Two Neath Port Talbot codebreakers who helped shorten WWII celebrate their 100th birthdays

Two ladies who worked as codebreakers at the top secret Bletchley Park mansion during the Second World War have celebrated their 100th birthdays at a joint party in Port Talbot.

Mrs Gwenfron Picken who was 100 on February 29th, 2024 and Mrs Kath Morris who reached her centenary a week later on March 7th, are both from Port Talbot but Mrs Morris now lives in a care home in Neath.

During the dark days of World War Two, both worked in the iconic huts and blocks of Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, a Victorian mansion which housed the Government Code and Cypher School – the centre of Allied codebreaking.

The dedicated staff here worked tirelessly to penetrate the secret and devilishly complex codes of the Axis Powers – most importantly the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers.

Although Gwenfron and Kath left Port Talbot at around the same time to join the codebreaking effort at Bletchley Park they didn’t know each other until they met at the joint birthday party organised by Jackie Bates and the local Mother’s Union at St Theodore’s Parish Hall, Port Talbot.

The ladies were greeted at the Parish Hall by Captain Huw Williams MBE DL RLC, representing the Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan’s office and Finola Pickwell, the Regional Armed Forces Liaison Officer (AFLO) for this area.

Finola Pickwell said: “It was delightful the ladies could meet at last after both working during wartime at Bletchley Park.

“Those at Bletchley Park played a key role in shortening World War II by providing the Allies with a flood of high grade military intelligence which gave them the edge on land, sea and in the air.”

Although a number of codebreakers had university degrees, many of those called to work at Bletchley Park were clever, able recruits who had undergone a reasonable high school education.