In his Role of the Irish in WWII series, Con McGrath features Eileen Leslie Greer, graduate of Trinity College Dublin, who was part of the Bletchley Park’s top-secret team of intelligence analysts


One woman’s role in the extraordinary work carried out in Bletchley Park, Britain’s Second World War code-breaking and intelligence-analysing centre, was acknowledged in 2016 at a nursing home in Dublin, when the British Ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott, presented 98-year-old Eileen Leslie Greer with a medal, the Bletchley Park commemorative badge, and certificate, headed “The Government Code and Cypher School.”

Signed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, the certificate expressed the British government’s “deepest gratitude for the vital service you performed during World War II”.

“Who wouldn’t be excited getting a medal?” stated Mrs Greer to Irish Times journalist Peter Murtagh.

Known as Leslie (and spelling her name the male way), she was born in London. Her father, the son of distinguished Trinity classicist Robert Yelverton Tyrrell, was a barrister, and her mother was a motorcycle dispatch rider for the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. Shortly after Mrs Greer’s birth, the family moved to Dublin.
Mrs Greer attended Alexandra College, then in Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin and afterwards went to Trinity College where she took a first in German.

By her early 20s, she was lecturing at Queen’s in Belfast when the war broke out.
“It occurred to me,” she told Peter Murtagh of ‘The Irish Times’, “that there was the war going on and it seemed to me that the war was more serious than teaching German.”

With the encouragement of her professor at Queen’s, she offered her services to the British government, which was quick to realise her value as a fluent German speaker.

The year after the outbreak of war, Greer found herself working in Bletchley Park, an institution then masked by near complete secrecy and only popularly known today because of films such as Enigma (2001) and The Imitation Game (2014).

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own