‘Real life battleships’: the secret game that countered U-boat attacks during WW2

On a cold day early in 1942, a young woman reported to a large but anonymous building on the banks of the Mersey in Liverpool. The morning began inauspiciously for Janet Okell, aged just 19: on her first day in a new job, she had forgotten her uniform. After her ID cards were examined and her identity confirmed, she passed through gas-blocking mesh curtains into a concrete-encased bunker – and promptly became lost in a warren of sun-forsaken rooms and corridors. With a gathering sense of dismay she wandered, disorientated, till a passing marine took pity on her and asked who she was here to see. By the time her new boss, Gilbert Roberts, arrived downstairs to collect her, Okell was in tears. She took his handkerchief, blew her nose – and then set to work on a project that changed the course of one of the longest and most important battles of the Second World War.


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