Comments: 526 • Responses: 61  • Date: 

futuredestiny401 karma

Do you even lift?

horsey90624 karma

I what?! do I what??

(after this has been explained to her)

No. I've never done weight training. Is that what somebody's asked? I've enough to do to get myself around.

Edit - I loved this question, her reaction was amazing.

Coolmikefromcanada258 karma

What were you doing at bletchley Park during the war?

horsey90612 karma

Well, I was designated to give the WAAF who worked there physical exercises as they were confined to Bletchley park. The people in charge wanted them exercised to allow for long periods of intense concentration. This largely involved waking them up at 6:30am for a cross country run before they started their shifts. I wasn't very popular because of this, but they're all dead now so it doesn't matter. They gave me the nickname "Gerry" because my surname was Gerard (although they probably called me other names behind my back).

Flying Officer Lilly sent me to train in Melksham before Bletchley Park.

I used to go to an old couple's house there and played poker with the old people and do my Penelope Tapestry which now hangs in the hall in my house. There wasn't much to do in flipping Bletchley apart from playing poker.

antoinebugleboy340 karma

I wasn't very popular because of this, but they're all dead now so it doesn't matter.

Due to natural causes, or...?

horsey90341 karma

The last code breaker died last year. All from natural causes I assume.

CreepyOctopus171 karma

Bletchley Park is a fantastic place of enormous historical significance, thanks for doing this!

Did you ever get to interact with Alan Turing, and what was your impression of him, if you did?

You weren't a code-breaker, so how many years after the war did you find out exactly what was going on there, and just how significant it was?

horsey90189 karma

it was a long time after the war was over before thing were made public... yes a long time after the war. It was a shock but I was in great admiration of the work they carried out and what it had meant for our future land.

horsey90184 karma

Also, I never met Alan Turing but I knew of him

localgyro153 karma

Oh, goodness! I just really want to have tea with you and listen to stories! It's not often that I speak with a cyborg with such a fascinating history!

I'm fascinated by the Bletchley stories. Were you a code breaker there, or in a different sort of WAAF role? There's a bunch of fiction around the Bletchley days -- do you think it's all bunk, or is there any of it that catches something of the right spirit?

Was it hard to readjust post-war to a non military role? Do you think your time in the WAAF led to the turn to the nunnery? I can imagine some similarities there. Were you in a contemplative order, or serving the community or .... I'm not even sure.

I'm frankly honored to have you dropping in on us here at reddit. :) Thanks for stopping by. I'd offer you a scone if I could, but my baking would put me to shame.

horsey90168 karma

Thank you for taking an interest in my life. I wasn't a code breaker (sorry to disappoint) i was on the administrative side. I've answered this first question already so here's what I put earlier:

Well, I was designated to give the WAAF who worked there physical exercises as they were confined to Bletchley park. The people in charge wanted them exercised to allow for long periods of intense concentration. This largely involved waking them up at 6:30am for a cross country run before they started their shifts. I wasn't very popular because of this, but they're all dead now so it doesn't matter. They gave me the nickname "Gerry" because my surname was Gerard (although they probably called me other names behind my back). Flying Officer Lilly sent me to train in Melksham before Bletchley Park. I used to go to an old couple's house there and played poker with the old people and do my Penelope Tapestry which now hangs in the hall in my house. There wasn't much to do in flipping Bletchley apart from playing poker.

Yeah, yeah there's definitely truth in the fiction around Bletchley Park. We were indebted to Bletchley park for the work that they carried out. I didn't know much about it at the time because it was very hush hush. It's looking back that we're indebted to everyone for all the work that was carried out. For my 90th birthday some friends took me down to Bletchley park. It was a great experience to be there again 70 years on. It had very much changed.

Coming out of the war, I took it in my stride. my time in the WAAF certainly did lead to the nunnery because I met a lot of friends who were Catholics. I got embroiled into their life and faith. I belonged to the Sisters of St Josephs of Cloony whose mother house was in Paris. It was a missionary order with houses all over the world.

I would love to take you up on the scone offer but I'm afraid I might talk you death!

localgyro40 karma

I know my share of computer and nerdy types -- by being the person who pushed them into physical activity, you were taking your life into your hands! I can only imagine the griping! Were you Scary Gerry?

