Joanna Chorley

The orginal 'Colossus nursemaid'.

Joanna Chorley was part of the Women's Royal Naval Service – known as 'The Wrens'. She was posted to work on Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, which was based at Bletchley Park.

She described herself along with her fellow Wrens as the “Colossus nursemaids”, and says she fell in love with this machine which hastened the end of World War II by cracking the codes used by the Nazis.

How did you end up working on the Colossus computer?

“ I saw Colossus and what a wonderful machine it was; I was determined that I was going to work on it. ”

Joanna Chorley

What training did you have to work on Colossus ?

'We were really rather like nursemaids; you know we put the paper in for it, on the typewriter and we took the paper out. I put the tapes on, and took the tapes off, and we went around and saw that the valves were all working and we put the pins into the selectors and that's all we did. There was no technical stuff about it at all.'

Joanna Chorley

What was it like working with the Colossus computer?

'I was at Dog's body, I mean, I was definitely the dirt. But I was extremely interested in how the machine worked. Because I thought it was such an amazing machine. But I didn't think a lot of other people were mechanically minded or electrically minded.'

Joanna Chorley

Teaching Point: Was it Joanna’s skill, interest or determination that ensured she ended up working as part of the Colossus team?