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Monday, 19 November 2012

Joan Bright Astley

Many women played a remarkable part during the Second World War, but certainly few more remarkable than Mrs Astley. Her many friends in the Allied countries knew her as Joan Bright in those days – for they preceded her marriage. She performed two outstanding tasks for Britain and the anti-Nazi combination.  First, working in the office of General Ismay, who as Chief of Staff to Churchill as Minister of Defence was the lynch-pin of the British military effort, she organized and maintained a highly confidential service of information to the Commanders in the field, which enabled them to keep themselves ‘briefed’ on the secrets of what was happening or to happen. It became habitual for, say, Wavell just back from the desert to drop into Joan Bright’s information room to ‘put himself in the picture’. Thus she was able to observe from a very special angle, and on terms of mutual confidence, most of Britain’s leading men-of-war.

Secondly, as the war rolled on and the great Allied conferences burgeoned, it became her function to make in advance the ‘housekeeping’ arrangements – what General slept where, how the thousand necessities required for the domestic ordering of such affairs would be supplied, and so on. Thus again she was able to observe at close range the men taking part in the great debates – Americans and Russians as well as her own people: to become their friend and discover their strengths and weaknesses as human beings: to see the Conferences at Washington, Quebec, Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam from the inside and at first hand.  Nobody reading this book can fail to observe those qualities of intelligence, tact and warmth of personality which placed Joan Bright in this, unique and enviable position. 


Mrs Astley was believed to be one of the three or four women who was used for the character of Miss Moneypenny. To find out more click on the links below:


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