the Official Secrets Act.
It was only then that Pauline was told that the job was deciphering codes.
She was sent to HMS Pembroke, a shore-based RAF station, at Eastcote, Middlesex (nowadays in Hillingdon). It was also an ‘out station’ of Bletchley Park. Information received was sent to Bletchley for decoding.
Thus, Pauline became one of ‘The Bletchley Girls’.
Pauline worked 8-hour shifts, monitoring information that came into the station. Often, she worked through the night. With other girls working there, they would start the large drum-like machines, monitor and record what information came in on them, and register the position the drums were in when they stopped.
It was not glamourous work but was vital for the war effort and she was crucial in breaking the enemy’s Enigma machine.
Pauline was given food and accommodation and was paid 5 shillings a week (25p in today’s money).
Once the war was over, Pauline became a physiotherapist at Guy’s Hospital in London.
Four years later, Pauline married David Gill, her teenage sweetheart from Carshalton. She immediately gave up her job (in common with the majority of women at the time).
David and Pauline had six children between 1951 and 1964. Pauline was a housewife and a part-time school dinner lady, but she never told anyone what she had done in the war.
She became a foster mother for newly born babies, and also hosted Chinese teachers on an exchange programme with Britain.
In 1974, her husband David was reading a book entitled, ‘The Ultra Secret’, by Frederick Winterbotham. It was about Britain’s codebreakers in the Second World War. He was astounded to see his wife was mentioned by name, with a detailed description of her contribution to the war.
The secret was out – so Pauline no longer felt she had to keep quiet. It was around this time, that the role of Bletchley Park in winning the war, was made common knowledge.
Pauline started to attend veterans’ reunions held at Bletchley Park.
When David retired, the couple started to travel. They went around the world. Pauline made regular trips to China, to visit the teachers she had hosted in England.
She was also very active in her local church, was a hospital visitor and volunteered at a Senior Citizen Lunch Club, where she served food well into her 90s.
It was also said that she was unbeatable at Scrabble.
David died in 2006.
Pauline attended the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the role of the HMS Pembroke (Eastcote) women codebreakers.
For Pauline’s 90th birthday, her family paid for a brick in her name on the Codebreaker’s Wall at Bletchley Park. She was absolutely thrilled, and the family held a ceremony there, to commemorate her efforts.
RIP – Re-routing Information, Pauline