Leyton & Leytonstone

Historical Society

In 1944 Marguerite Diana Knight, ‘Peggy’, was living at 88 James Lane, Leyton (photo right), and working as a shorthand typist for ASEA Electric in Fulbourne Road, Walthamstow (photo below).  She was asked to attend a ‘Students' Assessment Board’ at Wanborough Manor near Guildford on 11th April.  So secret was the role for which the candidates had been identified that they were not told what it was !  

Peggy Knight, The Leyton Typist with Nerves of Steel


They were however warned that they had only a 50% chance of surviving.  Even the existence of the recruiting organisation, the Special Operations Executive (‘SOE’), was concealed from most people, and that remained the case for some years after the War had ended.  

The ASEA factory had some importance in the War.  It was a centre for ‘fire watching’, where people kept a lookout for enemy bombers and later V1 ‘flying bombs’.  This allowed factories like ASEA and those nearby to maintain production until danger was imminent.  As a manufacturer of electricity power transformers ASEA’s own output contributed to the war effort.  It had strong air raid shelters (photo next page).  The management was probably well connected.  

ASEA’s employee Peggy Knight had been born in Paris in 1920.  There was a chance she might be able to pass for being a French citizen.  Her father, Captain Alfred Rex Knight, had served in the British Army, and her mother Charlotte Beatrice Mary Ditkowski was Polish.  This made it likely that her loyalties were firmly with Britain and its allies.  Peggy had served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) until she had a serious bout of pneumonia.