Operating the Bombe: Jean Valentine's story

Jean Valentine was one of the operators of the Bombe machine that was created to help crack the Enigma code.

The Bombe was designed to work through all the permutations of the latest Enigma code used by the Germans and although multiple Bombe machines worked quickly through the codes, the machines needed careful operation by people such as Jean Valentine.

“When the bombe first appeared it was operated only by men. They did not think women could do it but when they introduced women they ended up with only women operating it!”

Jean Valentine

Teaching Point: Why was it presumed that women would not be able to operate the Bombe and what do you think changed this perception?

“ When the war finished the girls were given screwdrivers to dismantle the Bombe machine. It must have been heart breaking. ”

Jean Valentine

Teaching Point: Why were the Bombe operators not allowed to discuss their work with civilians?

“ You might go to the pub and meet some civilian chaps in the evening but you could not talk about anything relating to work. ”

Jean Valentine

Teaching Point: How did the secrecy surrounding their work limit the future career possibilities for women in particular?