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Keith Batey

Keith Batey (4 July 1919 - 28 August 2010) was a British codebreaker during World War II. He worked at Bletchley Park (BP), solving the German Army and Air Force Enigma ciphers in Hut 6, and later in the Intelligence Services Knox (ISK). At BP he also met his future wife Mavis Lever.

Keith was born in 1919 and initially went to Carlisle Grammar School. He later went to Trinity College in Cambridge to study mathematics under a state scholarship. There he met fellow mathematics student Gordon Welchman.

In 1940, he was recruited by Gordon Welchman who had been involved in setting up a code­breaking centre at Bletchley Park at the outbreak of war in 1939. He was put to work in Hut 6 which was responsible for breaking the Enigma ciphers of the German Army and Air Force.

One day in 1941, whilst working on an evening shift in Hut 6, he was consulted by Mavis Lever, one of the leading female codebreakers of Dilly Knox' research unit ISK. Just 19 years old, Mavis had already broken the Italian Naval Enigma, which had helped to win the Battle of Cape Matapan. Now she had a problem she couldn't solve and asked for Keith's input as a mathematician.

Over many cups of ersatz coffee, he assisted her in reconstructing one of the wheels of the new Italian Naval Enigma machine. Despite the strict compartimentation at Bletchley Park, the couple fell in love and got married in November 1942.

After a brief intermezzo as a pilot, he was called back to BP where he was put to work at ISK, alongside his wife Mavis. Knox had succeeded in reconstructing the main Enigma G machine used by the German Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, and his unit was to play a key role in the Double-Cross System (XX).

The Double-Cross System turned German spies and used them to feed fake intelligence to the Germans. It helped convincing the Germans that the Allied invasion would take place at the Pas de Calais rather at Normandy. As a result, the Germans kept two units in the Calais area. In 1943, Keith Batey broke the Enigma ciphers of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the intelligence service of the German Nazi party, and also the ciphers of the Italian military attachés in Berlin.

After the war, Keith worked with the Commonwealth Relations Office and joined the High Commission in Ottawa (Canada) [2]. In 1951 he became the private secretary to Philip Noel-Baker, Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. He later became the financial officer of the University of Oxford (Secretary of the Chest) and finally Treasurer of Christ Church.

Unlike his wife Mavis, Keith remained largely silent about his wartime work at Bletchley Park, but visited the annual Enigma Reunion whenever possible. The last time he visited Bletchley Park was at the special Enigma Reunion on 5 and 6 September 2009 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the WWII codebreaking centre. On this occasion, Mavis' latest book Dilly, The Man Who Broke Enigmas was launched. Keith Batey died a year later on 28 August 2010 at the age of 91.

  1. The Telegraph, Keith Batey - obituary
    2 September 2010. Retrieved January 2014.

  2. Wikipedia, Keith Batey
    Retrieved January 2014.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Sunday 26 January 2014. Last changed: Thursday, 08 October 2015 - 16:17 CET.
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