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Unlocking the wartime secrets of Bletchley Park

Our team member Rachael enjoyed a belated Christmas present when she visited Bletchley Park, once the top secret home of the World War Two codebreakers, in search of a family connection.

MansionImage_by_Will_Amlot_courtesy_of_Bletchley_Park_Trust_-_Copy.jpgBletchley Park Mansion by Will Amlot, courtesy of Bletchley Park Trust

Last weekend, as my Christmas present, my brother took me to visit Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire. It is a place we were both interested to see - we enjoy history and it was rumoured in the family that my godmother had served there in the second world war.

Driving up to the entrance, we were given instructions on where to park, and then what to do in a rather curt manner. This took us aback, but then we realised it would have been the same type of ‘welcome’ in 1940!

Once you are on the estate, the nineteenth century mansion which is built in all sorts of styles stands out and the surrounding buildings tend to be functional huts.

Hut_6_-_Image_by_Bureau_for_Visual_Affairs_courtesy_of_Bletchley_Park_Trust.jpgHut 6 by Bureau for Visual Affairs, courtesy of Bletchley Park Trust

You can see part of the ground floor of the mansion with exhibits explaining various aspects of life at Bletchley Park. The garages contain vehicles of the period and many huts recreate the working conditions, using modern technology to help explain the code-breaking process. There is quite a lot of original equipment and documentation too, including an Enigma machine.

Hut_3_image_by_Andy_Stagg_Bletchley_Park_Trust_-_Copy.jpgHut 3 by Andy Stagg, courtesy of Bletchley Park Trust

It was amazing to think that up to 10,000 people worked there, day and night, in an effort to decode the enemy signals and gain intelligence. The work was intense, time-critical and the conditions - working in stuffy huts with no natural light and filled with smoke, because most people smoked, would have been tough - certainly by our standards today.

BLETCHLEY_PARK_Codebreaker_desk_-_Image_by_Bureau_for_Visual_Affairs_courtesy_of_Bletchley_Park_Trust_-_Copy.jpgCodebreaker desk by Bureau for Visual Affairs, courtesy of Bletchley Park Trust

It was also incredible to think that despite the number of people working there and billeted in the local area, making journeys to and from Bletchley Park, the activities remained a secret during the war and for tens of years afterwards.

And yes, we found my godmother's name on the Roll of Honour. She was in the WRNS (Women's Royal Naval Service, known as the Wrens) and she was a bombe operator. That means she was working on a machine designed at Bletchley by Alan Turing and others to break each day's Enigma code, so they could read the encrypted messages. Wow!

Hut_11A_Bombe_-_Image_by_Andy_Stagg_courtesy_of_Bletchley_Park_Trust_-_Copy.jpgHut 11A, Bombe by Andy Stagg, courtesy of Bletchley Park Trust

My brother and I talked about our visit for hours afterwards and it has left me with a deep respect for the achievements made and for how people served their country. My godmother did not break the oath of secrecy she made, so sadly we were never able to hear her account of her wartime work - that would have been a wonderful listen.

If your or your group would like to explore Britain's wartime history on a tailor-made tour of England or the UK, taking in fascinating historical sites such as Bletchley Park, please do contact our friendly team today. 

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