Where do I get a big, big copy of this poster for my office wall?
Solving Enigma’s Secrets (Redditch, Worcestershire: BookTower Publishing, 2014)
Solving Enigma’s Secrets – The Official History of Bletchley Park’s Hut 6
Edited by John Jackson ISBN 978-09557164-3-0 (BookTower Publishing, Sep 2014, 480 pages)
Buy this on Selz
Sell digital downloads on Selz
The original history of Bletchley Park’s Hut 6 was considered so sensitive, it was only declassified in June 2006.
For the first time the wider public can read the story of Bletchley Park’s epic battle with the Enigma-enciphered messages of the German Army and Air Force, as written by the codebreakers.
This momentous struggle is told anonymously by the men and women working in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park, who recorded their experiences in a top secret report at the end of World War 2.
Where the German forces went the Enigma machine went with them. The daily changing cipher keys and the continuous security improvements put a constant strain on the quiet heroes of Bletchley Park.
This specially edited version of the original three volumes, which includes all of the volume on cryptography, is a lasting tribute to their unrelenting pursuit of the innermost secrets of the Nazi war machine and to their genius in overcoming all the odds.
Download a Free sample of Solving Enigma’s Secrets here before you buy.
If you buy the PDF version you get the ebook version for FREE prior to its release on 19 October 2014 (just send me a copy of your receipt).
The print book (rrp £13.99) will be available to purchase on Amazon by Friday 26th September 2014
The Kindle version of the book is available for pre-order on Amazon UK by clicking here (release date 19 October 2014) and
John Gallehawk, Bletchley Park Research contributor shares our the story of our day out to see Cournswood House, the home of Bletchley Park Codebreaker, Dilly Knox.
On Monday 9th June 2014 two inveterate and intrepid investigators left the urban parts of High Wycombe and ventured forth into the wooded and hilly village of Naphill and in particular to the Village Hall where we could look again at the Memorial plaque to Dilly Knox set near the large Atlantic Cedar tree that he donated in 1936 .This plaque had been unveiled by Mavis Batey in 2009.
We were met by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Ian James, estate manager at Cournswood House. We travelled a short distance through the village of Naphill before turning right down a lane to the entrance driveway to the house we had come to see .
That house is Cournswood House – the home of Bletchley Park codebreaker, Dilly Knox until his death in 1943. The gates opened as we approached and we continued to a magnificent home set deep in the woodlands in wonderful surroundings.
We approached Cournswood House with a mixture of awe, humility and excitement, for very few people have seen this house. We had passed a couple of dwellings and took a sharp left turn to take us past the front of Cournswood House.
This is a large house, extended at both ends since Dilly’s time here but it still has a strong sense of the past.
We were taken on a tour around the outside and had pointed out to us where windows had been added, a wooden workshop removed and the earlier septic tanks covered over. We took a picture from outside the Library where Dilly had worked.
The immediate views from the back of the house are superb, one of two small lakes with carp and ducks and woodlands from which two deer and a fawn appeared later on. There are pictures of the house showing this aspect and photos were taken in an attempt to replicate this.
We were told the story of how Dilly would ride his motorbike from the house down to the rail station at High Wycombe to travel to London, allegedly studying Greek papyrii while other passengers read their newspapers. He apparently had a very bad accident on the bike and thereafter had a limp. He subsequently had a small Austin car to make the journey.
The garage housing Dilly’s prizedAustin has now been converted into a cottage set within the woods surrounding Cournswood House. He is reputed to have coasted down the hill from the garage to see how far he could go before having to start the engine. He also had a rather unique way to traverse crossroads – straight across as fast as possible.
As we completed this stroll around the exterior the owner of the house, Sharon Constançon, came down the stepped path from the large Conservatory and Office, beside the lawn that had probably been a grassed tennis court in past times. She invited us into the luxuriously appointed home.
