Marion Paton, Code Breaker

Marion Paton (nee Hendry) (1923 – 2016) was born in Aldborough, near Boroughbridge and came to York when she was thirteen. She attended Mill Mount Grammar School. Marion was eighteen when she was called up as a Foreign Office Civilian drafted in to decipher coded messages from U-Boats and Warships.

At the time she was just starting a job in an Accountants in Duncombe Place in York. Marion was chosen by the Foreign Office because she achieved one of the highest scores in the country in her Maths exam and her abilities were needed for the decoding work.

Marion was not told where she was going, just that someone would meet her at the Station and that she mustn’t tell anyone where she was once she got there!!  This must have been very scary for a girl who had never travelled away from home alone but she told us that it was exciting as well.

Marion was taken to the Hall at Bletchley where she was put to work in Hut B which was the Naval Unit. She was taught to look for certain words or phrases in the many coded messages they intercepted. This was all the more difficult as they were in either German or Japanese.

They were long days, and as she was so young, she was billeted with a family in the village. She remembered feeling awkward as when she wanted a bath the lady of the house used to make the rest of the family go outside until she had finished.

Unfortunately, Marion was only there for one year as she had to come home to nurse her mother who was dying of Tuberculosis. Marion worked as a bookkeeper in an accountants until she met James Paton, a Scottish navigator in the RAF stationed at Dishforth. They were married in 1948 and continued living in Montague Street. Marion and James had 3 daughters and then moved to a shop on Queen Victoria Street. They finally moved to Dringhouses.

Mum carried on working as a bookkeeper until the age of 85 and had 6 grandchildren.  

Mum signed the Official Secrets Act and she never really told her family the details of what she had done during the war. Much later the Government decided to honour the people who worked at Bletchley and she received a medal and certificate signed by the Prime Minister which she was very proud of.

Sadly, soon after this, Mum developed Alzheimer’s but we were able to revisit Bletchley Hall with her whilst she was in the early stages. She told us stories of parties and trips up to London and gifts of silk stockings from soldiers. 

Marion has a brick with her name on in the Veteran’s Memorial Wall at Bletchley. Each brick has at the bottom the Morse code (…-) which I am told stands for V for Victory and Veteran.

Mum passed away in December 2016 at the good age of 93, but all through her illness she was always very proud of her medal and certificate.

Written by Marion’s daughter, Barbara Hagyard