Pamela Darrell (1925-2019)

  • Wartime service: Pamela Darrell, the 93-year-old widow of Owen Darrell, a Bermudian, was just 17 when she joined Britain’s largely female team of cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park, the nerve centre for the Allies’ code-breaking effort, so classified, she only received a citation for her work from the British Government in 2009 (File photograph)

    Wartime service: Pamela Darrell, the 93-year-old widow of Owen Darrell, a Bermudian, was just 17 when she joined Britain’s largely female team of cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park, the nerve centre for the Allies’ code-breaking effort, so classified, she only received a citation for her work from the British Government in 2009 (File photograph)


A Bermudian artist who joined the Royal Navy in the Second World War and was assigned to top-secret work to crack Nazi codes has died.

Pamela Darrell, the 93-year-old widow of Owen Darrell, a Bermudian who also saw wartime service in the Royal Navy, was just 17 when she joined Britain’s largely female team of cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park, a mansion in Buckinghamshire that became the nerve centre for the Allies’ cryptanalysis effort.

The job was so classified that Ms Darrell only received a citation for her work from the British Government in 2009.

Ms Darrell, originally from Oakham, Rutland, joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service, known as the Wrens, for different reasons.

She told The Royal Gazette in 2010: “I wanted to go to sea. Bletchley Park was right in the middle of England.”

Hundreds of Allied codebreakers worked to crack German ciphers, including the Enigma code, which the Nazis believed was unbreakable, at the secluded mansion near Milton Keynes.

Ms Darrell said the Germans often changed their codes and the team had to “work like blazes to figure out what the new code was”.

The work at Bletchley Park was essential in the defeat of the U-boat menace in the Battle of the Atlantic and other British naval victories.

It was also vital to success of the North African desert campaign against Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps and for the 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy.

After the war, Ms Darrell met and married Mr Darrell, who only learnt of her wartime occupation when restrictions were relaxed in the 1970s.

Ms Darrell said: “I wasn’t able to tell my family for a long time — I just told my husband that I did secret work.

“I didn’t really understand why we couldn’t talk about our work after the war. I think they were concerned about the Russians.”

Mr Darrell, who had served on a minesweeper, died in 2013.

A keen painter, Ms Darrell was a founding member of the Bermuda Society of Arts and served as its curator from 1967 to 1980.

The couple were also members of the Garden Club of Bermuda.

A memorial service will be held for Ms Darrell at 5.30pm today at Christ Church, Warwick

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Published Aug 29, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 29, 2019 at 12:21 pm)

Pamela Darrell (1925-2019)

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