We saw Dilly’s Library from the inside, now also used as an office. A drawing of Cournswood hung on the wall. We were enveloped by history at this point as the reader can imagine, an unforgettable experience. Most intriguing was the safe hidden behind the oak panelled wall. Its key is long-lost. It was hard not to imagine a stack of papers, a lost pipe or glasses.
We had pointed out to us some of the alterations that were thought to have been made since Dilly’s time in the passage way and the now considerably enlarged lounge.
We were indeed privileged to be shown the upstairs rooms that enjoyed a magnificent view over the grounds and lake. As we looked, the delightful sight of two deer and a fawn came out of the woodland into the paddock just below the house and seemed quite unconcerned.
After these memorable hours we were invited to walk out of the immediate estate and across into the woodland where a memorial stone to Dilly is located to mark where his ashes were placed along with those of his wife, Olive. The woods were Dilly’s passion, he planted the trees that now stand there and guard his resting place.
Back at the house, our host bade us goodbye and we strolled back to the car, we had been talking there for a while when our host re-appeared, rather excited to say that back in her office she had come across, by chance, some documents about past details of the house and we were so fortunate to be invited back to take a look at these.
We mentioned that we ought to be able to locate the Finance Act 1910 survey records for the house. This was in fact subsequently done and there was the bonus that a sketch plan with measurements had been included in the Rating assessment of the time. (There will be more about the Finance Map for Cournswood in a future post).
What a memorable day!
Images were tumbling though our heads as we eventually made our way back towards Naphill.
24 July 2014
Bletchley Park codebreaker, Bill Tutte is honoured today with a memorial in his hometown of Newmarket, Suffolk.
Bill Tutte, a Cambridge graduate is the man who first worked out the structure of the highly complex Lorenz teleprinter cipher machine used by Hitler and his High Command. Breaking the Lorenz gave the Allies a crucial insight into Hitler’s battle strategy.
What is the Lorenz machine and how did Bill Tutte come up with the solution without ever seeing the machine?
I leave you in the capable hands of James Grime, who explains it in a very accessible way during this excellent video.
With all the buzz and excitement around the forthcoming movie, The Imitation Game I think it’s a brilliant time to really celebrate the few women codebreakers at Bletchley Park who were actually breaking Enigma codes alongside their male peers.
Rumour has it that the movie will include some areas of ‘artistic licence’ to add to the relationship between Alan Turing and Joan Clarke (one of the few women codebreakers at Bletchley Park).
I don’t have a problem with a bit of fictional embellishment but I think it is vital to keep the facts at hand too.
So, I’m compiling my research into three women codebreakers- Margaret Rock, Joan Clarke (later Murray) and Mavis Lever (later Batey) and publishing a short e-book to pay tribute to these inspirational women at a time that one of them is portrayed in a leading movie role.
This short e-book ‘Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park’ will be available on Amazon to pre-order very soon. If you would like to be notified as soon as it’s listed, then click here to keep up to date on the Women Codebreakers e-book news.
I would love to see their faces at the top of the Amazon charts for the world to see and discover – but I’m going to say that, aren’t I!
I have already provided links to some of the available information about Margaret, Joan and Mavis on a dedicated page – Click here to read more about these women codebreakers .
The British Museum has chosen a rare Enigma machine on display at Bletchley Park as one of 100 objects to help teach history to children.
Enigma is perhaps the best known cipher machine of all time and is inextricably linked with the work and achievements of Bletchley Park during World War Two.
The breaking of the Axis codes at Bletchley Park is a story of determination under pressure – the codebreakers fought a daily mental battle to break the codes for that day and save lives through the distribution of Ultra intelligence.
The WW2 staff of Bletchley Park signed the Official Secrets Act which meant they were unable to discuss or disclose their vital wartime work and achievements, many died without being able to talk of their work and thus lost the opportunity to tell friends and family of their important and innovative work.
Fortunately, there is still more information entering the public domain which adds to our understanding of the Enigma cipher machine and the methods used to break the code. Personal accounts and official documents written by the codebreakers at Bletchley Park both fascinate and educate us, but you can’t beat the chance to experience the Enigma first hand.
