The 1991 Bletchley Park Tea party

25 Years since the first Bletchley Park Reunion

On the 19 October 2016, Bletchley Park celebrated 25 years since the first Bletchley Park tea party to reunite Government Code and Cypher School veterans for the first time since the war. To mark the anniversary Bletchley Park gave away free passes to the first 25 visitors through the door.

In 1991 local historians set out to arrange a small tea party to give Bletchley Park veterans a chance to see their wartime home one last time before bulldozers knocked it down for housing.

copyright Bletchley Park

Veterans at the first Bletchley Park Tea Party. Copyright Bletchley Park

Nowadays, Bletchley Park is well-equipped to welcome a quarter of a million visitors a year but in 1991, Peter Wescombe, the man with the idea to hold the party, had to sneak into the site to speak to site manager Doreen Sawyer. Doreen agreed to his idea for a small farewell party catering for about 20 people but the escalating numbers of  veterans interested in attending sent the invitation list soaring to over 200 and gave her sleepless nights.

“I had not said a word to my boss man. He didn’t know anything about this. In the end, when we got over a hundred I thought no way can I cope with this without saying something.”

With only weeks to go and the fate of the party balancing on a line of telephone cable, Doreen told her boss about the plan.

“He said, “Oh Doreen, what the heck are we going to do?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. We’re stuck with tea and biscuits.'”

Doreen’s boss took the matter in hand and promptly contacted British Telecom Headquarters in London. To Doreen’s relief, the Director said, “Yes, go for it. It is quite important.” And that’s how it started.

When the veterans arrived on the 19 October 1991 they walked through the mansion, circled the rotting huts and peered through the windows of derelict blocks reminiscing about work, play and ghastly food. Amongst the laughter and anecdotes captured on 14 hours of audio, something stirred. Whether it was the warm glow of memories or the growing national realisation of the importance of the site, the veterans and historians knew that the site was far too important to knock down. So began the campaign to save Bletchley Park.

Peter Wescombe, the man leading the campaign, remembers the incident that crystallised his determination to save Bletchley Park:

“I was walking around the park with these two men I didn’t know from Adam. One was Harry Hinsley and the other was a chap called Stuart Milner-Barry, who was the head of Hut 6. Harry Hinsley, of course, was a Hut 4 man and became number two here and also wrote his magnum opus British Secret Intelligence in the Second World War. He, in fact, was talking to Stuart Milner-Barry and Edward Thomas and they were walking around the lake and I was walking with them, and they got round to where the steps are and Stuart Milner-Barry said, ‘Do you remember Harry when you came in roaring drunk and drove your cycle into the lake?’ Harry, of course, was a very straight-laced bloke. ‘Yes,’ Harry said. ‘Do you remember what you said?’ Harry said ‘No.’ Stuart said, ‘Please don’t tell Hilary. Please don’t tell Hilary.’ Hilary was his girlfriend and they married after the war…. And I thought, Yes. That’s the sort of thing we need. Not just the straight-laced stuff about codebreaking. These were ordinary people doing an extraordinary job. That’s the story I wanted to get…So that’s how the whole thing took off after the party.”

The 14 hours of audio recorded that day were recently discovered in Bletchley Park Archives and capture the veterans’ reactions to seeing Bletchley Park for the first time since the war. They also give an incredible insight into staff recruitment, the roles they carried out and the reality of working at the secret intelligence site and its outstations. In one recording, veteran Nancy Holderness comments:

“We were a motley crew really, from all different walks of life – I was in the lingerie department at Marshall & Snelgrove. We were sworn to secrecy and we took it so seriously. In wartime everyone realised how serious everything was and if you were on secret work they respected it.”

Katherine White from the Bletchley Park Podcast reminds us that the 1991 tea party started something else too:

“The campaign to save Bletchley Park from being bulldozed was not the only thing that party started. It was also the first of what has become the highlight of the year at Bletchley Park – the annual Veterans’ Reunion. This year’s was another great day, with veterans bringing their families to remember and celebrate their contribution.”

From October to December 2016, the Bletchley Park Podcast will mark the 25th anniversary of the party that saved Bletchley Park with three special episodes made from the recently discovered tapes. Listen to October’s episode below, which features interviews from the 2016 Veterans’ Reunion as well as the 1991 Bletchley Park tea party.

