Dakin, Alec Naylor

Scholar and schoolmaster, born on 3 April 1912 at Mytholmroyd, W. Riding of Primitive Methodist stock. He won a scholarship to Queen's College, Oxford, where he read Greats and shared walks with the future Prime Minister, Harold Wilson.. After graduation he began to specialize in Egyptology and in 1936 became Lady Wallis Budge Fellow at University College. In April 1940 he was recruited into the staff of Bletchley Park to join the codebreakers in Hut 4, where his fluent German stood him in good stead.

After the war, instead of returning to academia, he chose to join the staff of Kingswood School, where he taught until his retirement in 1969. He was housemaster of Westwood and in charge of athletics. In retirement he ran a bookshop in Bath, became a Samaritan, worked with autistic children and was the first chairman of the National Patient Participation in General Practice. He also took up Egyptology again, taught a course on it in Bristol and presented papers to international Congresses. He wrote a chapter on his experience at Bletchley Park for Codebreakers (1993). He died on 14 June 2003.


'One of my most vivid memories [of Bletchley Park] is of a night when not much was happening. I was the only one of my normal group of three on duty with Daoud ["a muslim with a Scottish accent"]. In addition to my usual role of sorter I was responsible for the teleprinted messages to the Admiralty, but there were not many. Wire trays would come over from Hut 8 with only a few signals in the bottom which had "come out late", or corrupt ones which had been sent back marked "All again, please." Nothing exciting - but then, in the next almost empty tray, one of the most exciting messages ever.

'Some Top Secret signals were reciphered by the sender in another setting. This one was headed nur durch Offizier zu entziffern ("to be deciphered by officer only") with a special setting of the machine that would mean extra work for Hut 8. [It translated as:] Naval Headquaters to all. Operation 'Valkyrie'. Officer only. Setting D (Dora) The Fuhrer Adolf Hitler is dead. The new Fuhrer is Field-Marshall nov Witsleben, etc.

'At that moment Walter [Ettinghausen] happened to come into the room, looked at the signal, and asked me to speak quietly. Did our ever-present Wrens understand German? He decided he would personally teleprint the signal to the Admiralty on a special secret line. As we walked off to our midnight meal in the canteen, Daoud said: Der letzte Witz seines Lebens! ("the last joke of his life"). How strange that the name of Hitler's successor, Wizleben, should mean "Joke-life"; and that the first people to see that signal were a Jew, a Scottish Muslim, and a Yorkshire Primitive Methodist!'

Alec Dakin, in Code Breakers: the inside story of Bletchley Park (1993) pp.55-6

[In 1946] It was assumed by my Professor that I would go back to Oxford. I was also offered at this point a post in the Civil Service, but when I learned in consultation with Donald Soper that a Classics teacher was needed at Kingswood School I decided for Kingswood. I suppose in view of the human upheaval of the war the pursuit of an obscure ancient language seemed self-indulgent when so much had been given by so many to preserve our way of life and I owed it to be part of that rebuilding process, and where better than in education.'

Alec Dakin, in KS Association Magazine, March 1999

  • Kingswood School Association Magazine, March 1999 pp.26-7
  • Kingswood School Magazine, April 2003, pp.20-21
  • Times, 10 July 2003


Category: Person
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