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WASHINGTON — Mavis Batey was a British student of 19, midway through her university course in German Romanticism, when she was recruited for a top-secret assignment during World War II.
‘‘This is going to be an interesting job, Mata Hari, seducing Prussian officers,’’ she years later recalled thinking. ‘‘But I don’t think either my legs or my German were good enough because they sent me to the Government Code and Cipher School.’’
In May 1940, Mrs. Batey — then the unmarried Mavis Lever — joined the team of code breakers at Bletchley Park, the British cryptography headquarters. Trained in the enemy’s language and endowed with a facility for words, she became a key contributor to a wartime project that remained classified for decades.