I got to visit Bletchley a few years ago. Lovely grounds, lovely countryside, rather set apart from everything else, even at this late date. I can only imagine what it was like in 1940!

horsey9085 karma

well I mean to say yes I had to be strict and not only that, not only did I do the physical training with them but I had to drill them. In fact, I was picked for the victory parade in London when I was stationed over in Germany.

JJest101 karma

What technology most fascinates you that you have seen birthed during your life? What was your reaction to it then? Is it still a part of your life?

horsey90184 karma

ooo that's a vast question... all the computerisation! I'm perfectly lost! All this new technology! I feel I'm standing in the dock with all these people all over the world asking me questions about my life!

JJest85 karma

That's as good a metaphoric description of what's happening as I can think of! Glad to hear from you from Kansas, of the United States. :-) Thank you for your time.

horsey90225 karma

We told her about this and she said "Ooh Kansas, damn decent of them"

UncleTaco91 karma

Were you hit on by scientists and coworkers? If so what were some pick up lines that they used?

horsey90195 karma


[I really wanted to ask her this but her daughter (my mother) is also in the room and doesn't want to know.

Might try to find out later]

markthecommentator87 karma

To what do you attribute your longevity?

horsey90380 karma

Only the good die young (laughs). I like to think that I've had the call but the call came when I didn't have my hearing aid in, I'll have to wait for my name to come around again. I've stayed active, I keep busy. I love to do things. I love to keep busy. I also have a wide network of close friends and that certainly helps. I love people and I love to talk to people.

suaveitguy86 karma

I don't think anyone has asked about Alan Turing on here specifically. Did you have any interactions with him? Have you seen The Imitation Game? Was that a strange experience, to see your old workplace on film decades later?

horsey90179 karma

I was just a minion. No, no, no. Our paths never crossed. I knew of him, though. No, I've not seen that film. I've read a lot of books on Bletchley Park. A friend of mine took me to visit Bletchley Park for my 90th. It had all changed so much. I accosted many white-haired old women hoping that they were there during the war as well but I was unsuccessful.

NorbitGorbit65 karma

what was the biggest food or staple luxury during the war? chocolate? shaving razors?

horsey90130 karma

It's difficult to say. Being in the WAAF we just ate what we were given. I didn't pine for anything. Cigarettes were given to us for free but smoking never appealed to me because I thought it was a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of my health.

NorbitGorbit15 karma

cigarettes were promoted as healthy early on; when did that perception change?

maleman40 karma

Double-check your history, bro. Many people were well aware by the mid-late 1930's that smoking was bad for you.

horsey9083 karma

Well they didn't put that smoking kills you on the packaging. They didn't let on to that effect.

nanyanwu51 karma

Hello from New York City! My name is Ed Forsyth. What are your favorite hobbies?

Do you have any favorite books?

horsey90113 karma

Hello New York! My God, someone in New York! I loved riding although I don't do it anymore. And looking after the horses. I used to love mucking out - a job of satisfaction when everything was done and clean. I couldn't say what my favourite book is but P. D. James in very good. I think they've passed on. Oh god, not Maeve Binchy! She's crappy. oh I read so many really... oh I don't know. I love family stories. Sensible stories. Dramatic. Not this soft love story like Maeve Binchy. No she's very superficial.

(apologies to any Binchy fans)

nomm_104 karma

Yeah, suck it, Binchy!

horsey90109 karma

[She had a hearty chuckle at that one]

suaveitguy47 karma

What was the first film that you saw in theater?
What was the first play or performance that you saw in a theater?

horsey9089 karma

Ooo I couldn't remember that... We'd go to the pantomime when I was a child but nothing high-brow. Maybe... the Fiddler on the Roof. It's one that impressed me - stayed with me. We saw that in London.

trevdordurden44 karma

What is the best meal that you have ever eaten?

horsey90100 karma

Ooo... ever... thinking.... recently I've been enchanted with afternoon tea at the Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh in the Palm Court. We had the most delightful savouries and pastries and was treated royally by the most courteous waiters. It was a 90th birthday present from a friend.

