Nora Gotts – A World War Hero who was almost forgotten

Category: Local people 18

Hornchurch will stop this week to pay tribute to lovely lady Nora Gotts, Nora lived in Hornchurch all her life, In later years Nora lived in a care home and attended Hornchurch Baptist church, where I got the opportunity to meet her. Nora kept herself to herself and would be happy to help everyone and it was not until she sadly died last month that it was unveiled to me what wonderful work she did in her past.

For years her top secret work was a closely guarded secret, her friends and family thought she was a government typist but now her wartime service is in the public domain and recorded on the Bletchley Park Roll of Honour.  From 1942 to August 1945, Nora Gotts worked in Hut 6, Block D, deciphering messages night and day encoded using the war time code Enigma, thought to be impossible to break by both the Nazis and Allies.

Jonathan Byrne, Bletchley Park’s Oral History Officer, says:

“All we know of Miss Gotts was the little she put on a historical survey form in 2009. This was that she “Worked in Hut 6 … deciphering messages from Morse code.”

This probably meant that she worked on a Typex machine – the British equivalent of Enigma – turning the five letter groups of the intercepted enemy signals into plain-language German. The likely settings for each set of signals would have been found by the cryptanalysts in Hut 6 and tested on the Bombes.”

Dr Joel Greenberg, Gordon Welchman’s biographer and Bletchley Park tour guide, added:

“Hut 6’s main work concerned the decryption of Enigma encrypted traffic produced by the German Army and Air Force. By mid 1943, some 140 Army and Air Force networks were active and each had its own daily setting for its Enigma operators to use. The settings were changed each day at mid-night, GMT and Hut 6 cryptanalysts tried to work out the daily settings on a particular communication network (mainly by hand but with the help of the Bombe machines).

Once the settings were worked out, Typex machines, which had been converted to operate in the same way as the Enigma machine, were set up using those settings. Miss Gotts would have been one of a number of young woman, typing in intercepted Enigma encrypted messages and producing German text. This was printed, by the Typex machine, on long thin strips of paper tape. These in turn were stuck onto larger sheets of paper before being passed to Hut 3 for translation and analysis.”

It has been estimated that thanks to the many code breakers at Bletchley Park the war was shortened by two to four years, millions of lives were saved, and that without it the outcome of the war would have been uncertain. But because it was a secret, the Bletchley Park personnel received no official recognition or grateful thanks for their vital contribution to winning WWII.  Now they can be greatly honored and praised for their top secret work which saved lives and made such a difference

In 2012 Nora went back to Bletchley House it was a very happy day for her, where she was able to remember and look at pictures of the past

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On Thursday, Hornchurch Baptist Church will be hosting the funeral of Nora Gotts, A hard working lady who going to be missed.

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