Hacking Hitler: Story of Women Who Broke Secret Nazi Codes During World War 2

Hacking Hitler: Story of Women Who Broke Secret Nazi Codes During World War 2

A very few people know about the decisive role hundreds of women played in the brutal World War 2. World War 2 was fixated on one thing: the ability to break the secret codes of the enemy. Whoever did this task quickly and perfectly was the winner. A story on Tech Republic reveals how women played a key role in the intelligence of the Allies during the war. Ruth Bourne a British woman who was 18 at the World War’s time revealed how thousands of young women worked in the historic codes and cipher school at Bletchley ParkRuth in southeast England. Out of 10,000 staff which was dedicated to break secret Nazi codes, two third were women.


Ruth Bourne

The problem during the world war was disastrous: a single German Enigma machine could encrypt one message in 158 million different ways, and each day, the encryption technique was changing. The languages in which the encryption and plain text was written was also varying, from German, English, Chinese, Polish etc. Famous British mathematician Alan Turing, along with a famous tabulating company came up with a groundbreaking machine to decipher the Nazi codes, which were applied on around 6,000 messages daily. This technology lead to the invention of Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic digital computer.

Bourne says that she had to stand in front of the machines for 8-12 hours daily, tabulating, inputting numbers, setting gears of the machine, updating codes and changing the settings.

The job of women decoding the Nazi codes was so intense that they had only half an hour break for meal. In this break, Bourne says, they had to assign the work to their partner, run to the canteen, grab the meal, run back to the secure building where all the machines were placed; and then the partner ran to the canteen and did the same process.

Bourne says that handling the Enigma machine was the most stressful part. A little stumble and everything could get messed up. All the wires and drums were to be gleaned in such a way that no short circuit could be erupted.

More than 2.5 million Nazi secret messages were deciphered by using the machine which were handled and operated mostly by Women.

Patricia Davies Listened and Tapped Communications and Movement of Nazis Across the English Channel

Another woman, Patricia Davies, who was also a teenager during the World War 2, also shared her story. She used to sit on a high clifftop wooden lighthouse type watch tower to see the English channel for any Nazi movement. She was also assigned to listen to the secret Nazi radio conversations and report everything to the Station X, an intelligence hub of the Allies during the world war.

Patricia Davies in a recent photo

Irene Dixon: The First Woman User of World’s First Electronic Computer

Irene Dixon was also a teenager during 1944, when she was offered a job which involved working on the first programmable electronic computer: Colossus. Dixon says that her life changed forever after this job. She used to get and decipher direct messages that were communicated between Hitler and his team.

Irene Dixon During World War 2

The remarkable story of these brave and geeky women show how their efforts had a direct impact on the results of a war that changed this world forever. Soon, with the increasing decryption of Nazi codes, the Allies turned the tide in the war and the world saw fall of Berlin and Eagle’s Nest.

Related Read: Forgotten Female Programmers Who are Pioneers of Modern Technology

Photo Source: TechRepublic

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