Surviving WWII Codebreakers in Ascot Honoured With Australian Intelligence Medal After 80 Years

Eighty years after their service to the Australian military, three of the clandestine band of female codebreakers in Ascot who helped Allied Forces win World War II in the Pacific were honoured with the Australian Intelligence Medal on Australia Day 2023.

The surviving Ascot codebreakers, Joyce Grace, Coral Hinds and Ailsa Hale, were recognised for their top-secret work as Typex Operators with the Central Bureau Headquarters, which was established at a garage inside Nyrambla, a house in Ascot. 

These women were collecting and decoding Japanese military communications to help the Allied Forces but they were not able to tell anyone, even their own families, of their highly-sensitive role in the Australian military. 

Known as the “Garage Girls” because they operated from the basement of Nyrambla, an Ascot mansion that served as a secret intelligence base, the Ascot codebreakers were vital to Operation Vengeance. Cracking secret communications helped the Allies take down Japanese naval chief Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in 1943, essentially ending the war in the Pacific. 

Admiral Yamamoto was the commander-in-chief of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s Combined Fleet during the Battle of Midway and the attack on Pearl Harbour.

Australian Signals Directorate Director-General Rachel Noble hailed the medal honourees as the “modern-day heroines” who have inspired Australians. Their recognition has been long overdue. 

Ms Grace, who is celebrating her 100th birthday in March 2023, said she is proud of the honour. She recalls receiving a letter from the government asking her to leave her job at a draper store to help with the war effort. 

She didn’t fully see the impact of her work as a codebreaker until 30 years later when they were finally allowed to divulge their top-secret roles in various features and documentaries. During the war, every one of the Garage Girls thought it was simply a job they had to do.