Neville Masterman obituary

Other lives: Translator at Bletchley Park during the second world war and later an academic historian

My father-in-law, Neville Masterman, who has died aged 106, was a translator at Bletchley Park during the second world war and later an academic historian at Swansea University for many years.

His publications included The Forerunner: The Dilemmas of Tom Ellis, 1859-1899 and John Malcolm Ludlow: The Builder of Christian Socialism.

Born in Pimlico, central London, shortly before the first world war, Neville was the son of Lucy (nee Lyttelton), an author and long-time member of the Liberal party, and her husband, Charles Masterman, social commentator, Liberal MP and head of the War Propaganda Bureau. Neville was educated at Westminster school, which he hated, going on to study theology at Christ’s College, Cambridge.

After graduating, in 1934, he became a teacher at Lindisfarne college, a private school in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, before going to teach English at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, where he became more than proficient in the Magyar language. He left in 1940, after the outbreak of wartime hostilities, travelling via Italy and France and passing through Paris shortly before the arrival of the Germans.

Back in Britain he served in the army for several years in Coventry, Orkney and Northern Ireland before being transferred to Bletchley Park, where he learned Japanese to help with translation. Here he met Brenda Tongue, who was a transcriber. They married in 1947 and moved to Swansea, where he became a lecturer, then senior lecturer, in history at the University College, later Swansea University. He stayed there until retiring in 1978.

He also maintained the many contacts he had made in the 1930s, translating a number of works, including poetry, from Hungarian into English. He enjoyed a long retirement, and was frequently in touch with former colleagues and students and was a regular visitor to the campus.

Brenda died in 2005. He is survived by his daughters, Margaret, Eleanor and Catherine, five grandchildren and five great- grandchildren.

Richard Pepper

The GuardianTramp

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