Bletchley Park code breaker and pathologist.

Born: October 19, 1924;

Died: April 17, 2018

THE Glasgow born Rosemary Bamforth, who has died aged 93, was a distinguished pathologist who spent part of the war as a Wren at Bletchley Park, the base for the men and women who worked to break enemy codes during the Second World War.

The demanding schedule for the decoders was unrelenting. It necessitated long hours intercepting and interpreting the codes of the German High Command. Mrs Bamforth worked in Hut 11 – known by the Wrens as ‘The Hellhole’ – where the primitive computers had been painstakingly assembled by Alan Turing. It was noisy, hot and stuffy and the eight-hour shifts demanded total concentration on ‘the bombe’ – the electrical machine constructed by Turing.

Mrs Bamworth had to be on her toes – every 15 minutes the machine stopped and the wheel orders had to be changed with tweezers. It was a massive undertaking and by 1944, the year Mrs Bamforth arrived at Bletchley, there were 192 machines operational.

Rosemary Margaret Warren Ince was the second child of Douglas Ince who had won the Military Cross during the First World War while serving as a Major in the Durham Light Infantry. He had been severely wounded at the Somme and in hospital he met Isobel Warren and they were married in Glasgow in 1918.

The young Rosemary attended Cheltenham Ladies’ College where she was a keen member of the lacrosse team. She had set her mind on studying medicine from an early age and at 16 she applied to read medicine at Glasgow University – she was told to come back the next year. Instead Mrs Bamworth joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

Still only 17 she was sent to a training camp at Balloch on Loch Lomond where she performed menial work – empting dustbins etc – but, she wrote, "I was aware of being watched and frequently questioned about everything I did."

Mrs Bamforth was subjected to several intense interviews and was posted to an outstation of Bletchley Park at Hillingdon in Hertfordshire. In 1944 she was transferred to Bletchley Park – the nerve centre of the highly secret organisation which had created the Enigma code machines that allowed the Allies to know Hitler’s orders often before his generals.

On arrival in Hut 11 Mrs Bamforth was given what she later described as, ‘a thing called a menu with this strange patterns of letters and figures on it.’ The machine clanked away and was very smelly. But there were rewards. “When one of our machines was responsible for breaking a very important piece of code, we had a little celebration,” she wrote. For security reasons the operators were never told of its full military significance.

For 25 years Mrs Bamforth, like everybody who had worked at Bletchley, never spoke of her war service - not even to her own family. She simply repeated that she had been a teleprinter operator. In 1966 when her father was dying she told him the truth. That was the exception until the secrets of Bletchley were declassified in the 1970s.

After the war Mrs Bamforth returned to study medicine at Glasgow, specialising in pathology, and after six years she graduated gaining further experience with the pathology departments at McGill University in Canada and Meadowbrook Hospital, Long Island, in the US. She became a recognised specialist in the analysing and diagnosing cancer from tissue samples.

She met John Bamforth, also in the medical profession, while working at Southampton General Hospital, and they were engaged in three days. They married in 1960 and Mrs Bamforth continued to work in hospitals in the Southampton and Portsmouth area and wrote a significant medical paper on her research into the lung disease mesothelioma in shipyard workers which she attributed to asbestos exposure. It proved controversial in the profession but has since been confirmed.

Although she spent all her career in the south Mrs Bamforth remained an ardent Scot. On one occasion, after a quick search through her kitchen cupboards she announced that she was off to do some shopping. She refused, she said, to live in a house without oatcakes. Her daughter, Vicky told The Herald, “If you asked her her telephone number, she would always tell you the one for Redlands Road, even when she hadn't lived in the Glasgow house for 80 years!”

She and her husband returned to America, where they were granted research fellowships at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and she continued her valuable research in cancer surgery.

Mrs Bamforth remained active for many years. In her youth she had been a keen skier and water skier. She took up wind surfing in her sixties and competed in the Round the Island Race off Hayling Island. She often repeated a saying of her father’s, ‘Never avoid reasonable risks.’

One day in 2011, a guide at Bletchley Park was struggling to work one of the museum’s codebreaking machines. He was rather surprised when a curly haired, modestly courteous, octogenarian in his group offered him some help.

Her husband died earlier this year and she is survived by their three children.