Former Bletchley Park codebreaker Baroness Trumpington has died, aged 96.
The Tory peer, who sat on the red benches for nearly four decades, served as an agriculture minister under both Margaret Thatcher and Sir John Major.
But the former Bletchley Park code breaker was thrown into the public consciousness seven years ago when she was caught on camera sticking a V-sign at a fellow peer in the chamber.
The Tory peer, who sat on the red benches for nearly four decades, served as an agriculture minister under both Margaret Thatcher and Sir John Major
Baroness Trumpington, when she was 89, uses an eloquent two-finger gesture to show Lord King of Bridgewater just what she thinks of colleagues making reference to her age
During the war, Baroness Trumpington worked at Bletchley Park as a cipher clerk on the team dedicated to cracking German naval codes
She took exception after her friend, Lord King of Bridgewater, joked that veterans of World War Two had ‘started to look pretty old… as my noble friend, the Baroness reminds me’.
Baroness Trumpington immediately looked up, glared at him sharply and raised two fingers.
Within hours footage of the encounter had become an internet sensation.
Afterwards, she blamed ‘those bloody TV cameras’ for bringing what was meant to be a private joke to the public’s attention.
Lady Trumpington was born Jean Alys Campbell-Harris on October 23, 1922 and educated privately in England and France.
LADY TRUMPINGTON’S TOP FIVE MOMENTS
Flicking the V-Sign:
Baroness Trumpington gave a two-fingered salute to her colleague in a debate in the Lords in 2011 after he mentioned her age.
Have I Got News For You:
The Conservative peer appeared don the hos in 2012 and joked about enjoying a cigar after sex.
During a debate on equality, she sent peers into fits of laughter by revealing that booking into a hotel used to give a ‘certain frisson’ as her late husband had to use a different name.
She worked as a Land Girl on the former PM’s estate during the Second World War and recalled how he would line her up and take her measurements.
Asked if he ever tried it on with her, she said: ‘No. He wouldn’t have dared.’
Desert Island Discs:
When she was a guest on Desert Island Discs, she chose the Crown jewels as her luxury item, in order to maximise her chances of being rescued.
During the war, Baroness Trumpington worked as a Land Girl on Lloyd George’s estate.
She said: ‘I hated being a land girl. There were only old men there. The young men had joined up. And it was all apples – no animals.’
A talented linguist fluent in French and German, she later joined the top secret team at Bletchley Park who cracked Hitler’s code – helping to win the Second World War.
Afterwards she went to the United States to work for an advertising agency, setting off with £5 in her pocket and subsisting for the first few weeks on cocktail snacks until her first pay cheque came through.
On her return to England she married Alan Barker, a Cambridge don, who was to become headmaster of the Leys School.
But politics was in her blood and she tried unsuccessfully to be selected as a Conservative candidate in East Anglia.
Undaunted by this rebuff, she threw herself into local government.
Before entering Parliament, Lady Trumpington was a Cambridge councillor, rising to become mayor in 1971.
In 1980, to her surprise and delight, she was awarded a life peerage and took her title from the name of a Cambridgeshire village.
She quickly became a character in the House of Lords, as well as a forthright and controversial speaker.
She once enraged thousands of animal-lovers who sent her letters of abuse after she had suggested that Falklands sheep should be used as sacrificial mine detectors.
She said: ‘My point was that sheep could be put out of their misery and eaten, whereas men could not.’
Unimpressed by this explanation, one correspondent referred to her as a ‘fat, old scrubber’, a description she always recounted with relish.
Baroness Trumpington (pictured right) with her husband, son Adam and their boxer dog Bumble
She also had a loud and public row with British Rail, who refused to refund half her return ticket.
Incensed by their demand for ‘documentary proof’, she promptly accused them of calling her a crook.
Less controversially, she sponsored measures to allow Sunday trading and was an advocate of dog-owners cleaning up after their pets.
After three years she was made a whip, to ensure that Tory peers could not leave the Palace of Westminster when there was a critical vote.
She became known as the ‘Keeper of the Gate’ as she sat by the most popular exit, deterring escaping Lords by her imposing stature and ringing voice.
Baroness Trumpington retired from the Lords last October, on the day after her 95th birthday.
Tributes came from across the political spectrum after her son Adam Barker announced that the former Conservative minister died on Monday afternoon.
Mr Barker announced her death on Twitter. He wrote: ‘She had a bloody good innings.’
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt also paid tribute to Lady Trumpington.
She said: ‘Deepest sympathies to all who knew and loved this incredible woman. Socialite, mother, Bletchley Park code breaker, Baroness, Minister, trailblazer, heroine and an utter joy. Thank you Jean Barker, BaronessTrumpington’
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi added: ‘She always had time to deliver a good telling off, give advice or pay a compliment. I had the privilege of being at the receiving end of all three! A huge inspiration.’
James Cleverly, an MP and deputy chairman of the Conservative party, tweeted: ‘So sad to hear that code breaking, two finger wagging, Baroness Trumpington has passed away. Ma’am, we salute you.’
Tim Farron, MP and former Liberal Democrat leader, said she was ‘admirable, decent and unique’.
Lady Trumpington had a wide range of outside interests and hobbies.
In her time she had been President of the Heads of Independent Schools, Steward of Folkestone Racecourse, Hon Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, a prison visitor, member of the Airline Users Committee, and United Kingdom representative to the United Nations Status of Women Commission.
HOW BLETCHLEY PARK CUT THE WAR SHORT BY TWO YEARS
The importance of the code-breaking operations at Bletchley Park cannot be underestimated.
They produced vital intelligence that played a huge part in swinging the war in the Allies’ favour.
As Winston Churchill said at the time, the Bletchley staff were ‘the geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled’.
Intelligence from Bletchley played a vital part in the defeat of the U-boats in the six-year Battle of the Atlantic, British naval triumphs in the Battle of Cape Matapan in 1941 and the Battle of North Cape off the coast of Norway in 1943.
By 1944 British and American commanders knew the location of 58 out of 60 German divisions across the Western Front.
In addition, a great deal of information was decrypted about General Erwin Rommel’s Nazi forces in North Africa.
The German commander enjoyed a great deal of success against the British but with the help of intelligence from the codebreakers General Bernard Montgomery’s British forces were able to drive him back in 1942.
The success of Bletchley’s cryptanalysts was partly due, however, to German operators failing to encrypt messages properly.
Had they not been so sloppy, the outcome of the war could have been very different.