The Enigma machine chosen is one of around 2,450 of its kind made in 1942 or 1943. Gillian Mason, Curator of the Bletchley Park Trust, said “Records suggest that these metal cased Enigma machines were used in aircraft and ground stations. A very limited number have survived. Although detailed records were destroyed during the war, a relatively small group of Enigmas were delivered to the German Air Force. The serial number of this machine puts it in the middle of this group.”
The Enigma is on display at Bletchley Park, among the largest collection of Enigma machines in Europe. Bletchley Park run a growing school education programme, including an outreach programme to give students the opportunity to give an Engima machine a go.
A free lecture about the role of women codebreakers will be held at the University of Buckingham on Tuesday 2 September 2014 at 6.30pm.
Bryony Norburn, a PhD student will look at the role of women in codebreaking during the First World War and Second World War in London and at Bletchley Park.
“It wasn’t until 1916 that women started codebreaking, but they soon proved to be a match for their male counterparts. In both wartime and peace, they showed they were every bit as good, if not better, than men.”
At its peak nearly 10,000 people worked at Bletchley Park and its outstation during the Second World War, with women equating to around 75% of that number.
Yet there were only a handful of women, including Mavis Batey, Margaret Rock and Jean Clarke, who were given the opportunity to break codes at the highest level in during the Second World War.
So why were so few women in leading roles? During the lecture Bryony will examine if it was discrimination that held women back.
Much has been written about the male codebreakers at Bletchley Park but there is a growing interest in the women who played an equally vital role cracking codes. Some research has started to appear about women in the Second World War but little is known about earlier women codebreakers. Bryony has been researching this fascinating subject.
“These women deserve to be recognised.”
The talk takes place at 6.30pm on Tuesday, September 2, in the Chandos Road Building at the University of Buckingham. Drinks and nibbles will be served.
Bryony Norburn is in the second year of her PhD at the University of Buckingham. She completed an MA in Heritage Tourism Management at the University, then went on to run the National Trust Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre, Berkhamsted.
It was a meeting with codebreaker Mavis Batey in 2011 that inspired Bryony to study women codebreakers for her PhD.
|Date:||September 2, 2014|
|Event:||The Secret Life of Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park|
|Topic:||The Secret Life of Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park|
University of Buckingham
+44 (0)1280 820230
|Location:||Ian Fairbairn Lecture Hall (IFLH), Chandos Road Building
Buckingham MK18 1EG GB
|More Info:||Click here for more information.|
Learn more about women codebreakers: http://www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk/research-notes/women-codebreakers/
1 July 2014
I am looking forward to seeing how Benedict Cumberbatch interprets the complex character that was Alan Turing – a man of true genius and many quirks.
Are you looking forward to The Imitation Game? You can watch The Imitation Game trailer here.
After much anticipation film trailer for The Imitation Game is out.
Have you seen the trailer yet? If not enjoy…
Video not playing correctly? Watch it on YouTube by clicking here.
Benedict Cumberbatch (playing Alan Turing) and Keira Knightley (playing Joan Clarke) star alongside some well-known and respected British actors, including Matthew Goode (A Single Man), Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Rory Kinnear (Skyfall), Charles Dance (Gosford Park, Game of Thrones), Allen Leech (In Fear, Downton Abbey) and Matthew Beard (An Education)..
Part of the film was shot on site at Bletchley Park and I am looking forward to seeing how those scenes look.
Last year I gave a talk at Bletchley Park and I had a sneaky peek through the open door of the library to see it ‘dressed’ for filming. Unfortunately, there were no sneaky peek at actors as I think they may have finished filming on site the previous week.
The Imitation Game European première is on 8 October 2014 and released in UK cinemas on 14 November 2014.
Clare Stewart, BFI London Film Festival Director, comments:
We are thrilled to announce one of the most anticipated films of the year – The Imitation Game – as this year’s BFI London Film Festival Opening Night gala. Featuring extraordinary performances from the British talent in front of the camera and vividly directed by Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game does cinematic justice to Alan Turing’s vision, determination and personal story as well as his enduring impact on British history and contemporary life.
