HE was responsible for decoding vital messages which could have saved or cost thousands of soldiers’ lives.
Now Peter Thornton, 83, has revealed details about his secret life towards the end of the Second World War.
Mr Thornton, of Marsh, served as a coder with the Royal Navy between 1944 and 1947.
The retired dyer worked aboard HMS Start Bay in the Mediterranean and in Malta at the commander-in-chief’s base, decoding top secret messages as part of the allied peacekeeping forces.
Using the Typex machine, based on the German Enigma code machine, he was responsible for the messages giving crucial instructions to ships in the Mediterranean.
The coders had about 20 code books with weighted bags attached to throw them overboard if their ship was captured.
And a sledgehammer was kept beside the Typex to smash the machine in the same circumstances.
Grandfather Mr Thornton was involved in decoding vital instructions to naval ships off the Corfu coast.
Two destroyers, HMS Saumarez and HMS Volage, had struck German mines laid by communist insurgents in the Corfu Strait on October 22, 1946, killing 44 crew and causing severe damage to both ships.
Mr Thornton, who retired as a head dyer in 1991, was one of the sailors who decoded crucial information to and from the remaining fleet.
Mr Thornton said: “The fleet had to stay put while the minesweeper went ahead.
“The captain wanted to know what it was because it was so important.
“The ships couldn’t move because of the mines. There were a lot of lives at stake”.
Reflecting on his naval days he added: “There was always something to do. I’d work from 8am to 10pm and sometimes get called out of bed at night.
“I loved it. There were so many different things that happened. I used to listen to the forces’ network and get the football results!
“It was a job where you felt a sense of purpose. I was in a job the forces couldn’t do without.
“It’s a time of my life I would never have missed. Back then you only think about getting demobilised but now it’s something I never would have missed.”