Ann Katharine Mitchell

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Ann Katharine Mitchell (née Williamson, born 19 November 1922), worked on decrypting messages encoded in the German Enigma cypher at Bletchley Park during World War II. She has written several academic books about the psychological effects of divorce on children including "Someone to Turn to: Experiences of Help Before Divorce" (1981) and "Children in the Middle: Living Through Divorce" (1985). She married John Angus Macbeth Mitchell in December 1948 with whom she had four children (Jonathan, Charlotte, Catherine and Andrew) and lives in Edinburgh.[1]


Ann Williamson was born in Oxford on 19 November 1922 to Herbert Stansfield Williamson and Winifred Lilian Williamson (née Kenyon).[1] She was educated at Headington School in Oxford from 1930–1939 before winning a place to study mathematics at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford (1940–1943). At the time relatively few women went to Oxford and even fewer studied maths. There were only five women in Ann Williamson's year at Oxford and she remarked that the men coming to university had been taught maths much better at school than the girls.[2] Indeed, it was suggested to her by the headmistress of her school that studying maths was "unladylike" and her parents had to overrule her school to allow her to take up her place at Oxford.[2][3] An excellent swimmer, while at Oxford she swam for the university team.

Wartime work[edit]

Ann Williamson was recruited to work at Bletchley Park in September 1943 after she graduated from Oxford and for two years until May 1945 she worked in Hut 6 on German Army and Air Force Enigma decryptions.[2] She was recruited as a temporary worker with the Foreign Office on an annual salary of £150 (increased to £200 after her 21st birthday).[4] A lot of her work involved converting 'cribs' into 'menus', the operating instructions for the Bombe decryption devices to identify what that day's Enigma settings might be ('Bletchley Girls', p.116-7). After the war, like others who worked at Bletchley, she was instructed to forget about her work there and never to talk about it.[5] However, once the work at Bletchley became public and the ban was lifted she gave many illustrated talks and interviews about her wartime role.

Her story is included in the book "The Bletchley Girls: War, Secrecy, Love and Loss: The Women of Bletchley Park Tell Their Story" (2015) by the broadcaster Tessa Dunlop.

Academic and social policy work[edit]

In the 1950s, she worked as a marriage guidance counsellor with the Scottish Marriage Guidance Council (now known as Relate Scotland) ('Bletchley Girls', p.295). In the 1970s she returned to university to study social policy[6] and in 1980 she graduated with a Master of Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh.[1]. Between 1980 and 1984 she was Research Associate at the Department of Social Administration in the University of Edinburgh. She worked and published extensively on the subject of marriage breakup and divorce, and in particular on children's experience of family breakup. This work "had a profound influence on family law in Scotland" (Janys Scott QC, in 'Divorce Observed'; 2014 Scots Law Times News 33). Her books include “Someone to Turn To: Experiences of Help before Divorce” (Aberdeen University Press, 1981); "When Parents Split Up" (Chambers, 1982); “Children in the Middle” (Tavistock Publications Ltd, 1985); "Coping with Separation and Divorce" (Chambers, 1986); and "Families" (Chambers, 1987)[7]. They have been translated into a number of languages.

Historical research[edit]

In her seventies, Ann Mitchell researched and wrote about the history of Edinburgh. She published two books, "The People of Calton Hill" (1993) and "No More Corncraiks: Lord Moray's Feuars in Edinburgh's New Town" (1998).[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Person Page". The Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "Miss Ann Katharine Williamson (Mitchell)". Bletchley Park - Roll of Honour. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  3. ^ "Remembering Bletchley Park" (PDF). The Headington. Headington School: 18–20. 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  4. ^ "Gran and her secret work on Nazi codes". The Scotsman. 5 December 2001. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  5. ^ "Code-breaker who kept war secrets until world knew". The Scotsman. 25 September 2001. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  6. ^ Christie, Janet (3 January 2015). "The women of Bletchley Park tell their story". The Scotsman. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  7. ^ "Ann K. Mitchell: Books, Biogs, Audiobooks, Discussions". Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  8. ^ "Ann K. Mitchell: Books, Biogs, Audiobooks, Discussions". Retrieved 21 August 2017.