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Mabel Peel

Mabel Dymond Peel joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) in 1917. Whilst working as a censor, she was approached by a friend in Military Intelligence HQ looking for women with good German language skills. Peel was chosen to become a ‘Hush WAAC’, a nickname gained due to the secrecy of their work. This small group of 12 women was sent to France to use their language skills to translate German messages. The Hush WAAC’S are arguably the first women to be formally employed in uniformed intelligence work in the modern era on oversea operations.

In France and worked just 28 miles from the front line, with enemy air raids being a constant part of their lives. The WAAC allowed its members a fortnight’s leave every twelve months whereas the Men in the office, doing the same work allowed leave every 6 months.

To begin with, Mabel Peel found the work to be daunting, writing in her memoirs she said "never having seen a code message in our lives before, you can imagine the despair that filled our hearts.  We were left with these awful sheets of paper for about half-an-hour ... During that half-hour we exchanged impressions, and depression could not possibly reach a lower level than it reached us just then".  However, as she gained experience, she recalled that she found the work to be "intensely interesting", with it "monopolising all our thoughts both waking and sleeping". 

For her war service in France, Peel received the Victory Medal and the War Medal, displayed below.

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The end of the war meant the end of Mabel Peel’s secretive work. However, she returned to Rouen in 1925 and worked for the British Legion, helping unemployed ex-servicemen. Peel organised Poppy Day Collections for many years and established the Rouen branch of the British Legion.