Mother’s Day


Reflecting on my past and the past of my family gives a technological insight into how my mother and her mother worked with that technology. I’ll start with my grandmother and you will see why.

My Grandmother

My grandmother, Edna Patricia (known as Pat to her friends and later Auntie Pat) was a woman who during World War 2 wanted to be in the air force, but ended up doing something far more important for the war effort. She was drafted to London as part of her service in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force or WAFF as it was known.

The WAFF were not pilots as my grandmother hoped they were, she was barracked near Kensington and received her Morse training in the top floor of the Science Museum. Whenever the siren went, they had to put on their metal hats and dive under the desks for cover.

While she was learning Morse, a bomb fell on her barracks which killed fellow WAFF members and left a few homeless. One woman had nowhere to go, so my grandmother took her home with her and her mother took this woman in.

She was later sent to Bletchley Park because of her skills with Morse Code and she was stationed in one of the huts close to Station X where Alan Turing and others broke the Enigma code. Part of the role for the WAFF was codes and ciphers, so she would be typing up the Morse code she could hear into code sheets for others to decode.

While she was stationed at Bletchley Park, she was encouraged to write to a lonely soldier whose fiancee had found someone else. It turned out his friend knew someone of her family and they met when he returned from North Africa in a terrible state that she felt like turning round and running the other way. He was still wearing his beret when they met.

He realised his birthplace and home in Streatham, London was unrecognisable due to the Blitz and it was time to make a new start, so he moved to Birmingham to be with her.

My grandmother had other qualities, through her enjoyment of the piano but arthritis prevented her playing; through her time with the Ramblers Association and her ability to tell me the names of the trees.

My sister painted a beautiful painting capturing everything about her as she remembered her.

My nan

My nan was a butcher’s daughter who had travelled with her father to Hastings because the sleepy village of Brenzett in Kent did not provide enough of a business opportunity.  One day a carpenter (George) walked into the butcher’s shop and met her and fell in love, my other grandfather.

George worked for the civil service as a Clerical Officer (CO now called Administrative Officer or AO) and tried to sign up to fight for his country, they refused his calling because of the role of the civil service was vital to the war effort, because they ensure the armed forces get paid.

The civil service delivers public service and supports the government to deliver and implement it’s policies

Unfortunately for George,  this also meant the Official Secrets Act, which meant he couldn’t tell anyone what he did and why as an able bodied person he didn’t go into the armed forces and was treated abysmally by local people for that. Forever the black sheep explained why he and his wife never went out and why she became the housewife that never left the house. He was shielding her from the terrible world out there that could be so cruel.

When their daughter left home and married my uncle, my grandfather and my uncle built a semi-detached bungalow so both my auntie and my nan could be safe and I feel they could support each other.

Little is known of her side of the family. My father never asked and I think because of the way society shunned them, I can see why they never wanted to talk about it.

My mum

My mum, Jean was born in Birmingham and she learnt shorthand and typing in college. She was a chaperone to her friend’s blind date and came down on the train and met the other half of the blind date and his chaperone, my dad (Gene.)

They fell in love and she moved to Hastings for a while before they got married. My mum got a job in the same civil service building my grandfather worked in as a machine operator (equivalent to AO rank.) which meant she was exposed to the technology of the time, punch card machines and endless card filing.

As a typist, I remember when I used her manual typewriter to learn to type alongside whenever she was using her electric typewriter. I never got to play with that, but it got me understanding the importance of the home keys and where you place your fingers when at rest to type fast.

My mum also had these books that really helped me grasp algebra, an important skill to know if you are going to learn programming.


It is through my grandmother’s efforts in World War 2 and my mother’s experience in the civil service that opened my eyes to computers.

Additionally, taking the time in every aspect to make me the man I am today she deserves the praise that mother’s day should bring.

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