Margaret Rock was one of the few women codebreakers at Bletchley Park during World War 2.
Margaret was a bright mathematician, quiet and modest but with an adventurous streak. Within a few months of arriving at Bletchley Park in April 1940 she received a promotion after legendary codebreaker Dilly Knox recognised her abilities.
You can download a free copy of an original letter written by Margaret from Bletchley Park in September 1940. She describes her night-time adventure through a London bombing raid as she tries to get back to Bletchley. Enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page to get this fascinating letter.
Author Sinclay McKay joined Bletchley Park veteran Charlotte Webb and Jake Lushington, the Executive Producer of The Bletchley Circle on the Ann Fisher ‘All Sides’ radio show on WOSU.
Listen to the 52 minute replay of the Ann Fisher All Sides episode ‘Bletchley Circle Code Breaking: Real and Imagined’ here. It is a fantastic and enlightening discussion about the true story of Bletchley Park and its influence on the fictional drama of The Bletchley Circle.
“It is poetic to me that at Bletchley Park back in the day before the war the people who owned it often invited the community to the grounds for festivals and that sort of thing. It was shut off to them for a long time and now they are back again…people know about it and its very popular .”
All Sides with Ann Fisher is a two-hour, daily public-affairs talk show covering the issues and events that shape life in central Ohio. Listener involvement is an integral part of the show’s ethos with participation welcome via telephone, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.
Ann has enjoyed a 30 year career in journalism and joined WOSU in 2009. You can read more about Ann here.
Sinclair McKay – Bestselling Author and Journalist
You can find out more about Sinclair McKay‘s books on Amazon UK, including his latest book The Lost World of Bletchley Park: The Illustrated History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre. More than any book on Bletchley Park this book is brimming with previously unseen photographs of Bletchley Park. If you want to step back in time and get a good idea of that lost world then this is the book for you.
Charlotte Webb – Bletchley Park Veteran, Author & Speaker
“Going back to civilian life was quite difficult. We still had rationing in this county and it was not easy to get a job if you could not tell your prospective employer what you had been doing because they viewed you rather suspiciously.”
Betty has done over 100 talks about her time at Bletchley Park and written her story in Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon currently only available in print form in the UK. PDF copies are available worldwide on the premium reading service Scribd by clicking here.
Jake Lushington, Executive Producer of The Bletchley Circle and Head of Drama for World Productions
Jake has a long career in theatre and television. His sensitive approach to recreating the history of Bletchley Park from the look and feel of the show from its settings, fashions and characters is a testament to the popularity and devoted ‘Lady Nerds’ fan base that surrounds The Bletchley Circle.
You can read more about Jake on the World Productions website here.
The Bletchley Circle – Series 1 And 2 [DVD] is available on Amazon UK. Series 1 is available in US and Canada, with Series 2 available on pre-order. Happy watching.
On 15th March 2014 I attending Bletchley Park’s first 1940s Boutique day ran by Sarah Dunn, a talented vintage hair and make-up artist.
The day, hosted by Bletchley Park in the beautiful panelled ballroom started off with Sarah demonstrating the key elements of 1940s make up and hair on Jessica Duncan, MK web journalist. While expertly ‘setting’ Jessica’s hair with curling tongs (a modern alternative to the wartime curlers and sugar-water setting lotion), Sarah entertained us with interesting anecdotes from the era to illustrate the variety of tricks used by resourceful women in times of enormous scarcity.
Sarah is very knowledgeable but also is mindful to show respect to the fact that although it is nice at look at the era through rose-tinted glasses, it is important to remember it was a very hard and tragic time.
Vintage enthusiasts fully realise that there is nothing glamorous in war, but what appeals to them is a desire to reignite the lost sense of style of gloves and hats and a hankering for the well-groomed and glamorous woman – there were no tracksuit bottoms for a 1940s gal! There is also a massive online community of ‘make do and menders‘ who challenge themselves to make and recreate clothing from the past.