I really enjoy Indian food in general, though.

areyawell44 karma

Hi there! How was training as a nun in Ireland? My mum went to a convent school and she said the nuns were not the nicest! How was that for you?

horsey9077 karma

She must have been very unlucky. The nuns that I belonged to were kind and good had the pupils best interests. When I was professed, i became secretary to the mother of novices who was also the mother provincial of the nuns in Ireland. I domiciled at a girl's boarding school just outside Dublin, St Joseph's Convert Chapel Izod and I taught commercial subjects, shorthand, typing and booking, One of my pupils later became employed by the UN in Vienna. I've always had an open invitation to visit Vienna but I have never reached there, not being a traveller.

suaveitguy43 karma

Is there anything about Bletchley Park that you don't think History has recorded? Can you describe its atmosphere as a workplace?

horsey90113 karma

I was on the outside looking in not being under the official secrets act so not really. If I'd have signed the official secrets act, we'd all be under German rule now. I wouldn't be able to trust myself to not break it. God it's like being in confession this is... I've never revealed myself so much... good heavens.... (she needs more tea, I think).

showmm60 karma

Tea fixes most British problems. Might not have won the war if all th tea had dried up.

horsey9070 karma

I agree!

saltinado42 karma

If you could make one thing in the world go back to the way it was when you were a child, what would it be?

horsey90134 karma

it would be that my mother had lived longer. she died when I was 10 years old.

suaveitguy41 karma

I like the adage 'there is nothing new under the sun,' and as I grow older I am always surprised how innovations are really just evolution and people forget where new ideas and technologies came from. What surprises you most that people think of as a new/revolutionary idea? What disappoints you most about how people characterize the 'good old days'?

horsey9052 karma

Ooo that's very academic for a simple soul like me. I'm only a very simple soul, you see. I'll have a think and try and get back to you.

suaveitguy20 karma

Academics would have polished and contrived ideas, likely. A simple soul, who had her eyes open and was a party to so many years has a much more valuable perspective I think.

horsey9031 karma

[Will try to get an answer for this one in the morning. She's starting to tire]

kindofsquishy39 karma

What do you think the best invention has been since you've been alive?

horsey9084 karma

ooo... blimin' academic this is... oh, I mean all this computerisation.. it's beyond me. I'm a simple soul. I want them to know I'm a simple soul. Probably the television. It's good programs. Good real life programs.

kindofsquishy28 karma

That's awesome! I know so many older people who thought that television was the 'devil's tool' and called it things like the 'idiot box' and stuff like that... what are your thoughts on that line of thinking?

horsey9072 karma

well, I choose what to watch so I obviously just watch stuff that I like.

ownedbydogs39 karma

Most of my thoughts on Bletchley Park have been answered already. But as an Arts and History student I really want to know: What's your take on the changes in women's fashions throughout the years? My school's textiles and costume archive has a Dior dress from the 1950s that's so heavily reinforced and girdled inside it stands up on its own! I can study the articles but have no idea what it's like to have worn them, lived in them - and the archive director would murder us if anyone dared, so...

horsey9070 karma

I don't like much of the modern day fashion. I think it's too revealing. (she pointed at me, the cheeky woman!). I never wore anything like the dress you're describing... well for most of the 1950's I was a nun!

camsta190536 karma

Hi there, I actually believe we met when you were staying with a friend of mine near bordeaux, not sure if you'll remember! Would have loved to sit down and chat over a cup of tea and ask you thousands of questions but I guess I'd just like to ask if you and the others at Bletchley park knew how important the work was and what it meant? Thanks so much for doing this ama - it is truly fascinating :)

horsey9039 karma

Spoke to her, she was really excited but the only time she was in France was when she was in the convent in Paris and had restricted access to the outside. Sorry :(

She didn't know about the work happening there until many years later but she knew that there were miltary secrets involved.

suaveitguy35 karma

When you left the Order, did you also leave the church? Can you describe that transition and your motivation a bit?

horsey9072 karma

I didn't leave the church but I reverted to methodism. Humanly, it was hard for the family being as they were steeped in methodism for them to accept my catholicism. I felt it was the way I was to proceed so the transition felt fairly natural.

soosykawaii28 karma

What advice you will gave to the young people that dont understand life , and can you tell us a something you saw it that have effected on you ? ,sorry if my english is bad

horsey9065 karma

To respect themselves, I think. And not get involved in all these goings on. Growing up is a gradual process and so everything has had its effect on me in some way.

jagandecapri27 karma

Hi from Malaysia or known as Malaya during the 50s. Heard of our country? By the way, your life is an inspiration to keep going. Thanks.

horsey9072 karma

Thank you for your kind words. Yes I have heard of your country as I'm a formula 1 fan.

ruthie_imogene26 karma

Hello from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
What is it about horses that makes them your favourite?

horsey9043 karma

they're wonderful creatures. it's a honour to look after them. They all have their own personalities.

showmm26 karma

A 10 pound, 6 ounce daughter? Honest to goodness, that impresses me almost more than the rest of your impressive history!