Photos from Celebrating Bletchley Park event

On 19-20 March 2016 Bletchley Park veterans, authors, machine experts and enthusiasts gathered at Firle Place Riding School for the ‘Celebrating Bletchley Park’ event to talk about Bletchley Park – the work, the people, and the groundbreaking machines developed to break the German Enigma code.

I thought you would like to see some of my photographs from the epic two-day event. Check out the photographs on Pinterest here: https://uk.pinterest.com/bpresearch/celebrating-bletchley-park-event or click on the photo below.

Celebrating Bletchley Park

I’ve also added the photographs (with a few extras to the Pinterest album) to Google+ here: https://plus.google.com/+KerryHoward/posts/ht9bdEo1nQC.

This photograph of Sir Dermot Turing signing a copy of Prof: Alan Turing Decoded for author Michael Smith is one of my favourites.

Celebrating Bletchley Park

Beware of some book-buying fans!

I went to the event as a guest of Charlotte (Betty) Webb MBE, Bletchley Park veteran. Betty was interviewed with another veteran, Mary Every by author Michael Smith.

Other speakers included Sir Dermot Turing, Elisa Segrave (the event host), Dr. Joel GreenbergSinclair McKay, and Gordon Corera. Margy Kinmonth talked about grandfather, Admiral John Henry Godfrey and shared some photographic treasures from the family archive.

The technical side of the Bombe Machine was covered by Paul Kellar, MBE from the Bombe Restoration Team. Phil Hayes from the National Museum of Computing delivered an accessible explanation of how codebreakers were able to break the complex Lorenz machine. I particularly enjoyed his talk as it was a light bulb moment in my understanding!

Phil_Hayes

Phil Hayes, National Museum of Computing

You can read more about the event and the speakers who delivered fascinating talks then spent time mingling with the audience. Click here to learn more about Celebrating Bletchley Park and the speakers.

The event’s Bookshop was delivered by City Books of Hove. As advertised by Sir Dermot Turing below, the speakers with books for sale at the event signed extra copies. Contact City Books to see if you can get a signed copy of your favourite Bletchley Park book.

Celebrating Bletchley Park

Sir Dermot Turing signing books for City Books, Hove.

A special thanks must go to Elisa Segrave, John Warburton and Lisa Gordon for organising such a fantastic event.

Clicking on the highlighted names of the speakers will take you to their books on Amazon UK. If you purchase their book through these links, I earn a few pennies commission (this does not affect the price you pay) which goes towards running this site. If you prefer, you can exit and go to Amazon direct or buy signed copies from City Books.

Was this the first Bletchley Park Reunion?

I spent today with Bletchley Park veteran, Charlotte Webb and we made some interesting documentary discoveries.

While going through the papers Betty has collected over the years, we came across an invitation and programme for a Bletchley Park Reunion held on 14 October 1978.

Sir Harry Hinsley, Hut 4 veteran and official historian of British Intelligence in the Second World War, organised the event to bring together the WRNs of Bletchley Park.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

Betty’s cousin (through marriage), who had served as a WRN at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, invited Betty to the reunion as a guest. Betty has kept the documents to mark the occasion when she first heard other Bletchley Park veterans share stories about their wartime work.

Images reproduced with the kind permission of Betty Webb. I think Betty is always amused by my wild excitement at seeing such items and wanting to share them here.

Codebreaking In The Bathtub

At first sight an Edwardian roll-top bathtub may seem a little out-of-place in a major exhibition to explore codebreaking in World War One. The Road to Bletchley Park is now open at Bletchley Park, sponsored by BAE Systems and Ultra Electronics, celebrates the pioneering achievements of those who waged a secret war – and how they paved the way for the Codebreakers Bletchley Park.

Yes, there is a bathtub, and it is extremely relevant to the story of one of Bletchley Park’s key codebreakers.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

copyright Claire Butterfield

The story of signals intelligence in WW1 is an untold but crucial one, because a large number of those involved went on to work with the newly formed Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) in 1919, which then relocated to Bletchley Park in 1939. Sarah Ralph, Bletchley Park’s WW1 Exhibition Research Coordinator, says “Their efforts from 1914 to 1918 allowed the Codebreakers to hit the ground running at the outbreak of WW2.”

