In 2010, The Memory Project interviewed Margarita “Madge” Trull (née Janes), a veteran of the Second World War. The following recording (and transcript) is an excerpt from this interview. Marge was born to English parents on 24 July 1922 in Valpariso, Chile, but was educated in England. In 1943, at 21 years old, she and her sister enlisted in the Women’s Royal Naval Service at Portsmouth, England. That year, she met RCAF Flight Lieutenant John Cameron Trull at a dance. The two were engaged by Christmas. In February 1944, John’s plane engine stalled while on a mission over Belgium. With the help of the Resistance, he eventually returned to England, where he reunited with Madge. The couple married on 30 September 1944.
Madge’s two brothers also served in the Royal Air Force and Merchant Navy, respectively. In her testimony, she discusses the secrecy involved in her work as an “Intelligence Writer.” She also describes the challenges of working with “Bombes,” electromechanical devices used to decode German messages written with Enigma ciphers. The WRENs were a critical force in eventually breaking Enigma and intercepting German communications. After the war, Madge and John Trull moved to Canada. Margarita “Madge” Trull died in Mississauga, Ontario, in March 2023 at 100 years of age.
Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.
"Because at the time, if we had divulged anything, we could have either been sent up to detention camp, or… believe it or not, they said shot! We were very careful not to speak to anybody about it"
My name is Margarita Francesca (Janes) Trull. I was married to Flight Lieutenant John C. Trull, Royal Canadian Air Force. I was born in South America – Chile – of English parents, and I went back when I was three years old, so of course I was educated and everything in England. I was known as Madge, but I joined up as WREN Janes with my sister Jean Janes, or “Jeannie”, I called her. We both went to Portsmouth in England to join up in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. I had wanted to be in the nurse, but it was all filled up. But we got chosen for the WRENS, which was very delightful because I liked the idea of the WRENS.
At Eastcote, we had to be trained as … cryptologists, or whatever it is they called us. We were only supposed to be known – very secretive work – as “Writers.” On my discharge papers, I was “Intelligence Writer,” and “Writer” meant “Secretary,” and I had never been a secretary… didn’t even know what to do as a secretary. Now, they call it the ULTRA secret.
After Eastcote, we were sent to Stanmore, where we were really decoding German messages, and I know you’ve heard of the Enigma, and that’s the work we did. First of all, we were sworn under the War Secrets Act, which was ninety years. I haven’t reached that yet, but there are certain things that have to be kept quiet, and I’m never a hundred percent sure what I can or what I can’t talk about. Because at the time, if we had divulged anything, we could have either been sent up to detention camp, or… believe it or not, they said shot! We were very careful not to speak to anybody about it. My mother died not knowing what I did.
And when we were at Stanmore, we worked in what were called “Bays.” And in those Bays, there were these huge machines called “Bombes.” The “Bombes” were sort of a mechanical apparatus, if you want to call it that. They were big. Very, very noisy. They had on them drums, and on these drums had tons of little wires. But if one wire crossed another wire, it would mess up the whole decoding system. So we had to be sure that they were all cleared out and running perfectly. It was kind of hard on our nervous system, even though we were pretty young. When we had maybe broken a code – which the machine helped us to do, but we of course had to set it up – we then had to go into a little room with a machine that looked like the Enigma, and work it back. Now, we weren’t able to read those codes. Those codes were sent to Bletchley Park by a courier in the Army or whoever it was. We didn’t even know much about it at the time, but I’ve learned that since.
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