How hard is it to ride side saddle as compared to straddling the horse? Why did you go for side saddle?

horsey9038 karma

well I went for side saddle because I was beginning to fell the strain of riding astride. I was perfect heaven for me. It was more comfortable. I'd began to have problems with me hips after that.

yournamehere29222 karma

For someone who worked during the time of one of the largest wars that has ever existed, your courage is extremely commendable and something I've always admired! Working in a place and time like that must have been very stressful. How did you deal with it? How did you have fun? Thanks, best wishes!

horsey9038 karma

You felt you were helping. No nothing stresses me. I felt I was doing my share. I rather enjoyed it.

suaveitguy19 karma

What did you think of nuns as people, in general? What draws people to the cloistered life?

horsey9049 karma

there's so many people who do not think about God or give any time to him in their lives and we felt we were making up to him for those who don't acknowledge him. I've great admiration for them. they give up worldly goods and they just have nothing.

neogod19 karma

Have you ever tried rapping? A rapping grandma/nun would go viral in a heartbeat.

horsey9053 karma

what? Rapping? I've never heard of rapping... Wrapping presents yes but... I'm sorry but.

(I'll take that as a no)

NotGingerAnymore18 karma

Did you ever meet Isobel McVitie (Furmage)? My Nan was a Bombe operator at Bletchley.

horsey9018 karma

Name doesn't ring a bell sorry.

Bigassbird18 karma

Hey! Fellow Lancs lass here! Thanks for doing this!

How many of the Bletchley based films have you seen and how realistic do you think they have been?

horsey9041 karma

I've not seen any films about Bletchley park. I've read many books but I've never seen any films about it. There's a program on TV at the moment called the Bletchley Circle but I think it's a load of rubbish.

Granddaughter here. After I read this answer back to her she said: "ooo they're going to come and get me! I shouldn't give them my address!!!"

suaveitguy17 karma

Casual racism has dwindled a lot in my life. What have you seen in your life? Do you remember it being a lot more every where?

horsey9031 karma

we accept coloured people now whereas once upon a time they were a rarity. It was quite unusual to seen a coloured person back then but it's quite normal now-a-days. It's difficult to say, really. They were different times.

Bumbleb2nah16 karma

Did you ever see Alan Turing while at Bletchley Park?

horsey9023 karma

no no no no not at all. Sorry. no no. I knew of him but I was just a minion.

suaveitguy16 karma

What did you experience with regards to food shortages/rationing during WWII? What was the transition out of those years like? Did it take years and years before a more ready supply was available for people, or was it fairly sudden once infrastructure was back in place?
edit: typo

horsey9025 karma

with being in the WAAF, we didn't have a choice; we ate what was put before us. I found no difficulty after the war as regards the food situation.

suaveitguy13 karma

Did you have relatives or friends who were civilians and had difficulty feeding themselves?

horsey9022 karma

I didn't have any contact really when I was in the WAAF so I don't really know. Sorry

uhyeahreally15 karma

Did you keep your faith after leaving the nunnery? Many thanks

horsey9028 karma

Changed to Methodist, still have great respect for the faith but there were issues between being a nun from a Methodist family. Seemed embarrassing, all a bit silly.

Im_only_kevin15 karma

For the past 4 years I have worked at a Horse Barn where they teach Dressage riding. I do not know entirely too much about it, but it's interesting to watch. Did you ever do any specific form of riding? Also, what is your favorite type of horse?

horsey9029 karma

well I never did any competition work other than local showing classes. I went on to sidesaddle because it was becoming too difficult to ride. My favourite type of horse would probably be Hunter type.

J_Carro1114 karma

Hello, what was the scariest moment of WWII For you?

horsey9039 karma

watching the spitfires going out and, you know, so many kind of shot down. That was the scariest thing for me. They took their lives in their hands. I was never in an air raid really, I mean the sirens would go off but I never saw any bombings.

WizardsMyName14 karma

Any chance you knew a man by the name of Eustace Fendick? He was my grandpa and we've always had a suspicion he was at Bletchley!

horsey9016 karma

[she's off to bed but will ask about this in the morning. She was really hoping to find out about someone she knew at the time]

Eriiiii14 karma

What was your stance on Scottish independence and that whole hullabaloo?

horsey9033 karma

The only thing I can say is that I'm a patriotic British person. I don't go in for politics, really. Thank you anyway for the interest.

