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Alumna awarded French Legion d’honneur honour

Date Posted: Monday 11 October 2021

Congratulations to alumna Lorna Cockayne (née Fitch, Somerville, 1942) who has been awarded France’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur, in recognition of the secret wartime work.

In 1944, while serving as a Royal Navy Wren, Lorna was posted to the top-secret Bletchley Park base to operate one of the most important machines of all time – the Colossus Codebreaker.
The Colossus machine was instrumental in breaking the Nazis’ most secret codes.

Lorna’s job was to feed intercepted messages punched out on teleprinter tape into a machine and count the letters to find a pattern. It was not until years later that she learned she had been working on the world’s first computer to break the Lorenz code used by Hitler to communicate with his commanders.

Lorna was sent to board at Ashford School age 11 after the death of her mother, and left at the age of 17, in 1942 just as the School was being evacuated to Countess Wear.

In a previous edition of the ASA School Tie, Lorna recalled her time at Ashford School:

‘Miss Brake (the Headmistress) came round every other night and gave everyone a hug and a kiss on the cheek with a ‘goodnight my chick’ … Ashford [School] was in the flight-path of the German bombers and so we had the sirens going quite often. When the siren went at night we had to get up, put on our outdoor coats, take a blanket and pillow and go downstairs and sleep under the dining room tables.’ 

The Legion d’Honneur, or Legion of Honour, is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil, and was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. Lorna was given the Legion d’Honneur medal at a ceremony on Friday 8 October 2021.

Photo credit to PA Media.