Catherine Hayes Osborne worked in a secret team to decode German messages during the First World War. Now, an appeal has been launched to trace her family.

Donegal County Museum and the Royal Signals Museum are seeking any information, memories, photographs or to make contact with relatives of Catherine Hayes Osborne, Milford, Co Donegal.

Catherine Hayes Osborne joined the WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) during the First World War. She became a “Hush WAAC”, a nickname given to the dozen servicewomen at St Omer, France, who decoded German wireless messages during the First World War.

WWAC France

In research carried out by the County Museum, they have discovered that Catherine Hayes Osborne was one of the first six specialist servicewoman to arrive at St Omer in France on 28 Sept 1917.

These servicewomen worked in the Censor’s Office, decoding German wireless messages and were attached to the Intelligence branch of the General Staff. “These women were highly educated and they would have been excellent linguists.”

Many of the messages were routine requests for war material but others supplied vital information about movements of troops. The work was secret hence the nick name “Hush WAAC”. Her rank was Assistant Administrator (2nd Lieutenant). She wore the same Brasars as Instructors and a First Army Patch. Unfortunately her Service Records were lost during bombings in the World War II.

Her parents, John Allen Osborne, MD and Catherine Hay were married on March 17, 1859 in the Presbyterian Church, Ballymacarrett, Belfast by the Rev John Meneely. Catherine was their youngest daughter.

John Allen Osborne, MD was the Medical Officer for the Milford Poor Law Union including the Milford Workhouse. Her sister Jane was a VAD General Housekeeper from 1916 – 1918 in 3rd Great Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, England. Her brother John Allan Osborne was a solicitor in Milford.

If anyone has any additional information, memoirs, photographs or are relatives of the family please contact Caroline, Donegal County Museum, High Road, Letterkenny, Co Donegal.
Tel 074 9124613 E