Jan Slimming and twin sister Jill Robertson are the children of parents who served during World War II. Slimming lives in Dunwoody, and Robertson lives in the south of England. This year, they were selected to commemorate their parents and others who served by participating in London’s Cenotaph Parade on Nov. 10— Remembrance Sunday — the day closest to Nov. 11, the end of World War I. The sisters marched in the parade with Children of Far Eastern Prisoners of War.
Slimming and Robertson’s father, Stanley Moore, joined the Royal Army Service Corp in 1940. After training in England, his active service started in 1941 as part of a highly classified troop convoy from Liverpool on HMS Andes. The men believed they were going to North Africa to fight. Instead the protected convoy crossed the Atlantic to North America, where they transferred to the USS Wakefield for a three-month voyage to India, via the West Indies and South Africa. The sisters believe the long and complicated route was designed to avoid U-boats in the Atlantic and to ultimately tropicalize the men for combat in the Far East.
Moore was a dispatch driver for the RASC 18th Division. From India, his unit was sent to Singapore, but after a 17-day battle, the island fell to Japan, February 1942. Moore was captured and spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war in Changi. During the first 15 months, his parents and fiancée didn’t know his whereabouts, or whether he had survived. They finally were informed of his imprisonment and told they could send him packages by way of the Red Cross.
Moore had begun to keep a diary which he managed to keep hidden from his Japanese captors, and he continued to secretly write notes as a prisoner of war. Slimming and Robertson knew little about the diary and details of their father’s incarceration. If he spoke of his experience, he glossed over the atrocities he witnessed.
The twin’s mother also spoke little of her World War II work. Some say the work she participated in was the second-best kept secret of the war, after the Atom Bomb. It was not revealed or discussed by anyone involved until the mid-1970s.
Daisy Lawrence enlisted at the War Office after a year of no word from her fiancée, Stan. Her new employment found her stationed deep in the British countryside. She described her position as a Foreign Office civil servant, but today, her daughters know that Daisy Lawrence Moore was one of the Bletchley Park Codebreakers.
Jan Slimming describes her mother’s work.
“She was part of a massive recruitment drive requiring a professional and efficient contingent of administrative staff ‘for work of national importance.’ At the secret intelligence location, new and faster machines, including The Bombe and Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, were invented to speed up the codebreaking of the daily intercepted message cyphers of Axis Powers. Under the British Official Secrets Act, Daisy and the other codebreakers were never to speak of their work. They were warned that if they did it would be treason, leading to imprisonment or, possibly death.
As they undertook the often-boring job of decoding intercepted encrypted messages from Morse code in cyphers such as Enigma and Lorenz, the work was at times challenging. In Daisy’s case she had to recognize strange Japanese characters as well as decipher gibberish coded messages.”
More than 13,000 people worked at Bletchley Park and its satellite operation in Washington D.C. Most clerks, as they called themselves, were women who helped produce intelligence reports that led to crucial military decisions. It is estimated the work at Bletchley Park shortened the war by at least two years.
August 14, 2020 will be a special anniversary for many, including Jan Slimming and Jill Robertson. That day marks 75 years since Japan surrendered. The sisters began with Remembrance Day, Nov. 10, 2019 wearing the traditional red poppy, as in the World War I poem by John McCrae, In Flanders Field says
In Flanders field, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row.
Thank you to Jan Slimming for sharing her parents’ history and her help and collaboration for this article.