The first phase of this fascinating exhibition, now open in the park’s Block C Visitor Centre, introduces the two very separate codebreaking organisations working in WW1: MI1(b), set up by the Army, and Room 40, established by the Navy. They were each fighting a secret war, behind the scenes in London offices.

The work of these two distinct organisations, each with their own hierarchies and objectives, was dependent on what was then brand new technology. One key exhibit is a replica of a Marconi crystal receiver listening set. Sarah adds “Both Allies and Central Powers used cable and wireless telegraphy to intercept messages and deduce enemy tactics and positions. Each side tried to break the other’s codes and gain valuable intelligence.”

At the centre of the exhibition is an Edwardian roll-top bathtub – a favoured codebreaking tool of Dilly Knox. Dilly’s small office in Room 53 of Admiralty buildings from 1917 had its own bath and he took every opportunity during the night shift to spend time in it, thinking through codebreaking problems. There is nothing better than codebreaking in the bathtub.

The bathtub is part of the exhibition exploring some of the key characters involved in codebreaking during both wars. Sarah says “One of my favourite exhibits related to the work in Room 40 is a copy of Jane’s Fighting Ships. I love this book. It’s an exhaustive catalogue of every nation’s warships. Every time a ship was sunk (Room 40 staff) would cross out the name. It’s a very physical way of marking the conflict’s progress.”

 “We hope this exhibition, which runs until 2019, will help to shed light on a hitherto less well known story of WW1. As the title of the exhibition alludes to, the work of Room 40 and MI1(b) in WW1 laid the foundations of the success of Bletchley Park in WW2. Visitors will learn how these pioneers operated, and how their work led to the formation of the Government Code and Cypher School, the organisation that eventually set up Bletchley Park.” CEO of the Bletchley Park Trust, Iain Standen.

Photograph reproduced courtesy of Claire Butterfield (@BillTutte)

Debs of Bletchley Park & other stories

Author & Bletchley Park's chief historical advisor.

Author Michael Smith

When author Michael Smith was asked first asked to write about the debutantes of Bletchley Park he firmly said ‘No.’

No?

You can imagine the publisher’s raised eyebrows, and that moment of surprise, which eventually turned to understanding when one the most knowledgeable writers on the subject explained:

‘I said no because there weren’t that many – they weren’t all Debs, but I said I will write about the women of Bletchley Park. I think their story is important. I think we see things from a male perspective because that’s the way the world was seen in those days. We talk about the women being small cogs in a big machine, which is true to some extent but if you take the cogs out, the machine doesn’t work.’

So with the publisher’s blessing Michael Smith wrote a book that explores all classes of women at all levels of the Bletchley Park hierarchy, from Joan Clarke in Hut 8 who became one of the most senior codebreakers at Bletchley Park, Pamela Gibson (now Rose) in Hut 4 who worked in a top civilian rank as a senior Administrative Officer to a junior Wren laboriously manning the Bombe machine and the filing clerks, down to the lowest rung of a very important ladder.

‘The Treasury tried to keep them in junior ranks because that was cheaper and they were quite blatant about that. At one point commander Travis, the Head of Bletchley Park said to Joan Clarke “I think we might have to make you a Wren if we are going to pay you what you need.” So a junior Wren working on the Bombe was paid more than Joan Clarke who was one of the leading codebreakers.’

The book is entirely from the perspective of the women. Only three men get quoted – Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, and the husband of one of the veterans, who went on to work as an actress.

‘He saw this “vision of loveliness step out on the stage.” It was such a lovely quote that I wasn’t going to leave it out.’

To launch ‘The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories‘ Michael Smith introduced six of the women featured in the book to a frenzy of media interest gathered in the Bletchley Park Mansion:

Copyright & Reproduced with permission of www.mkweb.co.uk 2015

Copyright & Reproduced with permission of www.mkweb.co.uk 2015

Lady Marion Body, from Stanford Dingley in Berkshire, was a Foreign Office civilian working on Japanese encoded messages alongside HRH The Duchess of Cambridge’s grandmother and great-aunt. She recently briefed the Duchess on what her grandmother and great-aunt did at Bletchley.

Jean Pitt-Lewis, from Monmouth in Gwent, was a Foreign Office civilian and member of Dilly’s Girls, a group of young women who worked with Bletchley’s chief cryptographer Dilly Knox to brea Italian and German secret service Enigma messages. The secret service messages were vital to the Double Cross deception which ensured the success of the D-Day landings.