It makes me realise that our fascination with vintage styles is also about a sense of ‘do it yourself’ creativity and self-expression that we have moved away from in our modern world of large-scale manufacturing and cheap throwaway goods.
Sarah made many references to the book The 1940s Look: Recreating the Fashions, Hairstyles and Make-up of the Second World War, which is full of interesting facts and pictures about World War 2 fashion and make-up. I purchased a copy as it a useful resource as I research my novel, The Milliners Spy.
Interestingly, hats were not rationed during the war but became very expensive due to the lack of available materials. However, scarves were rationed and Sarah expertly demonstrated how one hairstyle could be accessorised with a simple scarf to make 3 different styles and the same hairstyle could take on a new look with a hat and snood.
As a researcher I found the easy blend of practical demonstrations and social history commentary a very lively and enjoyable mix. Let’s just say I was much better at taking in the information than I was at the practical application!
But, you know what, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t roll my hair despite fifty attempts or that my effort at minimal eyeliner was more attuned to a drawing done by a three-year old with a thick black crayon – I had a fabulous day. It also didn’t matter that I was there on my own.
There was a good mix of people who came as a mother’s day gift, birthday gift, a get together between friends and even a professional development day. There was a woman and her two daughters who were there to learn more about a family member who had worked in a top-secret job as a ‘cipher clerk’ during the war and visiting Bletchley Park brought them closer to her. You can hear the interview with them and the 1940s Boutique Day here on The Bletchley Park Podcast.
The day was brilliant with a genuine sense of community and group involvement. I enjoyed make up tips and hair styling help from my fellow boutique ladies, and Sarah was on hand to rectify the most wonky, flat victory rolls this country has EVER seen (aka my effort).
The day included tea, coffee and a light lunch. We also had free time to look around or go on a guided tour with vintage attired Bletchley Park guide, Philomena Liggins.
There are still a few tickets left for next Saturday (19th April 2014) or see the list below for the next available dates that Sarah will be running the Boutique days at Bletchley Park (click on the date you want to attend for booking information):
You can find out more about the talented Sarah Dunn and her brilliant vintage business at: www.sarahsdoowopdos.wordpress.com.
The Bletchley Circle Series 2 finally hit the screens in the US last night after much anticipation.
There is always a spike of visitors to this website afterwards so I thought I would bring my reviews and The Bletchley Circle comments to the forefront – no sleuthing needed to find the content!
Truth be told, I am a little jealous of the US viewers because I remember my excited anticipation for the second series – you only get that anticipation for a series once and the painful teasing build up soon vanishes as the series starts.
Good news is that the series 2 lives up to the anticipation. It is an exciting and gripping series where we get to see more Bletchley Park wartime and post war antics blended with great drama – all I will say is that Episode 3 is my favourite by far.
So let’s talk about the start of the series. Millie, Lucy, Jean and Susan are reunited a year after the story line of Series 1 has ended. This time it is Jean who enlists the help of her Bletchley friends – one of their own is in trouble and Jean plans to help.
Let’s start with the tempting trailer:
Here are the articles I’ve posted about Series 2:
- The Bletchley Circle Review Series 2 – Episode 1
- The Bletchley Circle Review Series 2 – Goodbye Codebreaker
Video taster for Episode 3 & 4:
- The Bletchley Circle Review Series 2 – Finale (I love the way the writers have included the post war role of Bletchley Park in this series. It got my research fingers tingling and I found out some interesting facts).
I have also been given some pointers on mistakes that viewers have spotted. I’ll be posting about these soon. You can find all my The Bletchley Circle Reviews for Series 1 & 2 here, which includes my popular articles about using facts in historical fiction.
PBS have also put together a sneak peek page for video trailers and photo galleries covering the filming of the series. You can check that out here.
Don’t forget to check out The Bletchley Park Podcast episodes with interviews of the actors, writer and producers of the show. There is also coverage of the Bletchley Park staff who got to play extras.
