A WYTHALL pensioner who was part of a secret operation that helped defeat the Nazis is now helping middle aged women who have served in the army.

Charlotte 'Betty' Webb had to insist her war work had featured ‘nothing more than boring secretarial work’ until 1975 when it was revealed she was actually a code breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II.

She contributed to the work of breaking the German cipher Enigma, credited with shortening the war by at least two years, and also the development of technologies that provided the foundations of the modern day computer industry.

The 94-year-old is now president of the Birmingham branch of the WRAC Association - a charity which provides support and benevolence grants to women who have served, or are still serving.

Amid mounting concerns about the lack of social care for female veterans, a report was recently commissioned by the WRAC Association.

The review, written by Monica Jones who served in the army for 17 years, says ex-service women in their early 60s are at high risk of falling into poverty.

Mrs Jones said: “Our Major Grants Committee is seeing a sharp up-turn in applications from women in their early 60s who are falling on very hard times.

"They are extremely exposed. A relationship breakdown, bereavement or health problems can leave them with little or no income at all, until their state pension kicks in. Many women who devoted years of their lives to Queen and Country are now falling between the cracks.”

Soldiers are required to serve for 22 years before being eligible for an army pension (or 16 years for officers), meaning many women who left sooner are vulnerable to financial hardship.

Betty stressed that financial grants and social support are available and urged anyone concerned to get in touch.

She said that associations like WRAC are so important for uniting women and supporting one another.

All women who joined the army before October 1990 were automatically made a Member of the WRAC.

Now, even if they served for as little as one day, they are eligible to support from the association.

The majority of applications are for one-off payments, but in certain circumstances, annuities are offered to give ex-servicewomen a small regular income.

For more information, go to wracassociation.org.uk