A HELENSBURGH grandmother who was a member of an elite war-time code-breaking group has spoken frankly about the difficult conditions she experienced at the famous Bletchley Park.

Although Betty Balfour was unable to attend a reunion for veterans at the facility recently because of health reasons, she made an emotional visit last year, thanks to a 90th birthday gift from sons Calum and Gordon.

At the reunion earlier this month, a group of more than 100 veterans returned to Buckinghamshire to share stories and show family and friends the place where they made a key contribution to Allied success in World War Two.

Betty told the Advertiser: “I was unable to go this year but greatly enjoyed my visit last year with my family.”

However, she warned against glamorising what working there was like.

She said: “What people seemed to forget is that working conditions there were very difficult. Last year, people were saying ‘isn’t this gorgeous’. I think they wanted to sanitise it and make out it was a lovely experience.

“But that was a lot of rubbish. The buildings had turf on the roof and we had to work underground where there was no daylight. We didn’t have fancy seats and desks – we had old bins to work on.

“I had to tell it as it was. I wanted to tell the truth about the conditions we had to work in. Lies are not in my vocabulary.”

And she quipped: “I think they were glad to get rid of me last year.”

However, Betty said that despite the conditions, she loved her time at Bletchley Park. She had worked with great people and they laughed at the situation they found themselves in.

Like thousands after the war, Betty slipped quietly back into everyday life, never speaking of her experiences.

“My parents died without ever knowing what I did,” she said. “We never spoke of it – we signed the Official Secrets Act and took it very seriously.”

Betty, who joined the Wrens aged 17, says keeping active is the secret to a happy life, and believes a compulsory year in the forces would benefit a lot of people.

She said: “It would knock the rough edges off them and do them a world of good.”