The official photographs taken during the filming of the series shown on these pages are reproduced courtesy of mubsta.com via Bletchey Park. View more photographs here.
Phew! That should keep you going. Why not take a few minutes to tell me what you think of the series. Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The exciting final episode of The Bletchley Circle Series 2 seems so long ago now for us in the UK, but for those in the US it is only a few more weeks until our vintage sleuths hit their screens on 13 April 2014.
When the show has been aired I will talk about some of the minor factual inconsistencies that knowledgeable readers have brought to my attention. It goes to show that writers and producers can’t pull a factual ‘fast one’ on audiences.
As watchers we want to take it for granted that facts are more or less right. The writer’s responsibility for portraying facts appear in my most popular articles about The Bletchley Circle – Did the writers get it right and Fact in Historical Fiction.
Something that was right in this finale of Series 2 its exciting and gripping story line was the post-war teacher training college at Bletchley Park. I love how the writer has touched on the post-war evolution of Bletchley Park. It’s certainly an area that is not well covered and it got my researcher’s fingers tingling.
While trying to find out more about the college I have found extracts of a long and very detailed report written by English Heritage about the history of Bletchley Park and its buildings.
On the first page of Section 3.4 – Wartime Building Operations at Bletchley Park there is a glorious picture of the mansion taken in the 1950s – just about the time The Bletchley Circle women led by Alice, return to visit Lizzie Lancaster. As visiting time ends the women hide as everyone leaves then covertly find an abandoned Enigma machine in one of the blocks.
According to the English Heritage report, the Teacher Training College started at Bletchley Park in 1948 as an Emergency Training Centre then continued to use the site as a permanent training facility from 1950 until the 1970s. The college wasn’t the only inhabitant of the park – the General Post Office (later British Telecom) and GCHQ also occupied some of the wartime buildings.
Section 10.5 of English Heritage’s report records that the Teacher Training college mainly occupied Blocks A, B and E where it made minor alterations in 1950 to accommodate 50 students training to teach children and infants. The college also undertook more radical changes by demolishing Hut 7 and converting the wartime Teleprinter Building in 1957 into an assembly hall for the registered 119 students. Also from the mid 1960s the college constructed additional classrooms around Block B and Block E.
I strongly recommend you read it – perhaps not all in one go.
I am definitely going to take the report to Bletchley Park for a wander around the lesser known buildings to get a true feel for their part in the historical evolution of this site. Given the report’s size I am very thankful that I can rely on the lightness of technology to carry the report with me.
For those who just can’t get enough architectural history I’ve started to compile a list (and links) of all the other available sections of the report produced by English Heritage as part of this groundbreaking study. Click here to see read more of English Heritage’s Report on Bletchley Park.
Bletchley Park stepped back in time during February half term by giving visitors a glimpse of life at Bletchley Park during World War 2.
Actors dressed in wartime civilian and service clothing chatted to visitors as if they were starting work at Bletchley Park in World War 2. Watch the video to experience the fun.
For me filling the dressed rooms with people in costume with a story to tell captures the imagination and evokes a greater feel for how the space could have been. What a fun and interactive experience for visitors!
Watch the video to see for yourself. I particularly like the woman who is arranging the billets but best of all is seeing the visitors get involved with the story line.
I’d love to hear what you like best, so please leave a comment.
Back in June I did an excited twirl in my new deep red 1940s dress, slipped on some black seamed stockings and a faux fur bolero in aid of a special evening event at Bletchley Park. You can read about the launch of the codebreaker watch here.
Leading up to the event I spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos about recreating victory curls and how to recreate the wartime makeup look. It was all a bit overwhelming so I just applied suitably red lipstick and wore a vintage hat.
How I wish that the new 1940s Boutique Days at Bletchley Park had already been running!
With expert tips from Hair stylist and make-up artist, Sarah Dunn during a full day training event, I could have done more than cover my usual straightened bob under the wide beautiful brim of a vintage hat.
