Decoding the past at Bletchley Park – an interview

J.Lynn Stapleton's interview with Kerry Howard at
16 December 2014

Bletchley Park ResearchHappy New Year.

I am excited about new adventures in 2015 but I thought I would share once last item from 2014.

In December 2014 I had the pleasure of answering questions about Bletchley Park for J.Lynn Stapleton (@ceridwyn2), which featured on her website I feel quite nostalgic when I read the resulting interview, as it’s a wonderful reminder of my first visits to Bletchley Park.

As with all these such requests they sometimes lead to more conversations. In 2014 I made many new friends through our common interest in Bletchley Park and I am looking forward to building on those friendships and meeting new people in 2015.

Thanks for taking the time to read Bletchley Park Research and getting in touch. You make the process of sharing my research online so very enjoyable.

Warmest Wishes


Waiting for Joan Clarke

Joan_Clarke_Murray_WW2_Horizon_1992The last week has been hectic and very exciting. I’ve worked hard on the planned launch of ‘Women Codebreakers – The Story of Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever and Joan Clarke’. The relatives of Margaret and Mavis have been fantastic with their support. But something very exciting has happened.

I’ve had an exciting breakthrough and finally made contact with Joan’s family.

In the last few days I have interviewed two relatives who have been amazingly helpful. Joan’s niece, who I interviewed yesterday is sending some photographs. I am hopeful that I’ll be able to speak to another nephew over the next few days.

The result of the interviews is an added depth and richness to my understanding of Joan Clarke. I had been able to peek under the curtains of the past, dig under the stones of related material to build a picture of Joan’s life for the book. So when I set the date for publication I had a story of Joan utilising facts from published work as well as new information I have obtained from the family history research and interviews. But finally speaking to family has blown that out of the water in the way that only personal detail can.

It explains the reasons behind Joan’s shyness as well as an insight into her quirks, relationships and passions. I now need to finish weaving these details into the existing narrative of the book so readers can understand the real Joan Clarke too. It also means reformatting the eBook ready for launch.

For anyone who has pre-ordered the book that launch date was today. I’ve agonised over what to do – do I release what I have today on the day of The Imitation Game’s release in the US and do a later update, or do wait so that I can have Joan’s full story in the book from the start? I’ve changed my mind a million times, left it to the last minute but I’ve finally decided….

I’ve decided that the real Joan Clarke is worth waiting for.

This means the book isn’t going to be available today as planned. This is painful to say as it will disappoint, and possibly alienate people who are expecting the book today. But I think I will be short-changing them when I know I can offer more in light of the family interviews.

It’s all well and good that I work through the ‘eleventh hour and three quarters’ to get it finished (we’ve all been there before – I know I have), but I need to give Joan’s family time to revisit the memories of Joan as they go through papers and photographs to send over. The book will be better for it.

At this point I am going to delay the book by just over a week, so it will be the 7th December. I hope to get some of the photographs by then.

For those eagerly waiting to read it – I am very sorry and I hope you understand. Your support in this is much appreciated. I love the hunt of the research, but you can never tell when something special turns up. These last few days have been very special and I want to do justice to the new information so that this tribute to three inspirational women is the best it can be.


Photograph at the top of the page is taken from the 1992 Horizon programme ‘The Strange Life and Death of Dr.Turing’. Reproduced from the programme with the kind permission of its director, Christopher Sykes.

Building Christopher for Alan Turing

How Designers Recreated Alan Turing’s Code-Breaking Computer for Imitation Game by Angela Watercutter, Wired
21 November 2014
(C) John Jackson

copyright John Jackson

Alan Turing’s Bombe machine ‘Christopher’  is a key cast member in The Imitation Game.

Wired’s article breaks down how production designer Maria Djurkovic researched and designed Christopher taking the Turing/Welchman Bombe Rebuild machine at Bletchley Park as the basis for the design.

Djurkovic designed Christopher with red cabling flowing into the front of the machine, adding to the illusion it is a living entity with nerves and blood pumping through veins.

“It’s not just Christopher, it’s every single aspect of the film.” says Djurkovic.

The Bombe machine prop is on display at Bletchley Park in The Imitation Game Exhibition.

Who Was The Real Joan Clarke?

The Imitation Game: Who Was The Real Joan Clarke? by Mary-Ann Russon, International Business Times UK
14 November 2014

On the day The Imitation Game was released in the UK to much media attention Mary-Ann Russon from the International Business Times UK takes a look over Alan Turing’s shoulder and shines a well-deserved light on the real Joan Clarke.

Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever & Joan Clarke

Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park
Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever & Joan Clarke

You can read more about Joan and the other women codebreakers here.

Relatives of Polish Codebreaker visit Bletchley Park

Relatives of Poland’s codebreaking geniuses have visited Bletchley Park to celebrate their contribution to the battle to break Enigma. The families of Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Rozycki toured the heritage site on Wednesday 19 November 2014 and laid flowers at the Polish memorial in the Stableyard, adjacent to the building where the early British wartime work on Enigma took place.

Polish Codebreakers


“One of the biggest regrets of my life is not being sufficiently aware of his work at an age when I could ask him about it, because he never talked about it spontaneously. At the age of 60 he had a stroke and for the next ten years until he died he was less and less able to communicate, so I missed a valuable opportunity to find out more about what he did.”

Jeremy Russell, Henryk Zygalski’s nephew

In July 1939 representatives of British and French intelligence met their Polish equivalents amid secrecy in the Pyry Forest outside Warsaw. Three weeks later the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), the forerunner of today’s GCHQ, moved to Bletchley Park.

Much to the surprise of the British, the Poles were much further forward than their British and French counterparts in unravelling the mysteries of the Enigma encryption machine. The work of three brilliant young mathematicians, Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Rozycki would prove to be invaluable to their Allies and contribute significantly to the ultimate success of Bletchley Park. The Poles generously shared their groundbreaking work with the British and French, including versions of their own replica Enigma machines.

“It was like a relay race. The Poles had run the first lap and had got much further and much faster than anyone had expected. They then passed the baton to the British and French cryptanalysts. It’s a story of partnership.”

GCHQ Departmental Historian, Tony Comer

You can read more about how the Polish Codebreakers broke Enigma on Tony Sale’s Codes and Ciphers website.

Dr Sue Black on The Imitation Game imitating real life

Dr Sue Black 'The-imitation Game Art Imitating Real Life'
20 November 2014

Dr Sue Black with Bletchley Park Bombe Machine operator Jean Valentine. Reproduced with kind permission of Dr Black.

As the debate surrounding the historical inaccuracies in The Imitation Game continues, Dr. Sue Black shows that you can love the film for its impact while hating it for the factual errors.

Read her intelligent and well-reasoned review in her blog post ‘The Imitation Game – Art Imitating Real Life’

Dr. Sue Black is an inspirational campaigner for women’s roles at Bletchley Park and in Tech today. You can find out more about her at and buy a copy of her book ‘Saving Bletchley Park‘.



New Women Codebreakers Book Cover and Limited Pre-Order Pricing

women codebreakers, am very excited to share with you the smashing cover for the Women Codebreakers of Bletchley Park book cover. Designed by the fabulous Mark Stephenson at Launch Creative, the cover is everything I hoped for.

Mark transformed my idea of a wartime propaganda style poster bringing together the images of Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever and Joan Clarke brilliantly. It’s eye-catching and fun with a little nod to an era of hand coloured photographs.

I actually felt emotional when I saw it.

My plan to launch in line with the release of The Imitation Game didn’t go to plan (see the post ‘Waiting for Joan Clarke’ for an exciting update & the reason for the change of date).

How exciting.

As a special pre-order reward for those of you who buy it from this website. When it goes live on Amazon, the price will jump up to £3.99.

UPDATE: Pre-orders direct from this website has now ended. It will be available to purchase from 10th January 2015.


women codebreakers, book cover Launch creative also designed by Bletchley Park Research logo and can wholeheartedly recommend them to you for any design work. You can contact Mark at

Mair Russell Jones Hut 6 codebreaker remembers Turing

Welsh codebreaker Mair Russell-Jones recognised Alan Turing's genius by Robin Turner, Wales Online
16 November 2014

The son of a Welsh woman who worked alongside World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing has spoken of how she “clearly recognised” his superb intellect soon after meeting him at Bletchley Park in World War 2.

German language skills, music training and talent for crosswords were the reasons Mair Russell-Jones was ‘headhunted’ by the Foreign Office for the Government Code & Cypher School operation at Bletchley Park. She worked in Hut 6 where the German Army and Air Force Enigma cyphers were broken.

In this article published in the Welsh Times, Gethin recalls how his mother often talked about Alan Turing and expressed her outrage at the way he was treated.

You can buy Mair’s book (written with her son) My Secret Life in Hut Six in bookstores, including Amazon UK and This is a book definitely on my Christmas list for 2014.