Betty Webb, from Wythall in Worcestershire, was a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). She worked on German police messages in the Mansion at Bletchley Park. These messages revealed the beginning of the Holocaust with the massacres of thousands of Jews on the eastern front. Betty then moved to Block F to paraphrase intelligence reports based on Japanese Army messages decoded and translated at Bletchley.

Marigold Freeman-Attwood, from Haddenham in Buckinghamshire, was a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, the Wrens. She worked on Colossus, the world’s first digital electronic computer, which was used to break the coded messages sent by Hitler’s High Command.

Margaret Mortimer, from Bramble Edge in Dorset, was a Wren working in the Newmanry Registration Room receiving German messages from the intercept site at Knockholt, near Sevenoaks in Kent on punched paper teleprinter tapes, preparing them for running through Colossus and logging the results.

Jean Tocher, from Poole in Dorset, was a Wren in the Bletchley Park Naval Section working on the ‘Allied Plot’. This was a chart of the world covering all four walls of one room on which a number of Wrens plotted the movement of all the allied ships and their German, Italian and Japanese opposite numbers.

The book is different to Michael Smith’s other books on Bletchley Park. I love his books because they are a detailed blend of the technical art of codebreaking and the eclectic mix of characters who inhabited the secret wartime site. He has gone out of his way to make the bookaccessible to a wider audience by ‘dispensing with all the techie stuff.’ The book explains the technical aspects such as Colossus and the Enigma busting Bombe, but in simple terms. To broaden the appeal he has kept the focus on the human story and personal testimony of the women who continue to fascinate us. After all it is their experiences that continue to fascinate us.

Michael Smith told me that laid down his Bletchley Park pen for the time being (or possibly permanently) to finish his novel. The novel is in the final stages of completion and he’s keen to get it back to it. Michael even gave a top-secret hint, saying ‘It’s second world war and one of the main characters is a woman working in a very secret job’.

I don’t know about you, but now I’ve devoured  The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories published by Aurum Press, I am eager to read his novel.

You can listen to my interview with Michael Smith on my new Retro Researcher Podcast on Audioboom. The interview is a fascinating insight into the story of the book and the women who feature in it. The interview includes the quotes found in this article.

You can also listen to Episode 31 of the Bletchley Park Podcast to hear more about the launch of Michael Smith’s book and hear the stories directly from the women of Bletchley Park. The episode also includes my interview with Michael Smith and Jean Pitt-Lewis. Click this link to listen at https://audioboom.com/boos/2882464-the-bletchley-park-podcast-e31-telling-the-world.

Thank you to Jessica Duncan for allowing me to reproduce the group photograph of the Bletchley Park women.

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

©shaunarmstrong/mubsta.com

“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.

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.

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.

Stepping back in time at 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.

1940s Boutique Days at Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park EventsBack 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.

Kerry Howard Bletchley Park Research

Kerry Howard

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.

The Three Belles execute hair & make up of the era beautifully. What glamour!

The Three Belles execute hair & make up of the era beautifully. What glamour!

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.

©Sarah Dunn

“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

Friends of Bletchley Park can book now on 01908 272684. Tickets will go on general sale 1 February.

Office Glamour

Glamour at the office is a must

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.

Click here to buy your ticket to 1940s fabulousness.

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.

Mavis Batey

Mavis Batey, one of the few women codebreakers of Bletchley Park during World War 2 passed away at the age of 92 on 12 November 2013.

Keith & Mavis Batey

Keith & Mavis Batey

Mavis Batey’s contribution to understanding the life of a woman codebreaker at Bletchley Park is unparalleled. Like so many of her Bletchley Park colleagues, she selflessly continued to educate and expand our knowledge of World War 2 codebreaking right up to the end of her life. Her passing is a great loss to her family, friends and our nation.

Mavis Lilian Lever was born on 5 May 1921 in London. After a convent education she attended University College London studying German Literature.

She was recruited from University College London into intelligence by her professor Leonard Willoughby, a former Room 40 colleague of Dilly Knox.

Her studies had given her good language skills that landed Mavis working for the Foreign Office’s Ministry of Economic Warfare (MEW) blacklisting companies in neutral countries working with or supplying material to the Germans.

