By Hilary Footitt
Providing a brand new point of view at the British adventure of the second one global battle in Europe, this booklet offers a chain of snapshots of the position which languages performed within the key approaches of British war-making, relocating from frameworks of conception and intelligence accumulating, via to liberation/occupation, and directly to the aftermath of clash.
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Extra resources for WarTalk: Foreign Languages and the British War Effort in Europe, 1940–47
Who is to be trusted to access this secret material, and how will they render it into English in such a way that the implications of its value as intelligence are clearly understood? The process by which a foreign text actually becomes ‘ours’ can operate to domesticate the ‘foreignness’ of what has been received, screening out key aspects of its essential ‘otherness’, and thereby encouraging a type of cultural parochialism (Venuti 2008), rather than drawing attention to the unknown, and in intelligence terms unthinkable, potentialities of enemy activity.
12 Overall, the problem of identifying people who were closely acquainted with the enemy’s language and culture, but who were still deemed to be sufficiently trustworthy to operate in intelligence, was solved by looking for female service recruits. In order to have the requisite language skills, these women, almost by definition, came from backgrounds not dissimilar to those of the male officers who were recruiting them. In class and attitude, they were close to the norm of the contemporary British officer.
21 This representation of a linguist’s task as backroom support, coupled with the dearth of possible male recruits, again encouraged the authorities to look for suitable female candidates already in the services. 23 To observers, the Bletchley Park translation operation came to resemble a series of specialist sections, each one run by a professor, ‘supported by a sprinkling of high grade minions . . (the professors were male, the minions mostly female)’ (Jackson 2002: ii). This mixture of male civilian section heads, and female support staff mirrored the overall organization of GCCS by this time: out of the approximately 10,000 staff employed, roughly one-third were civilians, and three-quarters female (Hill 2004).