A WAAF at war: or balloons at Bletchley Park
By Margaret Wilson (Author) as told to Simon Mahoney (Blind ghostwriter for the bind)
This is Margaret’s story, an ordinary young woman from the shires who voluntarily joined the war against Germany and the Nazi Party.
It is a story that takes us from a small rural coal mining town to the sheer hard graft of handling highly hazardous barrage balloons, a sojourn at an operational bomber base.
From there we are taken into the almost monastic world of signals intelligence collection at Bletchley Park. Not for her the interminable copying of sacred texts, rather the transcribing of enemy signal traffic.
To this day Margaret will not talk about her work at Bletchley Park in any detail. This has caused frustration amongst historians, including Bletchley Park itself.
Winston Churchill described the young women at Bletchley as ‘the geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled.’
And so it has proved.
“I am very honoured and grateful for the opportunity to endorse this delightful book, written by and featuring two remarkable and resourceful Derbyshire personalities.
The acclaimed author, Simon Mahoney, has had a varied career as a former Royal Marines young officer, social work team leader, and freelance artist. Simon, who completely lost his sight in 2018, writes with the help of a specially adapted PC and word-processing software provided by the charity Blind Veterans UK, which is where he met the redoubtable Margaret Wilson, whose story he was determined to tell.
Simon has given us a marvellous and endearing snapshot into Margaret’s wartime experiences, an understated life of service and dedication to country and community. Despite it being nearly eighty years ago, the detail of Margaret’s service in the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) during World War II is incredible. It is a fresh and enlightening journey into a most significant time in our nation’s history; a brilliant narrative told by Simon with humour, clarity, compassion and admiration.
The WAAF made such an incredible contribution to the war effort, and their work at just Bletchley it is estimated to have ‘shortened the war by approximately two years’ (Sir Harry Hinsley). But so little is known of these indominatable women and their physically demanding roles, their fears, the dangers, the secrecy, and the camaraderie that kept them going.
A WAAF at War is a feast of glorious detail into the world of war through a woman’s eyes, brought to life through Margaret’s tremendous memories and Simon’s creative skills. We are able to reflect on their challenges and insights, and be thankful for so many who came before us in the hope of creating a better world, and give thanks, too, for those who today continue to give their time and talents to improve the lives of others.
One of the great pleasures of being His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for the county of Derbyshire is the opportunity to meet and celebrate some truly exceptional people. Simon and Margaret are certainly up there with the best.”
I hope you all enjoy this book.
Elizabeth Fothergill CBE
HM Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire
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