“I felt as if I had been appointed to an execution squad”
Anne Glyn-jones, who has Anne
died aged 94, worked as a Glyn-jones
telegraphist in Y Service during 1923-2017
the War – listening in to enemy communications transmitted wirelessly from ships and submarines, triangulating their bearings to locate them, and also transcribing messages in German Morse code, which were then passed on to a station known to the women as Station X. It was, in fact, Bletchley Park, said The Daily Telegraph. One of the many women whose vital War work went largely unacknowledged, GlynJones was not impressed when, in 2009, she finally received a certificate from the government, thanking her for her service. “For 30p, I found a suitable frame in a local charity shop and hung it in the downstairs loo,” she said.
Born in 1923, Anne Glyn-jones was the daughter of a High Court judge. Aged seven, she briefly ran away to sea (she was disappointed to find when she got home that no one had noticed she was missing). She devoured maritime adventures, and Captain Scott was her hero. When war broke out, she wanted to join the Women’s Royal Naval Service immediately; her parents, however, insisted she stay at school until she’d taken the Oxbridge exam. She was offered a place at Oxford, but two weeks after leaving school, in 1942, she joined up anyway. That year, she was posted to a Y Service listening post at Scarborough. It was not quite what she had expected. “When I applied to be a telegraphist, I saw myself as a sort of 999 telephone operator, taking pleas for help and sending ships to the rescue,” she wrote in her memoir. “Instead, I was to listen to some German sailor, then do my best to get him killed. I felt as if I had been appointed a member of an execution squad.” But when she read the first reports of Germany’s mass murder of Polish Jews, the steel entered her heart. “It had to be stopped, no matter what.”
After a few months, she was posted to Gibraltar, where she sat in a hut, listening to a cacophony of noise – straining to distinguish messages from sinking ships from those made by cabbies in Chicago. When the War ended, she took up her place at Oxford, to read PPE; she then worked for the United Nations in Geneva, before moving to Canada in 1952. Back in Britain, she acted in rep, and worked as PA, researcher and archivist to Harold Macmillan. Finally, from 1973 to 1985, she was a research fellow in sociology at Exeter University. Her 650-page magnum opus, Holding Up a Mirror: How Civilisations Decline, came out in 1996. In The Sunday Times, it was described as “visionary”.