Tributes to Sunderland’s ‘French resistance fighter’ who served country at Bletchley Park

Margot Adams pictured in uniform during the Second World War.
Margot Adams pictured in uniform during the Second World War.
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An inspirational Wearside woman who served as a wireless operator at code-cracking Bletchley Park during World War Two has passed away at the age of 89.

 Margot Adams was just a teenager when she was recruited to work with resistance fighters in France – taking coded messages and documenting troop movements.

Margot Adams pictured with her husband Alex.

Margot Adams pictured with her husband Alex.

 “Being so young I did not realise how vital the information was,” she recalled. “We signed the Official Secrets Act and nothing was told until that time was up.”

 Margot was born to tram driver William Donkin and his wife Susan in 1926 and spent her early years in Hendon – including Amberley Street and Peel Street.

A move to Monkwearmouth followed just after she started “strict” Hendon Board School. Her new school, Grange Park, was much more to her taste.

 “I enjoyed school; in fact life was going along well. Then men started digging holes in gardens and building shelters,” she wrote in a short story of her life.

Being so young I did not realise how vital the information was until after the war.

Margot Adams, a wartime wireless operator.

 “The talk on the radio was about the chance of war. It did not make any difference to my life until a fateful Sunday morning, when I was told we were at war.

 “Just after we heard the news the air raid sirens started. There was no raid that day, but it gave a little taste of what was to come later.”

 War turned Margot’s life upside down. Her school was taken over for war work, lessons were held in church halls and food rationing was put in place.

 “You were allowed just 2oz a week of butter, and other essentials were really small. Fruit was hardly ever seen and I knew how it felt to be hungry,” she said.

Margot Adams

Margot Adams

 Hitler’s air raids also made a lasting impression on Margot – especially after witnessing enemy planes dive-bombing British ships just off the coast of Whitburn.

 “Bullets were bouncing off the road in front of us. A lady dashed out of one of the houses and urged us to get into her shelter, which we did,” she said.

 After her father signed up to the Home Guard and her mother started work in a canteen, Margot decided to do her bit by joining the Girls Training Corps.

 Morse Code was among the skills taught and, one day, a VIP visitor attended a meeting – asking for volunteers who could send and receive messages in code.

 “I had reached five words per minute, so took a form home to be signed by my parents – not realising how much it would affect my future,” she said.

 “They were horrified at the thought of me going away. But it sounded wonderful to me – so I begged them to let me go and join the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry.”

 The Yeomanry was not, however, where Margot ended up. Instead she was transferred to Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive – an organisation tasked with encouraging and facilitating espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines, as well as assisting the French Resistance movement.

 After postings to Oxfordshire and Scotland, she was eventually sent to Bletchley Park – home to the Enigma code-cracking team – where “the real work began”.

 “We worked with the resistance by taking messages which gave information on all troop movements – in fact on anything that would help,” she later recalled.

 “I often think of the brave men and women who did that wonderful work. I feel I was one of the lucky ones!”

 Margot trained as a secretary after being demobbed in 1945, quickly finding work. Within months, however, she developed TB and spent two years in hospital.

 After being discharged with only partial use of her lungs, Margot was sent to Slough to convalesce at an aunt’s house – but found true love instead.

 “I met Alex at a fairground. Not my type at all. How strange then when he asked me to marry him I said Yes! Best decision I ever made,” she said.

 The couple married on Armistice Day 1950 and enjoyed 64 happy years together. After setting up home in Royal Leamington Spa they had two daughters – Jen and Sue.

 Margot went on to become the only female electronics buyer in the country, before retiring in her sixties to enjoy more holidays and dance nights with Alex.

 “I do like to sparkle, and I hope I brought a bit of sparkle into other people’s lives,” Margot later wrote.

he died on May 20.