Time Traveller Danny and the Codebreaker (Seven Arches Publishing, 2012)

 With the adult world experiencing a dose of long overdue Turingmania, I thought I’d share Time Traveller Danny and the Codebreaker by Paul Morris – a gem of a book, introducing the younger reader to Alan Turing and Bletchley Park.

This engaging fictional adventure about a boy who travels through time to Bletchley Park in World War 2 appeals to the young – and the not so young – reader. It captures the imagination and makes history exciting.

The blurb:

Danny Higgins is taken into the amazing, secret world of Bletchley Park during the World War 2. Danny must pass himself off as an operative working towards decoding secret German messages.

Is it only available in print (no ebook as yet, and I eagerly await an audiobook version), which you can buy in the usual places including Amazon UK and



Alan Turing and the Solitaire solution

Enigma genius Alan Turing solved my childhood puzzle - article by Pamela Owen, The Mirror
16 November 2014

As a child Maria Summerscale was baffled by the puzzling board game Solitaire. During evenings with Maria’s parents in 1952 Alan Turing sat on the floor with Maria, watching as she struggled to solve the puzzle.

Maria describes Turing as ‘ a very warm person who ­always took an interest in what I was ­doing..’ He also took an interest in the puzzle and sent Maria a surprise letter explaining the solution and providing a diagram .

Such a kind act shows Turing’s fascination with the challenge of puzzles – regardless of whether the soluction could turn the tide of war or end the frustration of an eight year old child.

A year after sending Maria the letter Alan Turing tragically committed suicide. We will never know just how many other puzzles this brilliant man could have solved had he lived to fulfill his potential.

This is a fascinating article in the Mirror, shining an endearing light on the personality of Alan Turing.

Breaking Enigma was not the hardest codebreaking puzzle

The Telegraph - Breaking the Enigma code was the easiest part of the Nazi puzzle by Michael Smith
15 November 2014

Writer and Bletchley Park expert, Michael Smith talks about The Imitation Game and explores a World War 2 puzzle even greater and more challenging than Enigma – the SZ-40 Lorenz machine.

Michael Smith Author

You can also watch a video explained how the Lorenz was broken by clicking here.

Michael Smith’s book on the female codebreakers, ‘The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories’, will be published by Aurum in January. Can’t wait until then?

Buy his excellent book The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war.

Bletchley Park

Turing in the ballroom with a bombe

On Tuesday 4th November 2014 I wondered around the Bletchley Park Mansion with a clear picture in my head of Alan Turing in the ballroom with a bombe machine.

Although I would like to see a Bletchley Park Cluedo game  (it’s my favourite board game), I am actually talking about the beautifully arranged Imitation Game Film Exhibition in Bletchley Park’s ballroom.

Turing in the Ballroom with a Bombe

The exhibition opened after the special preview of The Imitation Game. The guests, wearing evening dresses and black ties strolled over to the Teleprinter Room for the special screening of this highly praised and much-anticipated film. I was very excited to get an invitation to the event (I may even have squealed when I pulled the invitation from its gold envelope).

I have to admit that I was apprehensive about my reaction to the film. The trailers look fabulous and I adore the warm colour and tone, but I worried that I would not like Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Joan Clarke or that the stretch historical facts to create a dramatic film would leave me cold.

Turing in the Ballroom with a Bombe

Turns out, I loved the film. I think Joan’s character has less social awkwardness than is true and Alan’s quirks are downplayed, but it doesn’t matter, the actors capture an endearing warmth of both characters. It makes you care about them and their battle to break the code.

My favourite part is when Alan gives each of his Hut 8 colleagues an apple because Joan said it was a good idea. It’s an awkward but sweet moment, superbly acted by Benedict Cumberbatch.

The film also made me reflect on the overriding essence of the relationship played on screen by the two main characters – a closeness that stems from intellectual companionship. Alan and Joan bond over picnics, codebreaking problems and botany in an atmosphere fizzing with intellectual chemistry. I like the interpretation.

Photo: Jack English © 2014 The Weinstein Company.

Photo: Jack English © 2014 The Weinstein Company.

When Joan did married in 1952, she married John Murray, a retired Army Officer who had trained as a Russian interpreter and worked in military intelligence for the War Office during World War 2. They met at GCHQ after the war and moved to Scotland and worked together in companionable and highly respected scholarly study of old coins.  So, it seems that Joan relished working alongside a partner in the pursuit of similar interests and as intellectual equals. Suddenly, the reasons for the relationship portrayed in The Imitation Game seem credible.

