“I felt as if I had been ap­pointed to an ex­e­cu­tion squad”

The Week - - Obituaries -

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”.

From tele­graphist to au­thor

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