Her logical thinking got her noticed and in June 1940 found herself at Bletchley Park meeting eccentric codebreaker, Dilly Knox for the first time. Here she and a team made up of women successfully broke into many of the untried Enigma machine variations, including the significant break into the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence) Enigma machine in December 1941.

This break allowed the British Government to intercept, decipher and read Abwehr messages to ensure that misinformation fed through double agents was getting through. This information was critical for the D-Day landings deception, which led Hitler to believe the Allied invasion of France would focus on Pas-de-Calais, when in fact the target was Normandy.

After the war Mavis along with her husband Keith, and fellow ISK (Illicit Services Knox) colleagues, Margaret Rock and Peter Twinn wrote the definitive history to breaking the Abwehr Enigma cipher. This document is known as Batey, Batey, Rock and Twinn  ans was only released into the public domain in 2011. Since then Mavis has helped enthusiasts and scholars understand the mind bogglingly technical document despite having an initial fear that she had forgotten it all. Once she started to read the years melted away and she felt nineteen again.

The release of the document and Mavis’s knowledge has been a significant enhancement to the study of codebreaking and I know she has written an introduction piece to accompany the document.

Mavis has written extensively on garden history and in recent years written an insightful biography of Dilly Knox called Dilly: The Man Who Broke Enigmas. It is a good introduction to the Government Code & Cypher School codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park, a tribute to a brilliant and eccentric codebreaker as well as a modest personal account of her codebreaking successes. One of these successes led to the Battle of Cape Matapan, which put the Italian Navy out of World War 2. The book also provides a first hand account of the Abwehr break.

Both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail have written lovely pieces in honour of Mavis’s memory.

I have been lucky enough to correspond with Mavis and benefit from her memories of the Bletchley Park years. She has helped me to learn more about her colleague Margaret Rock. They remained friends right up until Margaret’s death at the age of 80 in 1983. They had once last get together to talk about old times at Bletchley Park just a few weeks before Margaret died.

Mavis also kindly wrote a short account on how Margaret Rock broke a new Abwehr Enigma cipher in May 1943. Click to see the account titled Canary Islands Service Enigma Break.

Listen to an audio interview with Mavis Batey by author Michael Smith hosted on Audioboo. It’s about an hour in length and is a wonderful tribute to Mavis’s contribution to the war.

Rest in Peace Mavis Batey, you will be missed.

Bletchley Park Visits and Exhibits

Annual Veterans Photograph September 2013

Annual Veterans Photograph September 2013

During my visit to Bletchley Park’s annual veterans’ weekend I noticed the tell-tale signs of transformation throughout the site. In some areas there were small changes and in other places enormous areas of development.

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 was used to fully fund the exhibition.

(C) John Jackson

(C) John Jackson

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. This was a monumental task and thousands of Wrens were employed to get the job 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.

Ann Keller, Charlotte Webb, Fred Hampe & George Keller

Ann Keller, Charlotte Webb, Fred Hampe & George Keller

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. The talk was given 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.

Talking at BP

Kerry Howard presentation in the Ballroom 
photograph copyright Claire B @StationXBP

 

The Universal Machine Q&A with Ian Watson


Q&A with Ian Watson, the Author of The Universal Machine

Earlier in the year I connected with Dr Ian Watson on Google+ on the Alan Turing community pages (click here to join). You only have to read his extensive list of qualifications to realise how well qualified Ian is to write The Universal Machine:

He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.After graduating from Essex University an completing M.Sc. in Intelligent Knowledge Based Systems, Ian went to live in New York for a year and then returned to the UK to study for a Ph.D. in the Deptartment of Computer Science at Liverpool University and was a Lecturer, Senior Lecture and briefly promoted to Reader in Computer Science. 

It also sounds like to book will be a dry and challenging read, doesn’t it? WRONG.

Ian Watson has a fantastic and easily accessible writing style. He has the ability to break down a complex subject into a book that will appeal to all (including those like me who struggle when things get technical). 

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book. The author has kindly answered a few questions to give you more information about Alan Turing and what The Universal Machine book is all about.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

Ian Watson with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak

A: I became frustrated that most people seemed to know who invented the telephone, or the radio, or the light bulb, but most of the general public had no idea who invented the computer. