Working overseas

Hear about Margaret Hodgson’s top-secret work during the Second World War as one of the first Wrens to go overseas.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, Margaret, like many young women, joined Women’s Royal Naval Service – known as the Wrens.  She was one of twenty Wireless Telegraphists selected to go to Singapore in January 1941 to help monitor Japanese signals, sending the information back to Bletchley Park.

Following Britain’s declaration of war on Japan in December 1941, threat of invasion increased. To ensure their vital work continued without interruption this highly skilled group relocated to Ceylon.

Wooden Key
During the 8 week voyage to Singapore on board TSS Nestor Margaret celebrated her twenty first birthday.  The occasion was marked by the presentation of a large wooden key signed fellow passengers and crew.

TSS Menu Nestor
A menu from the TSS Nestor.  The food on-board the TSS Nestor was in stark contrast to food available in Britain under wartime rationing.

Audio transcript

Four of us were selected to work in what we called Z.

It was a small building enclosed by high railing, we had a Sikh guard.  The work that we were doing - I’ve never really ever mentioned it but as these days the secrecy act or whatever it is, is now cancelled.  I was taking photographs of signals as they were sent so that if Japan changed their, say their Tokyo signal was two letters and a figure and they changed it to two different letters and a figure to confuse us, then we would have proof that signal was the same as the changed letters of that signal.

HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands