Sir Brian Tovey’s letter to Joan Clarke

Joan Clarke's retirement letter from GCHQ

Following the sad news of the death of Sir Brian Tovey at the end of December 2015, I thought I would share his letter to Joan Murray (née Joan Clarke) following her official retirement from full-time employment at GCHQ in 1982.

Sir Brian Tovey joined GCHQ’s fast stream in 1950 but was posted to an integrated post in the Defence Signals Bureau (DSB) in Melbourne from 1951 to 1953. On his return, he worked on the Soviet target and on planning for the development of GCHQ’s intercept sites.  He went back to the Far East in 1964 as GCHQ’s representative to the military in Singapore, and then became GCHQ’s liaison officer in DSB.  On his return to the UK, after leading a major Soviet reporting branch, he was promoted Assistant Secretary, heading the Planning Staff from 1970-1973, and the Communications Security Policy Division from 1973-1975.

He became a Superintending Director on promotion to Under Secretary in 1975, and was the Director of CESG, the part of GCHQ responsible for protecting the security of British governmental communications.  On the retirement of Sir Bill Bonsall, he was appointed as Director GCHQ in June 1978.  He retired on 30 September 1983.”

Quoted text from the GCHQ Press Release 31 December 2015

Joan Clarke re-joined GCHQ in 1962 and retired from her ‘Principal’ post on 31 August 1977. She was sixty years old but she was not ready to leave her codebreaking life behind and was re-employed the day after her retirement as a ‘Clerical Officer in H Division,’ where she continued to work for five years.

JELC-Retirement Letter

In 1982, while a secretary placed the neatly typed retirement letter addressed to ‘Mrs J E L Murray’ and waited for Sir Brian Tovey to add his signature, Joan was still at GCHQ to carry out a two-month ‘part-time appointment as a re-employed Civil Servant’, commencing 1 July 1982. Her employment contract specified a minimum of eighteen hours a week for a period of two months and paid at an hourly rate of £3.33. She finally left GCHQ on 31 August 1982, well until April 1985 anyway…..



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‘This letter from Brian Tovey to Joan Clarke (Murray) dated 2 July 1982 is reproduced with the kind permission of the Clarke family via’.

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