Quick & Quirky Questions with Jean and Pat

This week we are delighted to have a vert special QQQ from Pat and Jean Owtram, the Codebreaking Sisters. Find out how to win a copy of their book at the end of their answers!

Pat Owtram (left) and Jean Owtram – Photo by Robert D Anderson Photography

Tell us 4 important facts about yourself:

Jean & Pat:

  1. We were both born in Lancashire, and both signed the Official Secrets Act and kept our war secrets.


  1. I joined the FANYS (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) on my 18th birthday 
  2. I first went abroad in 1944 to Cairo and then to Italy 
  3. I was Lancaster University’s career advisor and particularly wanted to help those that were failing and to reassure them 


  1. I learned conversational German from Austrian refugee household staff working in our home
  2. I hold three university degrees from St Andrews, Oxford and Harvard 
  3. I married in my 40s as did Jean 

What is your favourite age that you’ve been so far in life, and why?

Pat: Age 18 because I was old enough to join in the war effort! 

Jean: Age 20 or 21 for me as I was an independent person, able to be free with my personality and be myself rather than what other people expected me to be.

Who is your favourite fictional character or famous person over 60?

Pat: Winston Churchill: without his leadership we would not have won the war, and he was a charismatic orator. 

Jean: Captain Scott. I admire explorers who were inquisitive, always wanted to know more and to look further out. 

You are alone in your house (no pets). You have three minutes to get out before the house collapses and burns to the ground. What one possession would you grab and take with you?

Pat: My 1940s photograph album would be the first item that I would grab.

Jean: A photograph of my late husband and other family members.

What’s your favourite creative pastime?

Pat: Pottering around the garden rather than being a real gardener; I enjoy the garden. I also enjoy creative writing.

Jean: I think rather than making something, I prefer to find out about something. I also enjoy walking and playing the piano. 

We both enjoy letter writing and like to share entertaining letters and things we have seen and read. Letters are like talking to people. 

Tell us something about yourself that’s surprising or unexpected.

Pat: I produced The Sky at Night for 9 years from 1964 onwards, and I also created Ask the Family, which ran for years. I produced University Challenge from 1959 until 1963

Jean: I’m a passionate traveller and would be delighted to still travel even at 96! I do miss it. 

Throughout November we’re inviting our beloved Autumn Voices members to submit any short piece of writing about War & Remembrance. It should be no longer than 300 words and can take any form you wish. At the end of November, we’ll pick our favourite and the author will receive a copy of Codebreaking Sisters by Patricia and Jean Owtram. The publisher, Mirror Books has very kindly given us a copy to offer as a prize.

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