During my visit to Bletchley Park’s annual veterans’ weekend, I noticed the tell-tale signs of transformation throughout the site. There were small tweaks in some areas and greater changes in others.
One of these changes is the newly renovated Hut 11 (the Bombe Hut), which has been transformed from an empty shell to an interactive exhibition about the work of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) on the Bombe machines. It wasn’t quite finished when I saw it at the beginning of September, but it is now complete and open to the public.
The fundraising for the renovation had been well underway when Bletchley Park Veteran, Maureen Jones left a £250,000 legacy. Her legacy funds the exhibition entirely.
This blast proof Hut, nicknamed ‘the Hell Hole‘ by the WRNS (nicknamed Wrens) who operated the Bombe machines, is located opposite Huts 3 and 6, which are also part of the ongoing renovation projects.
The Bombe machines helped speed up the process of finding the Enigma machine’s daily settings, and thousands of Wrens were employed to get the monumental task done.
Visitors can now try their hand at ‘plugging up’ the back of the Bombe machine and turning the drums to the correct position, illustrating the high level of knowledge and concentration required during long, monotonous shifts. You can read more about how the Turing-Welchman Bombes work in the Enigma Busting Bombe Machine article.
The veterans’ weekend is always a good place to meet new and existing friends.
This year was no exception. As well as some familiar faces I met Bletchley Park Research newsletter reader Eric Jacobson for the first time. Eric, who had travelled over from the States to visit Bletchley Park as well as Oxford.
Bletchley Park veteran, Charlotte Webb also met up with friends George and Anne Keller who travel from the States most years for the veteran’s weekend. George had a long career in the US Navy signals intelligence and is part of the US Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association. Fred Hampe also in the photograph, worked in the US Navy as a Cryptologic Technician, spending many years listening to messages sent in Morse.
I finished off the weekend with a talk in the Mansion’s Ballroom about my research into Margaret Rock with a slideshow of some of the many photographs, documents and letters that made up Margaret’s personal papers. The letter about her adventures in a night of bombing in London felt more meaningful and had a powerful impact when read out loud.
At the end of the presentation, a woman stood up and told me she was the neighbour and long time friend of Jean Perrin (formerly Hazlerigg), one of Margaret’s colleagues in The Cottage. I can’t wait to speak to here more. I am now gathering data about all those who worked in The Cottage. Mavis Batey is kindly assisting by adding surnames and snippets of information to help me along. I hope to share some of that with you soon.