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Plaque honouring war hero who captured Nazi Enigma machine unveiled in his New Forest village church

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David and Sue lived in Boldre for 40 years
David and Sue lived in Boldre for 40 years

A PLAQUE posthumously honouring a local war hero who captured a Nazi Enigma code machine has been installed at Boldre Church on the centenary of his birth.

Lieutenant-Commander David Balme led a boarding party onto German U-boat U110 in May 1941, which resulted in the seizure of game-changing intelligence material for expert mathematicians and problem solvers at the Bletchley Park code-breaking centre.

Actions such as those taken by him and fellow crew members of British destroyer Bulldog, on an Atlantic convoy, were credited with shortening the conflict between the Nazis and the Allies by two years.

Plaque at Bolde Church honouring David (picture: Ray Mayes)
Plaque at Bolde Church honouring David (picture: Ray Mayes)

The capture of the Enigma machine, along with German code books, led to David being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

His exploits were kept secret from all except his wife and children until details of the Second World War Enigma codebreaking were finally publicly disclosed in the 1970s.

These later inspired cinema releases Enigma and U-571, with the production teams each getting input from David who also appeared in a documentary called The Secret Capture of the Enigma Machine.

David died aged 95 on 3rd January 2016. His testimony was used to compile the biography entitled Enigma: The Untold Story of the Secret Capture, edited by naval historian Capt. Peter Hore.

The Enigma machine (picture: © IWM MH 27178)
The Enigma machine (picture: © IWM MH 27178)

There had been no local or national memorial commemorating David or his role in the ‘Secret Capture’ before the plaque was put in place at Boldre Church.

However, the pandemic has so far prevented the church and his family from arranging a formal unveiling.

The plaque reads: “In loving memory of David Edward Balme. Lieutenant-Commander DSC, RN 1st October 1920 – 3rd January 2016.

“Boarded German submarine 9 May 1941 recovered cipher material and Enigma machine.”

The installation was welcomed by Ray Mayes, who worked with the Boldre Parish Historical Society on a presentation about David for its biennial local history exhibition in October 2017.

“It is fitting that such an important event has been commemorated for posterity in our quiet local church,” he said.

David lived in Boldre for about 40 years with his wife Susan, who died last year at the age of 93.

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