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Heroine’s funeral for Enigma codebreaker

PUBLISHED: 12:05 11 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:55 11 October 2018

Jean and husband John Picture: ROBIN WATTERS

Jean and husband John Picture: ROBIN WATTERS


A woman originally from west Suffolk who helped crack the Nazi’s top-secret Enigma code has been laid to rest with full military honours in America.

Jean Watters Picture: ROBIN WATTERSJean Watters Picture: ROBIN WATTERS

Jean Watters, who was born in Bury St Edmunds and married at Westley Church, died in her home town of Nebraska late last month, she was 92.

For decades she was a housewife and mother who carried the secret of her wartime exploits at Bletchely Park before restrictions were lifted in 2009 and her efforts were recognised by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

She was one of around 10,000 people, most of whom were women, who contributed to British efforts to crack German communication codes during the war. She operated an electro-mechanical machine called a “bombe” to read signals sent out by the German armed forces using its Enigma encryption machines.

Working from the UK’s famous codebreaking centre, Bletchley Park, Mrs Watters contributed to efforts that saved lives and helped draw the war to a close.

Jean and husband John in 2006 Picture: ROBIN WATTERSJean and husband John in 2006 Picture: ROBIN WATTERS

Her husband John, who died in July this year aged 101, also contributed to the war effort. He flew out of Rougham and completed 25 missions during the Second World War, before ending his career as a colonel instructing the RAF to fire the Thor ballestic missiles which were stationed throughout East Anglian in the 1950s.

Mrs Watters’ step brother Tony Allen, who lives in Felixstowe, said: “Both are immortalised in the revamped USAF hanger at the Imperial War Museum, at Duxford, with an interactive display where they can be seen speaking on screen about their war years.”

Jean Annette Briggs, as she was born, was the eldest of three sisters and attended art school at Cambridge. But when war broke out she joined the Royal Navy and became a Wren before, aged 19, she was recruited by the Ultra programme to become a member of the team decoding German messages under master codebreaker Alan Turing.

After the war, Mr Watters was stationed at US military bases across the world and he was joined by his wife. They had five sons and a daughter, eight grandchildrn and seven great grandchildren. The couple retired to the United States in 1969.

At her funeral service the Union Jack was draped over the casket .

Mrs Watters was laid to rest in a burial plot next to her husband.

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