'Bletchley Girl 'Pat Davies Says The Pandemic Is 'In No Way Like The War'

96-year-old local resident on the boredom of being confined at home


Pat Davies Recalls Her Secret Wartime Career

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Pat received the Freedom of Hounslow, pictured with the Mayor Tony Louki

Chiswick resident and former 'Bletchley Girl' Pat Davies, has been interviewed on television twice recently about her wartime experiences.

But, the 96-year old, who is in isolation in her home in Grove Park says that she does not believe there can be any comparison made between the coronavirus pandemic and WW2.

The interviews were made over the internet from her computer and she said it 'brightened up the week no end' as she is feeling bored at home, living on her own.

Pat, aged 21, as a WREN

"Jeremy Vine asked me whether I thought it was like the War but I don't think it is like the War, which was more an upbeat time as we all wanted to get involved. As a teenager I was worried it would finish before I could join the WRENs but it didn't. In the War you could do something constructive. But this business of being locked in and seeing the statistics of how many have died from this virus is more depressing."

Pat has been honoured a number of times for her wartime services. She was granted the Freedom of Hounslow at a ceremony in Chiswick Town Hall last November and six months prior to that, was awarded the French Legion d'Honneur for her work as a Royal Navy Wren, when she was responsible for interpreting intercepted German Naval messages which were then passed onto the code-breaking operation. She had learned to speak German from the cook at her grandfather's house.

Pat was one of thousands of women whose story featured in The Bletchley Girls, which documents the lives of fifteen women who worked at Bletchley Park - it is thought that up to 7,000 women known as Bletchleyettes, worked at the secret codebreaking HQ during the war.

You can read our previous stories on Pat and her involvement with Bletchley here.

Going over old memories- file picture

Pat has a carer who comes on three or four days and her neighbours have been very helpful in checking on her and getting anything she needs. "It does show how nice your neighbours are, all sorts of people have rung me up to check how I am."

She is spending her time reading a stack of books and has been asked to write an article for the Daily Mail, where she used to work in the 1950s. In the sunny weather, she enjoys sitting in her garden.

Pat's sister is also living alone in her house in a village in Lancashire. "We ring each other up a lot and she is feeling bored too, she walks up the street for exercise, but she hasn't got a dog at the moment and that would probably help her if she did. She is a real bird-watcher and that keeps her busy. Another of my cousins rings up, she lives in the country but she has pugs and has to take them for walks, so that keeps her busy.

"I miss seeing my friends, there isn't any church service to go to at the moment and I used to go every Sunday and see everyone I know, and maybe have a sherry with somebody afterwards.

"I think it's quite depressing. I am 96 and you don't expect to spend your last few years cut off in this way from everybody. I would like to get back to a normal social life while I am still around- if you are very ill and old and you can't do things, seeing people is one of the most important things, and I miss it.

"I look out my front window and there are no commuters going by and usually there are aeroplanes, and noise coming from the lovely games fields across from me. The groundsman keeps the pitches beautiful but now nobody comes and plays."

She is looking forward to having drinks with her friends when the 'lockdown' is all over.

"For now I have a whiskey and soda at 6 o'clock. I usually find that picks one up."

Pat with some of the Chiswick Sea Cadets of which she is a patron

Two years ago, Pat and her sister Jean Argles collaborated on 1,000 Days On the River Kwai, the story of their father, Colonel Cary Owtram OBE, who kept a secret diary during his years as camp Commandant at Chungkai. The infamous camp was one of the largest POW camps during the Japanese occupation and the construction of the infamous Burma Railway during which several thousands British and Allied prisoners died.

Pat, who is a popular member of the community in Grove Park, has become a local celebrity in later life and is regularly asked to speak at schools and public events. She recently became one of the oldest participants in the Chiswick Book Festival.

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April 6, 2020

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