Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board will be unveiling  a Blue Plaque
>> commemorating
1917 – 1996

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board will be unveiling a Blue Plaque >> commemorating >> >> JOAN MURRAY (née CLARKE) 1917 – 1996

Events / Julia Gasper / Oxford

Unveiling of Memorial Plaque for Joan Murrray, Larkfields, Headington Quarry, 27 July 2019.

by Julia Gasper

Headington can be very proud that Joan Murray (1917-1996) one of the leading code-breakers who worked at Bletchley Park during World War II, lived here. The occasion of unveiling a memorial plaque to her on her former home was a chance to learn more about this fascinating person.

Kerry Howard came to give us a talk about her career and achievements. Born in London and educated at Newham College Cambridge, Joan Clarke got a double first in Mathematics. In 1939 she volunteered as a Red Cross nurse before being recruited to work at Bletchley Park. She was one of the team in Hut 8, where she worked on Naval Enigma with, among others, Alan Turing, to whom she briefly got engaged. Their relationship and her personality are not very accurately represented in the film “The Imitation Game”. Among the thousands who worked at Bletchley Park, Joan was promoted to being one of the leading code-breakers, and after the war she went to work in the related field of Government Communications. There she met her true soul-mate, Lieutenant-Col. John Murray, another brilliant cryptographer, whom she married in 1952. The two of them shared a passion for numismatics, another field which Joan studied, and in which she published her research. 

For some time they worked in Scotland, possibly also in the secret codebreaking activities of the Cold War, which still cannot be investigated or revealed. Then they spent some years in Cheltenham, where Joan resumed working for GCHQ despite her husband’s ill health. He died in 1991 and she moved to Headington, where she attended the nearby Holy Trinity Church. Neighbours remembered her as a very quiet, reticent woman, who liked solitary pursuits – an ideal personality for such a top secret line of work! Joan died in 1996. 

                                                                                         Julia Gasper.


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