Mavis Batey

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Mavis Batey
Born Mavis Lilian Lever
(1921-05-05)5 May 1921
Dulwich, London, England
Died 12 November 2013(2013-11-12) (aged 92)
Nationality English
Citizenship British
Alma mater University College, London
Occupation Garden historian
Known for
Spouse(s) Keith Batey (m. 1942–2010)(deceased)
Children 3
Awards Veitch Memorial Medal

Mavis Lilian Batey, MBE (née Lever; 5 May 1921 – 12 November 2013), was an English code-breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II. Her work was one of the keys to the success of D-Day.[1] She later became a garden historian, who campaigned to save historic parks and gardens, and an author.[2]


Mavis Lilian Lever was born on 5 May 1921[2] in Dulwich to her seamstress mother and postal worker father. She was brought up in Norbury and went to Coloma Convent Girls' School in Croydon.[3] She was studying German at University College, London at the outbreak of World War II, concentrating on the German romantics in particular.

Initially employed by London Section to check the personal columns of The Times for coded spy messages,[4] in 1940 she was recruited to work as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park.[2] She worked as an assistant to Dilly Knox, and was closely involved in the decryption effort before the Battle of Matapan.[5][6][7] According to The Daily Telegraph, she became so familiar with the styles of individual enemy operators that she could determine that two of them had a girlfriend called Rosa and this insight allowed her to develop a successful technique.[8]

In December 1941 she broke a message between Belgrade and Berlin that enabled Dilly Knox's team to work out the wiring of the Abwehr Enigma, an Enigma machine previously thought to be unbreakable.[3] While at Bletchley Park she met Keith Batey, a mathematician and fellow codebreaker whom she married in 1942.[2][9]

Batey spent some time after 1945 in the Diplomatic Service, and then brought up three children.[10] She published a number of books on garden history, as well as some relating to Bletchley Park, and served as President of the Garden History Society, of which she became Secretary in 1971.[10][11]

She was awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal in 1985, and made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1987, in both cases for her work on the preservation and conservation of gardens.[12][13]

Batey, aged 92 and a widow since 2010, died on 12 November 2013.[1][3][14]


  • —— (1980). Alice's Adventures in Oxford. Pitkin Pictorials. ISBN 978-0853722953. 
  • —— (1982). Oxford Gardens: The University's Influence on Garden History. 
  • —— (1983). Nuneham Courtenay: An Oxfordshire 18th-century Deserted Village. 
  • —— (1984). Reader's Digest Guide to Creative Gardening. 
  • —— (1989). The Historic Gardens of Oxford & Cambridge. 
  • ——; with David Lambert (1990). The English Garden Tour: A View Into the Past. John Murray. ISBN 978-0719547751. 
  • —— (1991). Horace Walpole as Modern Garden Historian. 
  • —— (1995). Regency Gardens. Shire Books. ISBN 978-0747802891. 
  • —— (1995). Story of the Privy Garden at Hampton Court. 
  • —— (1996). Jane Austen and the English Landscape. 
  • —— (1998). The World of Alice. 
  • —— (1999). Alexander Pope: Poetry and Landscape. Barn Elms. ISBN 978-1899531059. 
  • —— (2008). From Bletchley with Love. Bletchley Park Trust. ISBN 978-1-906723-04-0. 
  • —— (2011). Dilly: The Man Who Broke Enigmas. 
  • ——. The Gardens of William and Mary. 


  1. ^ a b "Mavis Batey". The Telegraph. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Mavis Batey: from codebreaker to campaigner for historic parks and gardens,; accessed 16 May 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Smith, Michael (20 November 2013). "Mavis Batey". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 27 November 2013. 
  4. ^ Barwick, Sandra. A cracking time at Bletchley The Daily Telegraph, 16 January 1999
  5. ^ Friedrich Ludwig Bauer (January 2002). Decrypted Secrets: Methods and Maxims of Cryptology. Springer. p. 432. ISBN 978-3-540-42674-5. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  6. ^ Hugh Sebag-Montefiore (21 July 2011). Enigma. Orion. p. 254. ISBN 978-1-78022-123-6. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Alex Frame (2007). Flying Boats: My Father's War in the Mediterranean. Victoria University Press. pp. 183–4 note 91. ISBN 978-0-86473-562-1. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Tom Chivers (12 October 2014). "Could you have been a codebreaker at Bletchley Park?". Daily Telegrapg. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  9. ^ Francis H. Hinsley; Alan Stripp (2001). Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park. Oxford University Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-19-280132-6. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Edward Fawcett, The Genius of the Scene, Garden History Vol. 24, No. 1 (Summer, 1996), pp. 1–2. Published by: The Garden History Society. Stable URL:
  11. ^ Mavis Batey (1996). Essays in Honour of Mavis Batey: President of the Garden History Society, Presented in Celebration of Her 75th Birthday. Maney. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Mrs Mavis Lilian Batey" summary,; accessed 16 May 2014.
  13. ^, "Mavis Batey: from codebreaker to campaigner for historic parks and gardens", p. 4
  14. ^ Douglas Martin (November 22, 2013). "Mavis Batey, Allied Code Breaker in World War II, Dies at 92". New York Times. 

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