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Senior receives Bletchley Park medal for work with Second World War code breakers

Toronto resident Theo Hopkinson, 89, has received a Bletchley Park medal for her work supporting British code breakers during the Second World War.

Theo Hopkinson, 89, supported code-breaking team credited with saving 22 million lives

Theo Hopkinson, 89, receives Bletchley Park medal for Second World War service. 0:58

In the age of Twitter and Snapchat, it's hard to imagine keeping what you do a secret, let alone for decades and from your family. 

But Theo Hopkinson did just that. 

The 89-year-old woman, who now lives in Toronto, was part of a British group that worked with code breakers during the Second World War. Now she's being recognized for her work with a Bletchley Park Commemorative Badge, so named for the facility where the code breakers and other staff did their work.

Even Hopkinson's daughters were adults before they found out about their mother's job. 

"Can you imagine keeping quiet for 30 years about something that you'd done that was so significant?" said her daughter, Barbara Hopkinson. 

The work that was done at Bletchley Park has become widely known, in part thanks to The Imitation Game, the Oscar-winning movie based on the true story about the team of code breakers led by mathematician Alan Turing.

"Not everybody knows that the work done there shaved two years off the war, saving 22 million lives. Which I think is worth repeating -- 22 million lives," Hopkinson said at a ceremony at the University Club of Toronto on Friday. 
    
Hopkinson didn't work at Bletchley Park itself, but at a nearby facility called Hanslope Park, which remains a secure communications facility. She did a variety of jobs in cryptography, including loading messages into coding machines. 

"We were required to sign The Official Secrets Act and therefore knew what we were doing was 'top secret,'" she said.

Receiving the medal is "a great honour, of course," she said. 

The Bletchley Park Commemorative Badges were created in 2009 to recognize everyone who worked at British facilities for signals intelligence during the Second World War. 

Hopkinson, who volunteered for the British Army when she 17, met her husband at Hanslope Park. They came to Canada in 1957 to start a new life in Montreal. After the death of her husband, Hopkinson moved to Toronto in 2008 to be closer to her daughters. 

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