The glamorous and exciting 1940s Boutique Days at Bletchley Park will run throughout 2014 and will include lessons in hair and makeup of the era. Sarah Dunn will teach students on each one day course how to create the famous victory roll hairstyle as well as other ‘dos’ of the decade.
Also within the ticket price of £65 is a practical make-up session, with demonstrations on Sarah’s models.
Let’s hope there is a backdrop of top tapping music and the ‘gals’ bring along a dress from the era.
Lunch is included as well as a tour of Historic Bletchley Park. There will be lots of advice and the chance to chat with like-minded enthusiasts about this most fascinating decade.
“As a vintage hair stylist I am inspired by the style and spirit of the 1940s, so it’s a real honour to be bringing the decade back to life at the Home of the Codebreakers. I imagine the women at Bletchley Park during World War Two were probably more preoccupied with the vital work they were doing than with their hair and make-up but I bet it was a different story on their days off, when they travelled into London and took up the offer of cheap entry to clubs and shows.
The hairstyles of the 1940s are wonderful as there is so much choice, they can be very dramatic as well as feminine and often quite practical. I love how glamorous people feel when they have had a makeover from this era, victory rolls and red lipstick can make anyone feel stylish and it’s amazing to think all this all came out of an age of such hardship and austerity.” Sarah Dunn
I’ll be attending the first 1940s Boutique Day at Bletchley Park on 15th March 2014. I will be video recording my progress (or clumsy hopelessness) and interviewing other participants for the Bletchley Park Podcast.
For more photographs recreating the mood of the era, check out my facebook photographs of the 1940s house exhibit in Block B at Bletchley Park by clicking here.
In anticipation of the third episode of The Bletchley Circle Series 2 I have revisited what happened in the concluding part of this two-part storyline called ‘Blood On Their Hands’. It’s good to revisit because everything in the show is about to change.
Episode 2 starts at a pace to prevent convicted Alice from the hangman’s noose. There are some emotive scenes of the ‘hanging team’ measuring Alice’s neck and carrying out a practice run.
With some impressive paper shuffling and nerves of steel investigation the team realise that John Richards was killed by the Military and Lizzie is also being set up and framed for his murder.
It becomes clear that the secret military documents found at Lizzie’s flat were planted to make sure the matter would fall under military juristiction rathen than being dealt with by the police. The team’s innovative research leads them to connect a chemical spillage to Porton Down, and prove that Richards was transferred there from Bletchley.
Susan is becoming more and more anxious. The secrets she keeps from her husband Timothy(Mark Dexter) and the harrowing experience with Crowley the year before are taking their toll. She doesn’t want to be involved but Jean pleads with her to help.
It turns out the military hospital where the men who were injured in the chemical spillage is the same hospital Timothy stayed in for his war injuries. What happened to these men a good enough reason for the murder?
Reluctantly Susan gains access and after a bit of sneaking about Susan is caught by the military police but not before she comes across a badly injured soldier who tells her the truth behind the chemical experiments at Porton Down and how he and others were used as lab rats.
Timothy is brought in. He looks at his wife questioningly. She’s not the woman he’s married. The secrets are coming between them. Exhausted, Susan is left with no option but to tell Timothy of her work at Bletchley Park. In doing so she breaks The Official Secrets Act but saves her marriage. Susan and Timothy’s relief is tangible.
For Susan the danger is over but for the other three as they track down Professor Masters (Paul Ritter), a name that has popped up as the connection between Richards and Porton Down – they think he can help.
Things don’t go quite to plan. One of our Bletchley Circle ladies is shot!
Is it too late for them, and can they save Alice after all?
I’ve given a lot of spoilers. If you’ve seen the episode you know the end but for those who have yet to see it, I’ll leave the end as a surprise. I will just say that it’s the end of the show for one of the four Bletchley Circle women. It’s sad but there are always new beginnings and can only help the show grow and evolve.