Turing in the Ballroom with a Bombe

The story of the nearly 9,000 people who worked at Bletchley Park and contributed to its success during World War 2 is squeezed into a story of a handful of people in The Imitation Game. I am in no doubt that it will inspire people to learn more about the characters and discover the full and rich history of Bletchley Park. A film that is both entertaining and creates historical interest gets the thumbs up from me.

My favourite line in the film goes something like this:

‘Some people think we were at war with the Germans. We weren’t, we were at war with the clock.’

The Imitation Game is on at UK cinemas from today. The Imitation Game Exhibition displaying props from the movie is open daily at Bletchley Park.

I will be going to see The Imitation Game again, this time with popcorn.

Women in wartime

Article by Sarah Dawood for The Guardian
8th November 2014 change the women’s roles and increased their career opportunities. But has that change been sustained?  Sarah Dawood discusses Women in wartime – the role of the female public servant.

[I get a mention and a little quote about women in World War 2 codebreaking].

My Engagement to Alan Turing by Joan Clarke (later Murray) is an extract of an 1992 Horizon programme about Alan Turing featuring the enigmatic Joan Clarke. In this short extract from the original programme hear Joan talk about Alan’s proposal of marriage and his revelation about his homosexual tendancies.

Can’t see the video above.  Click here to watch ‘My Engagement to Alan Turing by Joan Clarke’ on YouTube.

You can find out more about Joan Clarke and a new ebook celebrating the lives of 3 of the Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park – Margaret Rock, Joan Clarke and Mavis Lever (later Batey) . The book will be available for pre-order on Amazon from 1 November 2014.

Joan Clarke, Mavis Lever, Margaret Rock,

You can watch the full progamme: The Strange Life and Death of Dr Turing at

With thanks to the programme’s Director Christopher Sykes for making it available to share

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon, Charlotte Webb,

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon (BookTower Publishing, 2014)

The extended second print edition of Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon is now available to buy on Amazon. The ebook version is available to pre-order and will be available on 17 November 2014.  Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon (Amazon UK), or Secret Postings on

The second edition includes lots more images, including extracts from a rare brochure Charlotte purchased at the Pentagon in 1945 detailing the design, construction and management of a building needed for the 32, 000 workers employed to work there in World War 2. (image copyright Department of Defence).

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon

The blurb:

At 18 years of age Charlotte Vine-Stevens leaves college and volunteers for the ATS, the Womens’s Army. After basic training she is given a travel warrant and instructions to go to Bletchley Station. Between 1941 and 1945 Charlotte finds herself stationed at the Government Code & Cypher School’s codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park.

After working with Major Ralph Tester in the Mansion, she moves to the Japanese Section in Block F to paraphrase deciphered Japanese messages. In 1945 this work leads Charlotte to see out the war in the Pacific at The Pentagon. (Image copyright Charlotte Webb).

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon

Secret Postings follows Charlotte’s life from a childhood in rural Shropshire, to a turbulent pre-war Germany, a World War 2 adventure at Bletchley Park, The Pentagon and beyond.

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon (Amazon UK), or Secret Postings on Alternatively search for the book on your region’s Amazon site to buy your copy. Soon it will be available in other online bookstores and the ebook is available for pre-order.

Veterans’ Annual Reunion 2014 at Bletchley Park

Back in September 2014 I attended the veterans’ annual reunion at Bletchley Park. It was a busy visit as I weaved between the veterans and visitors gathering their views for the Bletchley Park Podcast. I love doing these interviews! It is fascinating and a reminder there is so much to learn from the veterans and hear what brings the visitors through the gates.

You can listen to the interviews I carried out as well as those collected by fellow roving reporter, Astrid Specht and the Producer of the podcast, Mark Cotton.

Shaun Armstrong (self-confessed professional lurker) is the official Bletchley Park photographer. He’s the man who sees all but is rarely seen. I was able to get a sneaky shot of him photographing Iain Standen, Bletchley Park CEO and veteran Gwendaline Page. You can hear him talking about the unique role of capturing history and Bletchley Park’s transformation.

Veterans' Annual Reunion at Bletchley Park,


Author Geoffrey Pidgeon (The Secret Wireless War) talks about his wartime work for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and it really is a family affair. His father and brother also worked for MI6 and his mother was a nurse at Bletchley Park during World War 2.

Veterans' Annual Reunion at Bletchley Park,


In this group of visitors are four interviewees. Howard Craston, Eric Jacobson, George Keller and Fred Hampe all share their interest in the Bletchley Park and views of the its recent transformation. (In the photograph from left to right Eric Jacobson, Kerry Howard, Ian Richards, Charlotte Webb (Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon), Ann Keller, George Keller, Howard Craston, Fred Hampe).

