Published: 06:00, 17 October 2020
Bletchley Park code-breakers were crucial in the fight to win the Second World War. Here, 100-year-old Dorothy King tells reporter Gerry Warren of her role at the top-secretive coding centre.
One of Dorothy King's most-prized mementoes is a faded picture of her proudly wearing a Women's Auxilliary Air Force uniform.
It was among a box of photographs she was browsing through as she marked her milestone 100th birthday last month.
Looking at the image took her back to 1942 and one of the most memorable times of her life as she supported the war effort at HQ 92, which was an outstation of the code-cracking base of Bletchley Park.
"I was so excited to become a WAAF and do what I could because we were all trying to defeat Hitler and stop him invading," she said.
"There was a great sense of camaraderie among us and we knew what we were doing was important."
Dorothy was involved in relaying coded messages to the code crackers.
"Around D-Day they were coming in so thick and fast that the teleprinter couldn't keep up and we had to use dispatch riders," she said.
Dorothy was an only child who grew up near Birmingham. She knew all about the horrors of war as a child having seen the effect it had on her father.
Still speaking with a Brummie lilt from her home in Bridge near Canterbury where she has lived for more than 30 years, she said: "Having got malaria, he never fully recovered and I watched him suffer for years.
"It often made him delirious which I found quite frightening as a child."
Dorothy's own career could have taken a different direction, if finances had allowed.
"My headmistress thought I should study classics at Oxford but we just didn't have the money as a family and I ended up joining an engineering firm as an office girl."
From there, she joined the civil service as a typist, but when the war effort ramped up in 1938 she became a Red Cross volunteer.
"Birmingham was getting bombed quite badly because it was an industrial centre and I saw some terrible sights of bodies in the rubble and badly injured people in hospital," she said.
"When I saw a recruitment drive for the WAAF, like a lot of girls, I decided to sign up and I remember how proud I felt putting that uniform on.
"But it was all quite hush hush and we were not allowed to say anything about what we were doing."
It was while she was a WAAF that she met her future husband, Charlie, who was stationed at HQ Bomber Command and then posted to RAF Winslow.
The couple were married in 1944 but hopes of a honeymoon in the Isles of Scilly were dashed by the war, although the Lake District proved a good second choice.
After being demobbed, the couple returned to civvy street. Dorothy worked for the General Post Office and Charlie returned to his trade as a newspaper printer. They also had a son, Roger, who is now 71 and lives in Deal.
The family then moved to Hastings, where she recalls living in a small flat until they could get a house, and money being very tight.
"There was no holding out your hand back then, you just had to get out and find work and I had various clerical jobs," she said.
She recalls 1980 being her worst year when she lost Charlie, aged just 61, to a heart attack, as well as her mum and aunt.
That was when her son suggested she moved nearer him in east Kent and she made a new home for herself in Bridge.
"I didn't know a soul, so joined everything, especially the Women's Institute and St Peter's Church."
It was there that her talent for playing the piano caught the vicar's ear who asked her to be the church organist.
She also played at nursing homes and other events and became a quiz master.
"I wish I'd have learned about using computers a few years ago," she said, "but I think I'm a bit too old now."
She celebrated her 100th birthday on September 10 and her friends from the WI held a tea party on her front lawn.
"Unfortunately, because of Covid, I had to stay indoors and not mingle and just wave and talk through the window, which wasn't ideal," she said.
Speaking of her longevity, she added: "I have just kept active, both physically and mentally, although I find it frustrating not to be as mobile as I once was."