Newspaper article The Canadian Press

History Behind 'The Imitation Game' Includes Canadian Connection

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

History Behind 'The Imitation Game' Includes Canadian Connection

Article excerpt

'The Imitation Game''s Canadian connection


TORONTO - Helen Leadbetter knew she didn't want to be a secretary.

As a young woman in small town Galt, Ont., in 1942, she wasn't sure exactly what to do with her life. But she was determined to not take on the typical desk jobs many women her age were tasked with.

So when she saw a brochure for a mysterious "wireless telegraphist special operator" position, she immediately signed up.

She and her dozens of mostly female colleagues were "as green as grass" and "had no idea what was going on" when they first landed the gig, recalls the 92-year-old: "We were a bunch of naive kids."

Turned out they were recruited for a top-secret chain of wireless intercept stations that listened in to the enemy's radio messages during the Second World War.

Best picture Oscar nominee "The Imitation Game" shines a light on those wartime workers as it tells the true-life story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), who cracked Nazi Germany's Enigma code.

The film, which is also up for five other Oscars, showcases the efforts at England's Bletchley Park, where teams deciphered and translated the enemy's Morse code messages that had been sent to them from overseas operators --operators like Leadbetter.

She notes that while Bletchley Park was certainly the headquarters of the U.K.'s codebreaking efforts, the work of wireless operators from Canada was just as vital.

"All you hear about is Bletchley Park, which did a fantastic job, by the way. They really did," says Leadbetter from her home in Cambridge, Ont. "But they had to have a source in order to do their job.

"We were the source."

Thanks to efforts by Elevation Pictures, which is distributing "The Imitation Game" in Canada, Leadbetter was recently granted permission from the Department of National Defence and the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service to finally talk about her experiences. …

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