Veteran Stories:
Pamela Hobbs (née Kanis)

Army

  • Letter from Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009.

    Pamela Hobbs
  • Photograph of Pamela Hobbs (née Kanis) taken in London. Wearing her Staff Sargeant crown, and on the left is the Intelligence Badge

    Pamela Hobbs
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"When I was at Bletchley Park, we were not allowed to talk obviously anything about our work at all. We had to swear the official secrecy act and we were not allowed to talk."

Transcript

I went to a very good school and luckily, I was very good at language and I really enjoyed it. I took German, French, Greek, Latin, were my favourite subjects. So this is how I came to be offered a job with the war office. They were looking for people who were good at language at that time, and that’s how I came to join MI5. It was just mostly through my language that they asked me to join. The powers that be were recruiting and they were looking for people who were ready to leave school and so on and so forth, that were either good at mathematics and I certainly wasn’t, or language. And so they asked people to put your name, the school, asked your name to get forward and then they took me to the War Office. I think it was Green Park, I don’t know if you know London at all, but Green Park was the main subway or underground as they called it from the War Office. And so they gave me a little bit of spiel of about what I did when I was at school and then they threw a German newspaper into me and they asked me to read it. Well, I was quite good at reading, quite handily, that was not a problem and then they asked me to translate. Well, most of the German that I had learned was like classic Gertha and Schiller and all those classic kind of stuff. And now all of a sudden, they’re handing me this paper and it was a lot about the war. And so I had to translate it and I didn’t know how I managed to pass but they said that I was satisfactorily enough that I could pass that part of the test. But it was really difficult because there were terms that I wasn’t used to. When I was at Bletchley Park, we were not allowed to talk obviously anything about our work at all. We had to swear the official secrecy act and we were not allowed to talk, even to people that worked about with us, except from our own little office area and then when you finished work, you couldn’t talk about anything at all about your work. And so I had about five very close friends that I worked with in this area and off course, we got to know each other very well. And then when you got into the hut [barracks], they were about, let me see, maybe about 16 or 20 people, and you could have fun together but we were not allowed to say one word about our work. So I might be sleeping next to one of the ATS [Auxiliary Territorial Service] people there and I didn’t even know where she was situated in terms of our buildings. And you were absolutely forbidden to talk anything about your work. So you could only talk about the people when you worked physically with them and then when you finished work, that was the end of conversation. My family just thought I was crazy and I was just making it up and I said, no, I used to say, “I’m a spy, you know I’m a spy, don’t you?” And there was one girl there who was, some guy was trying to talk to her about what she was talking about and she said, “oh, well, didn’t you know that I’m busy scraping the barnacles off the boats.” With the fires on our roof sometimes, incendiary bombs they called them, incendiary bombs, and I was also other to witness, to listen to the buzz bombs [Vergeltungswaffe 1/V1 Rocket] that make this noise like zzz, zzz, zzz. As long as you heard the noise, you were safe but if the noise stopped, then something’s going to fall or the rocket is going to fall on top of you. One time I was really scared when a direct bomb landed on the church quite near where we were and we all had to run into the basement. And I was ready to say my last prayers because I thought I was going to be a goner.
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