Group at Veterans Reunion


Iain Standen, CEO of Bletchley Park addresses the veterans in the freshly decorated Teleprinter Room about the progress made in 2014 as well as an overview of Project Neptune – the codename given to the Heritage Lottery funded restoration.

Veterans' Annual Reunion at Bletchley Park,

The Teleprinter room was formerly occupied by the remarkable Churchill Collection, which is where I found the inspiration for my novel The Milliner’s Spy. The Churchill Collection has a new home at Stratford Armouries.

All photographs copyright Bletchley Park Research 2014. They can be used as long as attribution to Bletchley Park Research is given.

A new trailer for The Imitation Game was launched today in the exciting drive to build anticipation for the movie, which is released in UK cinemas on 14 November 2014.

Want to know more about The Imitation Game?

Based on the life story of Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), who is credited with cracking the German Enigma code, THE IMITATION GAME portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team at Britain’s top-secret codebreaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British Establishment, but his work and legacy live on.

THE IMITATION GAME stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness, TV’s Sherlock) as Turing and Keira Knightley (Atonement) as close friend and fellow codebreaker Joan Clarke, alongside a top notch cast including Matthew Goode (A Single Man), Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Rory Kinnear (Skyfall), Charles Dance (Gosford Park, TV’s Game of Thrones), Allen Leech (In Fear, TV’s Downton Abbey) and Matthew Beard (An Education).

You can also link to the movie on YouTube here.

Reader Review: Howard Craston’s Top 6 Bletchley Park Books

Today Howard Craston, Bletchley Park Research reader and Friend of Bletchley Park shares his top 6 books on Bletchley Park., Bletchley Park

Howard Craston in Block C at Bletchley Park, June 2014

I first got interested in Bletchley Park after reading the Robert Harris novel “Enigma”; I had really enjoyed his previous book “Fatherland”. Although Enigma is a fictional book the decrypted messages used in the book are real. Channel Four (UK TV station) did a great four part documentary called Station X in 1999 and I bought the accompanying book by Michael Smith.

I was fascinated that such a secret could be kept for so long. My book collection has now expanded to well over 70 books on Bletchley Park and Codebreaking.

My top 6 books on Bletchley Park:

The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war  (Amazon UK link) ISBN 9781894940957

The Secrets of Station X on

This is an updated version of the original book that accompanied the Channel Four TV series, and includes information that has been declassified since the original book was published.


Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1933-1945  (click title for the Amazon UK link) ISBN 9781848326361

Seizing The Enigma at

I think that this is the best book on the battle against the naval Enigma and the U boats. It is extremely well researched account written by the world’s foremost cryptanalysis historian.


Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park  (Amazon UK link) ISBN 0192801325

Codebreakers on

A collection of Bletchley Park stories written by some of the key personnel of Bletchley Park during World War 2.



Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges (Amazon UK link) ISBN 0045100608

Alan Turing: The Enigma on

A brilliant biography of Alan Turing, Mathematician and genius, who is probably the most famous codebreaker at Bletchley Park. Subject of the new film ‘The Imitation Game’.

Click here to watch the trailer for The Imitation Game.


The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes by Gordon Welchman  (Amazon UK link) ISBN 9780947712341

The Hut Six Story on

Written by the head of Hut Six, This book when originally published was the first book to actually tell how the Enigma Cipher was broken.



Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park’s code-breaking computers by Jack Copeland & Others (Amazon UK link) ISBN 9780199578146

Colossus on

The definitive history of the worlds first electronic computer, built to help crack “Tunny” the codename given to the messages of the German High Command, encrypted on the fiendish Lorenz cipher machine, which was much harder than Enigma.


I have picked these books because they give a very good picture of what happened at Bletchley Park during World War 2. The secret was kept for 30 years after the war and although a lot of veterans have written accounts of their time at Bletchley Park, the very nature of the secret work during the war and the “need to know” culture prevents them from giving an overall view of what went on, as they can only write with any detail about the section that they actually worked in.

Please be aware that there are many other good books on Bletchley Park and the ones I have listed are purely my personal choice for a good starter reading list about the best kept secret of World War 2.

I will be writing further reviews on Bletchley Park books and other World War 2 codebreaking books and codebreaking in general.

You can find Howard on Twitter @borneobat

Do you have a favourite book on Bletchley Park that you’d like to share?

Leave a comment below – we’d love to hear your recommendations.