Britain's last surviving 'listener' to Nazi war messages dies aged 97

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Alison Robins was the last surviving listener of Nazi war messages (SWNS)

The last surviving ‘listener’ who intercepted and passed Nazi messages on to Allied codebreakers at Bletchley Park during WWII has died.

Wren Alison Robins, 97, a mother-of-three who had seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, died in a nursing home in Bristol, close to where her daughter Jill Hazell, 69, lives.

Alison taught herself Morse code and German during the Second World War and stayed up all night eavesdropping messages from U-boats around Britain’s coast.

The humble heroine told her children “anyone who thinks black coffee keeps you awake is wrong – the only thing that keeps you awake is the thought that if you fall asleep people will die”.

In her wartime career she dressed as a civilian and was tasked with passing on messages to Station X – later identified as Bletchley Park, Bucks.

She rarely spoke about her years spent in isolated points around the coastline, intercepting messages from enemy fleets, but her daughter believes it was the most exciting time of her life.

Mrs Robins taught herself German and Morse Code and eavesdropped on messages from U-boats during WWII (SWNS)

Jill said: “She was the last one left – very few had Morse code and German, there were only a handful of them.

“I think she must have been quite intelligent – she left school with almost nothing.

“She trained as a riding instructor and then when the war broke out she became a wren, and worked as a stewardess.

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“I think she was bored out of her mind serving soup at the Royal Navy College.

“She taught herself Morse code and sat at the back of a classroom during her time off.”

After starting work as a ‘listener’, Alison found herself working with German speakers and resolved to learn the language – but she never spoke about her work.

The 97-year-old passed on what she heard to Allied codebreakers at Bletchley Park (Rex)

Jill added: ”They kept to the Official Secrets Act – even after the Bletchley Park film came out. She didn’t talk about it.”

Alison’s husband Maurice also spoke German and was sent there after the war to do translating work ahead of the Nuremberg Trials.

When he returned, the couple started their own reconciliation process by bringing the German POWs who worked at the bottom of their garden cups of tea, and inviting them for lunch.

Jill said: “It was very practical – my parents went to talk to them, I think that was a really important part of the post-war period for them.

“My mother was lovely – we all adored her.”

Alison died on October 15 in Westbury Nursing Home, Bristol, where she was being cared for after suffering from dementia.