Edit - Mistranscription

kconnors14 karma

I thought being a nun was a lifelong assignment or commitment. Do clergy typically retire or leave the profession. And, if they do, are the vows still followed?

horsey9044 karma

it is supposed to be. I actually made final vows. On my final ordination, I chose the words 'one thing I have asked of the lord this will i seek after that I may dwell in the ouse of the lord forever'. And I regret not seeing this through but it wasn't right for me at the time. Too much was being asked of me as regards the teaching I had to do in my post in Trinidad. I had only recieved an elementary education and felt quite unable to teach art and biology. I was in possession of a diploma for teaching commercial subjects and also teaching domestic science and needlework.

its_casual14 karma

What was the single biggest waste of time in your life?

horsey9030 karma

thinking At the moment it's being not able to do the things that I want to do and therefore I feel I'm wasted because I can't do the things I want to do. I'm just not able.

NoeG201814 karma

I must ask what is the biggest difference you've noted between now and growing up?

horsey9027 karma

Well I'm not growing up anymore. You just have your memories, your terrific memories. You've just stopped growing... and there's all this technology which I can't embrace, really.

Aethops14 karma

This may be a silly question but my late grandmother also worked at Bletchy Park. I don't want to list her last name for privacy reasons but she would have gone by Betty. I know she would have been the life of the party.

You didn't cross paths did you?

horsey9013 karma

[she's off to bed now, will ask in the morning]

ig071413 karma

Good evening,madam!

I'm just curious ,have you ever met Queen of United Kingdom?

Wish you all the best! :)

horsey9033 karma

No, no. The nearest I've been to the Queen was at her garden party at Holyrood. Been to her garden party twice but never actually met her.

HollowayT12 karma

What is the best feeling you have ever had?

horsey9041 karma

Yes, getting married was quite nice. Well they're all good memories. I wouldn't say I've a lot of bad memories... I can't remember them!

akatheblondeone12 karma

Would you ever consider writing a book about your life? It sounds like your life has been an amazing adventure!

horsey9019 karma

oh yes I've thought about it but I don't have the literary ability.

sashboy11 karma

You are up late! Amazing to hear your stories. My dad is from Galway and I go over every now and then to see the other half of my family. I live in Manchester.

What is your strongest/fondest/darkest memory about your time at Bletchley?

horsey9019 karma

I'm very proud to have been at Bletchley. I always think of the wonderful buildings. It used to be a sleepy old place but now there are shops and houses and all kinds of things being built.

(I tried to get a story out of her but she's quite exhausted from all this attention)

TET87910 karma

The work carried out at Bletchley Park is now famous and considered to have made a pretty big impact on shortening the war. How aware were you of the importance of what was going on? As a minion (your words) were you even fully aware of what they were doing?

horsey9014 karma

From an earlier question:

"it was a long time after the war was over before thing were made public... yes a long time after the war. It was a shock but I was in great admiration of the work they carried out and what it had meant for our future land."

Sorry for not having a personal answer but she's starting to get a bit tired and trying to get through as many as possible tonight.

Blackintosh8 karma

Where in Lancashire where you born?

horsey9021 karma

oh that's easy!!! I was born in Hindley near Wigan.

khatur5 karma

Did you ever happen to run into Joan Clarke?

horsey9010 karma

Didn't recognise the name nor the picture sorry.

Mimos3 karma

What in god's name is a 'horsey person'?

horsey9011 karma

one who loves horses! And enjoys looking after their welfare.

pygmymetal2 karma

What did you do at Bletchley and did you meet Alan Turing? If so, what was he like?

horsey902 karma

Sorry for the lack of personal reply. We have answered these earlier. Didn't meet him but knew of him.

NoeG2018-7 karma

Do you have any interesting war stories? Also thank you for serving kind sir!!

horsey909 karma

when we went to Germany we would go out and they'd approach us for cigarettes and they'd give us a watch. I got a couple of watches for Dad because I never smoked you see? Yeah I did. I got a couple of good watches.

When I was at Martlesham Heath I used to drill the WAAF on the parade ground. Unfortunately, the airman's mess looked out onto the parade ground and we got more than a few cat calls.