THE woman known as the mother of modern witchcraft was also a Bletchley Park codebreaker and a friend of the Queen Mother, a new book claims.

Philip Heselton's biography tells the life story of Brighton witch Doreen Valiente, who died in 1999.

She is behind the spiritual texts studied by millions of Wiccans (followers of modern witchcraft) around the world and such was her influence, Brighton and Hove City Council erected a blue plaque at her former home in Tyson Place in 2013.

Although it is 17 years since her passing, Heselton's book is the first to tell her life story.

She was born in 1922 and her first experiences with magic came aged seven when she played with a broomstick, riding it up and down her street.

Her parents, who were Christian, feared she was attracted to the occult and therefore sent her to a convent school - which she hated and left aged 15.

She continued to experiment with magic as a teenager, once making a poppet to stop her mother being harassed by another woman.

It is said to have worked as the woman was then harassed herself by a blackbird.

However, it was her time during the Second World War that greatly interested Mr Heselton.

During his research, a friend told him how Doreen would disappear for long periods with not even her mother aware of what she was up to.

However, there had been hints - as following the war she spoke at length and with great knowledge about the world's first programmable computer, Colossus, which was used to crack German codes at Bletchley Park.

Mr Heselton approached Jon Cape, who works there, and asked him to check their records.

They revealed Doreen did indeed work at Bletchley as a senior assistant officer with the Foreign Office.

While many questions remain, it appears she was a translator, given her linguistic skills.

Her section, based in hut 18, was tasked with intercepting messages from German agents in the UK.

The Nazi military intelligence service, known as Abwehr, had sent men over by parachute, submarine and even through neutral countries posing as refugees.

They based themselves across the country and fed messages back to their headquarters about everything from troop movements to defences.

Doreen's section, known as ISOS, cracked the Abwehr ciphers using a special version of the Enigma machine early in the war, so they managed to track down and capture many of the enemy agents.

They would then be given a choice: execution or work for the British as double agents.

Most, obviously, chose the latter and so the Double Cross system was born.

The captured agents were fed misinformation among some genuine material to send back to their German handlers.

The system was hugely successful including convincing the Germans that the Allies would land at D-Day in the Pas de Calais area of France, rather than Normandy.

None of the double agents were detected by the Germans.

The work done at Bletchley by the likes of Doreen and Alan Turning is said to have reduced the war by two years and prevented millions of deaths.

But nobody spoke a word of what was done there until the 1970s. Doreen took her secret to the grave. As such Churchill referred to the Bletchley staff as "the geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled".

During the war, Doreen also spent long periods in South Wales.

It is understood she was sent there to glean information from foreign merchant sailors to help with the battle in the Atlantic.

While based in Cardiff she met her first husband, a Greek able seaman called Joanis Vlachopoulos.

They married in January 1941, when he was 32 and she was just 19.

Friends suspect the marriage may have been set up by her superiors as some sort of cover for the covert activity she was involved in.

Either way, it did not last long as in June 1941 his ship, carrying a cargo of Spitfires, was sunk by a German u-boat.

She continued her work and split her time between Bletchley and South Wales until the autumn of 1943 when she was moved to a unit based in Berkeley Street in London's exclusive Mayfair.

Run by Alastair Denniston, who had been head of Bletchley Park, the section was involved in eavesdropping and decoding diplomatic communications and messages from the German intelligence services.

Again, given the secret nature of her work, little is known about what she did in Berkeley Street, though it is safe to say it was crucial to the war effort.

She remained there in the run up to D-Day during which time she fell in love with a Spanish soldier called Casimiro Valiente. They married in the May and remained together until his death in 1972.

Following the war she moved to Bournemouth and immersed herself in all things witchcraft.

She moved to Brighton in 1956, first living in Lewes Crescent, before Sillwood Place and then Tyson Place in Grosvenor Street.

It was when in Brighton she started writing and in 1962 released her first of her five books Where Witchcraft Lives.

Mr Heselton said: "She was a fantastic writer. She cut through all the airy fairy, mumbo jumbo stuff and made witchcraft accessible.

"Her books are still in print and read all over the world, that is testament to her writing."

During his research Mr Heselton also found evidence of Doreen having friends in extremely high places.

In particular she is said to have been an acquaintance of with none other than the Queen Mother.

He said: "I have had it from a number of people that she indeed knew the Queen Mother.

"As with a lot of her life, much of this is a mystery and will remain so but we have certain clues to their relationship."

It is not known how they came to know each other - if they even did - but Mr Heselton suspects it may have been through her contact with a prominent MP who Doreen had met to discuss witchcraft.

One of her closest friends, Janet Farrar, told Mr Heselton that Doreen had been invited to Scotland by the Queen Mother.

She is said to have gone by private jet as the Queen Mother wanted to warn her of plans to outlaw witchcraft.

Whether there is any truth in the story it is difficult to tell.

There is no suggestion the Queen Mother was involved in witchcraft, although she does have other links to Doreen.

Also detailed in the book is a curios tale of how she came into the possession of one of the Queen Mother's mirrors.

The story goes that every couple of years she had a clear out of Balmoral and held a jumble sale in the nearby village for charity.

One day, it is said, Doreen stumbled across the stall and got chatting to the Queen Mother.

She decided to buy a mirror which she later used as a witch mirror for certain ceremonies.

The mirror in question is one of a number of items currently on display is part of a exhibition on Doreen at Preston Manor in Brighton.

Mr Heselton said: "She was sensible in a way that others at the time weren't. She gave witchcraft a maturity and made it accessible to people. She made it seem sensible to them.

"She was hugely respected and her work is still being read all over the world. That is testament to her influence."

Doreen Valiente Witch is available in bookshops and online.