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Irish woman Leslie Greer, 98, to be honoured for code breaking work in Britain’s Bletchley Park

Leslie Greer. Picture courtesy of The Irish Times
Leslie Greer. Picture courtesy of The Irish Times

AN IRISH woman who was part of a team of code-breakers instrumental to the Allied side’s intelligence operations during WWII is to be honoured for her efforts today.

The Irish Times reports that Eileen Leslie Greer, 98, will be awarded with a medal and a certificate signed by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Born to an Irish family in London, Ms Greer, known as Leslie, move to Dublin as a young baby with her family.

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Ms Greer is the daughter of a barrister – and the granddaughter of a Trinity College Dublin professor.

Following her family’s path to education, the young Ms Greer went to Alexandra College for secondary school and went on to study German at Trinity College Dublin.

Her talents as a linguist saw her career progress quickly – by her early 20s, Ms Greer was a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast.

But when the world was once again thrown into the turmoil of war, she reevaluated her career and decided to use her talents to fight back against the Germans, who were advancing across Europe.

“It occurred to me that there was the war going on and it seemed to me that the war was more serious than teaching German,” she told The Irish Times. 

She became one of the thousands of women who spent their days attempting to break the code of German messages they intercepted – an episode depicted in the 2014 film The Imitation Game.

It seems to have been a case of like mother, like daughter – Ms Greer’s late mother was a motorcycle dispatch rider for the Royal Flying Corps, the then British Army’s air arm.

But her daughter opted for a more behind-the-scenes role, instead choosing the relatively new method of intelligence operation at the time – coding.

Bletchley Park had around 9,000 intelligence officers working within the manor walls at its peak – the vast majority of whom were women.

The facility was set up so that the British side could interpret German intelligence messages in an effort to prevent incidents from ever happening.

Speaking to The Irish Times from her Ballbridge nursing home in Dublin, Ms Greer said: “The work was on the whole boring. Some of the information was unimportant. But some was very important.”

After the war came to an end, Ms Greer continued to work with Britain’s Foreign Office and was eventually awarded an MBE.

And ahead of today’s award, she said: “Who wouldn’t be excited getting a medal?”

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James Mulhall
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James Mulhall is a reporter with The Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @JamzMulhall

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