Irene Brown

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Irene Jessie Brown
BornIrene Jessie Young
16 February 1919
Died 7 June 2017 (aged 98)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Known for Bletchley Park codebreaker
  • Leslie Cairns (m. 1943)
  • Reginald Brown (m. 1948)
Children Iain Gordon Brown

Irene Jessie "Mouse" Brown (née Young; 16 February 1919 – 7 June 2017) was an author and codebreaker who worked at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire in Hut 6 [1] during the Second World War. She was employed as a linguist and translator working in the Registration Room and the main Decoding Room. [2]


Early life

Irene Young grew up and attended school in Edinburgh (St. Margaret's Convent School, Canaan Park School and Esdaile College). [3] She was interested in French, English literature and Latin. At University of Edinburgh she read English Language and Literature. [1]

Bletchley Park

She began working at Bletchley Park in the Government Code and Cypher School in 1942. [1] Brown wrote a book (in her maiden name) about her time at Bletchley, Enigma Variations: a Memoir of Love and War. [4] Published in 1990, it was one of the first books to describe what life was like at Bletchley. Women formed roughly 75% of the workforce at Bletchley Park. [5] The book tells of her time in Hut 6, everyday life at “Station X”, her wartime experiences in general and the tragic death of her first husband (Leslie Cairn). [6] [7] Irene and Leslie both worked in confidential roles. He in the Special Air Service (SAS), she as a codebreaker. [8] Neither could tell the other much about what they were doing. In 1944, he became missing in action in occupied France. [6]

Later life

She married Reginald Sydney Brown in 1948. They returned to Edinburgh and she worked in a departmental library at Edinburgh University. Her papers and correspondence are held there. [3] She lived much of her life in Edinburgh and died in 2017 at the age of 98. [9]


  1. 1 2 3 "Obituary - Irene Brown, Bletchley Park veteran". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  2. Smith, C. (26 August 2015). The Hidden History of Bletchley Park: A Social and Organisational History, 1939–1945. Springer. ISBN   9781137484932.
  3. 1 2 "Papers of Irene J. Young, Special Collections". University of Edinburgh Archive and Manuscript Collections. University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  4. Young, Irene (1990). Enigma variations : a memoir of love and war. Edinburgh: Mainstream. ISBN   1851582940. OCLC   20995363.
  5. "Women Codebreakers". Bletchley Park Research. 2013-10-03. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  6. 1 2 "Obituary: Irene 'Mouse' Brown, linguist, poet and author of a pioneering memoir on Bletchley Park". Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  7. "Obituary: Irene Brown". The Times. 18 July 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  8. "What happened to the women of Bletchley Park?". Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  9. "Irene Jessie "Mouse" (Young) BROWN's Obituary on The Scotsman". The Scotsman. Retrieved 1 August 2017.