Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon, Charlotte Webb, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

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 Amazon.com

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 Amazon.com. 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, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

 

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, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

 

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, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

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).

http://www.facebook.com/imitationgameUK
https://twitter.com/ImitationGameUK

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. 

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, 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 Amazon.com

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 Amazon.com

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 Amazon.com

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 Amazon.com

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 Amazon.com

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 Amazon.com

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.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, Enigma, Bletchley Park, Hut 6

Solving Enigma’s Secrets (Redditch, Worcestershire: BookTower Publishing, 2014)

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, Enigma, Bletchley Park, Hut 6 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)

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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).

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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

Amazon.com, Amazon.com.ca, and Amazon.com.au or just go to your regional Amazon site.

Links for Kobo, iBooks and Nook to follow soon.

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Cournswood – A Day at Dilly Knox’s House

 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.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, Dilly Knox

John Gallehawk & Ian James at Naphill Village Hall, Bucks

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 .

Front view of Cournswood House

Front view of Cournswood House

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.

Dilly Knox, Bletchley Park, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

Kerry Howard & John Gallehawk outside Dilly Knox’s library at Cournswood House

 

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.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, Bletchley Park, Dilly Knox

John Gallehawk photographing the rear view of Cournswood House

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.

Dilly Knox, Bletchley Park, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

The drive leading to Cournswood House

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.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, Bletchley Park, Dilly Knox

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.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, Bletchley Park, Dilly Knox

Sharon Constançon, Ian James& John Gallehawk at Dilly’s memorial stone

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.

Dilly Knox, Bletchley Park, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

Dilly Knox 1884 – 1943

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.

John Gallehawk Profile

Watching The Imitation Game trailer with an Alan Turing expert

The APeriodical
24 July 2014

James Grime (mathematician, juggler and comedy nerd – but not necessarily in that order) examines The Imitation Game trailer shot by shot and shares his expert view.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, The Imitation Game, Joan Clarke, Alan Turing

© 2014 The Weinstein Company Inc.

What does he think overall:

It’s not easy to tell much from the trailer, but it looks fantastic. Cumberbatch and Knightley seem to be doing a bang up job in their roles, and it’s a story that I think will be a big hit. Sure there are inaccuracies, but I think that is forgivable in a dramatisation of events. I think the film will actually inspire people to find out more about Turing, Enigma, and the work at Bletchley Park. November here we come!

 

Well, I for one am very excited about its release. What about you?

Bill Tutte, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk 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.

Click here to learn more on the Bill Tutte Memorial website.

Click here to read a BBC article about Bill Tutte.

3 women codebreakers at Bletchley Park

women codebreakers, Joan Clarke, Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.ukWith 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 .

Enigma Machine Helps Teach History to Children

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.

www.blethchleyparkresearch.co.uk

©Bletchley Park Trust

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 women codebreakersBryony 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
Time: 18:30-21:00
Event: The Secret Life of Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park
Topic: The Secret Life of Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park
Venue: University of Buckingham
+44 (0)1280 820230
Location: Ian Fairbairn Lecture Hall (IFLH), Chandos Road Building
Buckingham MK18 1EG GB
United Kingdom
Public: Public
More Info: Click here for more information.

Learn more about women codebreakers: http://www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk/research-notes/women-codebreakers/

Women’s Security Society Case Study

SC Magazine
1 July 2014
Bletchley Park Research

WSS board members at soft launch event, 26th February 2013 copyright WSS

I had the honour of meeting some of the inspirational women of the Women’s Security Society when they asked me to talk about Margaret Rock (codebreaker) at a special lunch held at Bletchley Park. You can also read my post about that event here – Inspirational Women at Bletchley Park.

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.

Click here to read more about The Imitation Game on the BFI website.

Bletchley Park Margaret Rock

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.

Decoding The Bletchley Circle – Sinclair McKay, Charlotte Webb & Jake Lushington talk to Ann Fisher

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

When asked what he thought of The Bletchley Circle by Ann Fisher, Sinclair McKay said “Any television show that does anything to honour what these women did can only be a brilliant thing.”

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.

You can also find out more about the book and Sinclair McKay on Amazon US and Amazon CA.

 

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.

You can also read more about Betty 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.

 

Victory Roll of Honour at 1940s Boutique Day

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.

Sarah Dunn demonstrationThe 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 and Jess with hat2

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.

Victory Roll ReflectionThe 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.

Sarah and Kerry

Kerry Howard & Sarah Dunn

The Bletchley Circle Series 2 airs in the US

The Bletchley CircleThe 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.

Sophie Rundle (Lucy)  Copyright Mubsta.com

Sophie Rundle (Lucy)
Copyright Mubsta.com

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:

Video taster for Episode 3 & 4:

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.

If you’d like to read more about the real women codebreakers at Bletchley Park, you can check out my book Dear Codebreaker and read my Women Codebreakers page here.

Mansion Through the Lense Copyright Mubsta.com

Mansion Through the Lense
Copyright Mubsta.com

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 Bletchley Circle Series 2 – Finale

The Bletchley CircleThe 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.