Obituary of Pauline Gill rephrased:

My mother, Pauline Gill, passed away at the age of 97. She was one of the few remaining “Bletchley Girls” – young women who operated the machines that decoded the German Enigma codes and played a crucial role in shortening the second world war.

Operators like Pauline would start the machines, wait for the drums to stop revolving, and record the positions of a lever and three master drums that had settled on specific letters. These letters were then written down and sent for verification.

Pauline kept the details of her wartime work confidential until my father, David, read Frederick Winterbotham’s book about Bletchley, The Ultra Secret, in 1974. Since then, the contribution of Bletchley Park has become public knowledge, and she regularly attended reunions with other veterans.

Pauline was born in Carshalton, Surrey, the youngest of Sydney Hodgkinson and Muriel’s nine children. Her father worked on the Stock Exchange, while her mother was a housewife. She attended Wallington county grammar school and, at the age of 17, joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) because she liked their uniform.

Following basic training, she was informed that she might be suitable for a position called “P5.” However, before starting, she had to sign the Official Secrets Act and accept the job on trust. Once she agreed, she was transferred to HMS Pembroke in Eastcote, Middlesex (now part of the London borough of Hillingdon), an outstation of Bletchley Park where information was sent for decoding.

Pauline worked eight-hour shifts at various times of the day, including overnight. She received food, accommodation, and a weekly wage of 10 shillings (50p). Though the work was neither exciting nor glamorous, it saved numerous lives and is estimated to have shortened the war by two years.

After being demobilized in 1946, she pursued training as a physiotherapist at Guy’s Hospital in London, where she worked for some time. In 1950, she married David Gill, whom she had known since their teenage years in Carshalton. They had six children between 1951 and 1965, and during that period, Pauline dedicated herself to raising the family. Later on, she became a foster carer for newborn babies, hosted Chinese teachers as part of an exchange program, and worked part-time as a school dinner lady.

After my father retired, Pauline enjoyed traveling. She embarked on a round-the-world trip and visited China to reconnect with some of the teachers she had met. She actively participated in her local church, volunteered at a senior citizens’ lunch club until her 90s, and was an excellent Scrabble player.

As a gift for her 90th birthday, her family arranged for a brick with her name to be placed in the Codebreakers’ Wall at Bletchley Park to honor her contributions.

In 2006, David passed away. Pauline is survived by her children, eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

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