Dorothy Lincoln ‘Wrens’: The Cryptologist

89 years old Edmonton lady, Dorothy Lincoln, earlier known as Dorothy Winifred Shiers is among the hundreds of young women who joined the Second World War. But what is remarkable about her career is that she joined the coveted ‘Wrens’, Women’s Royal Naval Service. Her decision to join ‘Wrens’ gave her a position of honour in the history of the war.

Dorothy Lincoln was born in Beckingham, Kent. When she was in high school she studied accounting and after completing her studies she went for a job in London. However, in 1944 she joined the Second World War and left her job. In Women’s Royal Naval Service her job was to crack the secret codes of the enemy countries. During the end of her basic training at ‘Wrens’ she signed the Official Secrets Acts, according to which anyone who breaks the law will be subjected to imprisonment for two years along with a fine of 2000 pounds. Then onwards she along with her other colleagues started working at the Government Code and Cipher School in Bletchley Park. She was an Enigma code breaker. This was the kind of job about which she could not discuss with her family or friends. And if they were asked about their job then they could only say that they did clerical work over there. Dorothy said: “I couldn’t tell anybody [the truth].” She said: “My dad died before I could tell him.” “My dad, he wondered about it. But he never found it”. They said, ‘For goodness sake don’t tell fathers who were serving, or boyfriends, because if they were shot down and tortured it would be very hard not to give information.’ She said: “If our watch was responsible for the sinking of a boat or something, they would come and tell us.” “By the end of the war we were cracking 90,000 messages a month (Winston) Churchill called us the geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled.”

She was married to Ted Lincoln on 4th May 1945. She met Ted in Bournemouth in the year 1944. Ted was a handsome, played good piano, and was employed with Canadian R.A.F (Royal Air Force). At the time of their courtship Ted and Dorothy sometimes went for walks where he pressurised Dorothy to pass on information. Ted said: “I know what you’re doing there. You’re decoding messages.’ She said: ‘Well, how could I do that? I don’t speak German.’ “He said, oh, that’s right.”

However, when the war ended she told him about her secret job of ‘Wrens’. She said: ‘Well if anybody deserves to know, it’s you, putting your life on the line every single time you flew.’ A Distinguished Flying Cross was achieved by Ted for surviving a bomber crash outside Yorkshire coast. Though this crash caused him back injury because of which he often went through severe pain, the National Post reports.

As the war ended the Lincolns left for Paris, then they again came to England. Then in 1951 they left for Winnipeg and finally they settled at Edmonton where he died in 1995. However, recently Dorothy shifted to a senior’s residence at Bletchley Park after selling her south side Edmonton house and car.  Because of the dedication towards her job the British Government awarded her a commemorative medal along with a thick file of newspaper clippings and photos.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE