The WI: A truly lifesaving organisation

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Yesterday evening I visited Meanwood WI with my fellow Buns & Roses WI members Helen, Hayley and Siobhan (and a friend of Siobhan's whose name I have forgotten!).

I love going to see what other institutes get up to, and I have to say last night's meeting was the most amazing yet.

The speaker for the evening was a lady called Joan. She had been a Navy Wren during the Second World War, starting at the age of just 17 and going on to enjoy an incredible career in the forces.

Having completed her initial training, Joan was posted to the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) and worked, at first without even realising what she was doing, on breaking German codes.

Along with many other Wrens and forces personnel, she worked tirelessly, helping to reduce the war by several years and save the lives of millions of people.

She spoke so well about her time in the Navy and life during the war at Bletchley Park, and it was a true honour to meet such an incredible woman.

Two things which struck me the most:
1. She is one of only a handful of people to use the German Enigma machine, which was smuggled into the UK from Poland.
2. She and her husband never once spoke of their work at home. It was only after several decades of their marriage that they realised they had both been working on the same project, such was the level of security and the importance placed on preventing leaks.

I think Joan's talk summed up everything that is great about The WI:
We are truly amazing women with fantastic stories and a huge impact on our world.
We have a strong sense of duty, of doing our very best for our people and country and of being faithful.
We do not give up and work tirelessly towards our goals.

I'm coming over a little sentimental now (I could have cried at times as Joan was speaking, although there were plenty of laughs as well), but I hope you understand.

Thank you to Meanwood WI for such an inspirational meeting (and great cake!) and thank you to Joan and all forces personnel for everything.

PS On a lighter note - I won this tissue box in the raffle!


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