Ann Bonsor - FANY & SOE Coder Oxford Mail Obituary

Discussion in 'SOE & OSS' started by Jedburgh22, May 9, 2014.

  1. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    ‘Secret Army’ recruit was code sender then university lecturer
    4:00pm Thursday 8th May 2014 in News
    [​IMG]Ann Bonsor worked for MI5 at Blenheim Palace
    A SECOND World War secret service recruit and Oxford University lecturer has died, aged 90.
    Ann Bonsor worked for MI5 at Blenheim Palace during the war and later joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE), also known as “Churchill’s Secret Army”, or the “Baker Street Irregulars” – after the errand boys for fictional detective Sherlock Holmes – as a wireless Morsecode operator.
    Formed in 1942, the SOE’s mission was to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in Nazi-occupied Europe and help create pockets of resistance. It was also directed to plan for guerrilla war in the event of a German invasion of Britain.
    It employed about 13,000 people, a quarter of whom were women.
    Miss Bonsor would later serve in Algiers, North Africa, as well as Bari, and then Siena in Italy, with her role involving “imparting culture” to the army.
    Ann Elizabeth Bonsor was born in London on September 22, 1923. Aged seven, she and her sister moved to live with her uncle and aunt, Sir Reginald and Lady Bonsor, in the Bedfordshire Elizabethan manor Liscombe Park.

    There she fostered a love of the arts and literature, preferring them to traditional country activities such as hunting.
    She attended primary school in London before heading to Langford Grove boarding school in Essex.
    In 1942 she left school to work for MI5 at Blenheim Palace.
    The British domestic intelligence service had been relocated to the estate in 1940 after its Wormwood Scrubs prison headquarters were bombed during the London Blitz.
    She lived out of rooms at Keble College and caught the bus to work where she mainly carried out administrative tasks.
    During her time at Keble, she made friends with the warden of the college and his wife, Harry and Urith Carpenter.

    She would later befriend their son, Humphrey, a friendship which would lead to regular broadcasting jobs at BBC Radio Oxford in the 1970s. She joined the SOE in 1943 and was trained in wireless and Morse code.
    Working from a radio station codenamed Massingham in Algiers, she worked alongside agents being sent into occupied Europe, whose messages she would receive and decode over the radio.
    That sometimes meant hearing them go off the air and signing “bosch” – the code for capture and probable death.
    There was some relief in the base’s location, by the sea, where a lack of baths could easily be replaced by night time bathing sessions in the ocean and she celebrated her 21st birthday party on the beach. After 15 months she was posted to Bari and then Siena, Italy, where she trained at the Army School of Education.
    At that time she was told to apply to Oxford University, which she did successfully in 1946 to read English language and literature at St Anne’s College.
    A tutor of hers was Hugo Dyson, an author of the time alongside JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis.
    After returning to Oxford she became involved with the Convent of the Incarnation in Fairacres, Parker Street, and rekindled friendships made during her time at Blenheim. She bought a house in Observatory Street in the early 1950s.
    Upon completing her degree she stayed on at St Anne’s to teach her subject to undergraduates and exchange students for 20 years.
    She also reconnected with Humphrey Carpenter, who joined BBC Radio Oxford, and he was to give her many commissioned broadcast jobs, interviewing people about Oxford’s eminent authors and eccentrics.
    In her later years she maintained a host of close friends around the city and was a regular member of the congregation of St Mary Magdalen’s Church.
    Ann Bonsor died died peacefully at Oxford retirement development Pegasus Grange on April 25.
    Miss Bonsor did not marry. She is survived by her three nieces.
    Her brother, Michael, died before her. Her funeral will take place at St Mary Magdalen’s Church at 11am on May 21. All who knew her are welcome
  2. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thank you - I passed this onto my Dad's mate, Charles and his wife Margaret who knew Ann Bonsor from Massingham in 1943.

  3. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day jedburgh22.very senior member,yesterday,;ann bonsor-fany and soe coder, oxford mail obituary.a fine lady,a great life,may she rest in peace.regards bernard85 :poppy: :poppy:
  4. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    :poppy: Anne Bonsor RIP :poppy:

  5. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    A friend of mine has told me that Ann Bonsor was still giving lectures on her role in SOE up until a few years ago. He had attended one such at her old University, St. Anne's, Oxford.
  6. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Ann Bonsor - obituary

    Ann Bonsor was a member of a secret 'FANY’ unit who sent messages to SOE agents in France

    Ann Bonsor

    5:15PM BST 12 Jun 2014

    Ann Bonsor, who has died aged 90, served with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry’s secret “Bingham’s Unit” during the Second World War .

    In 1938 the FANY (a voluntary female corps formed in 1907) was asked to establish the Women’s Transport Service — companies of motor drivers attached to the Auxiliary Territorial Service. Bingham’s Unit was a small, highly secret part of the FANYs which worked for the Special Operations Executive. As well as their driving duties, the women of Bingham’s Unit gave technical and housekeeping support to trainee agents at the SOE’s special training schools, and some became highly skilled in wireless telegraphy, ciphering and deciphering.

    Ann Bonsor was recruited into the FANY in October 1942 and sent to Special Training School No 52 at Thame Park in Oxfordshire, one of many similar houses requisitioned by the SOE – which gave rise to the idea that its initials stood for “Stately ’Omes of England”). The following July she and a team of FANYs sailed from Greenock in a troopship with no idea of their destination. After two weeks they arrived at Algiers, where they were told at their first briefing that it was unsafe to drink the water, but that there were unlimited amounts of wine; the girls drank so much that they had difficulty putting up their camp beds.

    They were posted to Interservice Signals Unit No 6 at its secret base 15 miles west of Algiers, at a seaside village code-named “Massingham”. At first Ann Bonsor failed her Morse sending and was put on coding and decoding, but with practice she developed her touch at Morse and worked watches sending and receiving messages from agents in France. Though she also met several agents who were to be sent by small boat and by parachute into occupied Europe to conduct sabotage and reconnaissance, she never knew their names.

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    Ann Bonsor was aware that when agents contacted her base, there were only about 15 minutes to send and receive, and for her to transmit and record accurately, before enemy direction-finding teams located the source of the signals. On one occasion a message suddenly turned from code into plain language, reading “Boche Boche”. She feared this meant that the agent had been captured — a fear that was confirmed when his set came back on air: she knew from the change in the rhythm of the Morse that it was the Germans who were operating the set. When the Allies landed in the south of France, however, and another agent used plain language to send “Vive la France”, all the FANYs in the wireless room stood and sang the Marseillaise.
    In October 1944 Ann Bonsor sailed to Bari on the Adriatic coast of Italy to join another SOE unit, Force 226. As the Allies advanced through Italy, she and a team of FANYs were sent north to Siena, where they ran the operations room of the Special Forces in southern Europe. In June 1945 she joined the Wireless Section (Mixed) ME61 — Mediterranean Ops, but this was soon disbanded; in December 1945 she was released from duty.
    Ann Elizabeth Bonsor was born in London on September 22 1923. After the early death of her father, she and her brothers lived with an uncle, Sir Reginald Bonsor, 2nd Bt, and his wife at Liscombe Park, Bedfordshire. She did not embrace country life, and was considered peculiar as she preferred poetry to Horse and Hound. She was educated at Langford Grove, Essex, and on leaving school she worked for eight months for MI5 at its wartime headquarters in Blenheim Palace, where she found her duties “dreadfully boring”.
    After the war Ann Bonsor read English at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and she remained at the university as a lecturer for two decades. She was unmarried.

    Ann Bonsor, born September 22 1923, died April 25 2014

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