Confession: I have a problem with one element of the storyline. It’s that there isn’t enough detail to explain the pre-war back story and connection between Alice, Richards and Lizzie. It felt a bit secondary, yet was crucial to the whole plot. I would have like this to have been covered in greater detail.
So what has episode 3 got in store. A new member of The Bletchley Circle? Perhaps.
A new mystery to solve? Definitely
Bletchley Park have posted some fabulous photographs of the war-time set at Bletchley Park. Click here to view them
Also, Check out this fabulous slideshow of The Bletchley Circle Series 2 images on MK Web’s news website.
Don’t forget to check out the Bletchley Park Podcast and the interviews of cast and production members. In the episode below you can hear Bletchley Park staff members talk about their part as extras on the show and the story of Bletchley Park veteran, Audrey Wind. Remember you can pre-order the DVD (out at the beginning of Feb). I’ve just spotted that you can buy both series together see The Bletchley Circle – Series 1 And 2 [DVD].
Families of the Code and Cypher School veterans end their visits at Bletchley Park with a better idea of the World War 2 codebreaking operation that shaped the lives of their relatives. Suddenly a picture appears from the tales of the veterans’ hard relentless work in hastily built wooden huts, lasting friendships forged in concrete buildings filled with noisy bombe machines, and let’s not forget the occasional eccentric. The tales told of that time have a clear anchor and there is suddenly an ‘ah-ha’ moment of understanding when families can share in a secret life.
For Nigel Nelson, the Sunday People’s political editor, a visit to Bletchley Park left him with the distinct feeling that he did not know his enigmatic mother as well as he thought.
Iris May Phillips told her son that she worked in a boring job for the Foreign Office and was seconded to Bletchley Park in about 1943.
What Nigel Nelson found out at Bletchley was that young Iris worked for the Secret Intelligence Service – MI6.
“The news hit me as if James Bond had just thrown a martini in my face, “ he wrote in his article for the Mirror on 9 November 2013 titled ‘I knew my mum worked at Bletchley Park but not that she was in MI6′.
‘I was both shaken and stirred to be confronted with a truth my long-dead mother spent her life concealing from me.’
Since writing that article Nigel’s efforts to track down more information about his mother has led him to the formidable blast proof walls of MI6’s policy on releasing data about past employees. Despite the lack of official data, he has pieced together memories of his mother and the guarded details she did share with him and written a recent article titled ‘I visited a tourist attraction and ended up finding out my mother was a World War 2 spy’.
The article hints at Iris’s work in Hut 4 at Bletchley Park plotting the location of predatory U-Boats in the Atlantic and her role in post war Germany tracking down scientists to recruit, witnessing the horrors of the concentration camps and the echoes of justice in Nuremberg.
What exactly was she recruited to do. What was she doing for MI6 before her transfer to Bletchley Park? I hope their are photograph albums, old letters that can be revisited for clues.
For a man who has spent his journalistic career revealing secrets rather than guard them Nigel has, quite literally, found the biggest secret story of his life.
“The mother I will remember is no longer the one I thought I knew.” Nigel Nelson
The story of Iris’s war is a tantalising mystery suited for the women of the Bletchley Circle. It appears that there won’t be any further official information from direct channels anytime soon but I can’t help think of all the National Archives and its miles of shelves stuffed with the documents of other services and departments who have connections with wartime MI6. Their documents are not classified and there may just be something in a transfer paper, a finance document, a wartime memoir.
It can work. It is the exact approach taken by Professor Aldrich when piecing together his 600 page book on GCHQ without any access to official post war documents.
So there is a chance that there is more of this story alluringly hidden between the papers of a musty brown manilla file. It makes my research obsessive fingers tingle at the possibility. Like Susan from The Bletchley Circle it’s time to share the secrets with the family.
We just need Jean, who always looks after her own, to dig through files, think outside the box and find the way in to the papers that will breathe life this fascinating story.
My thanks to Nigel for letting me share his story.
Nigel Nelson is Sunday People political columnist and Fleet Street’s longest serving national newspaper political editor. You can follow him on Twitter @NigelNelson.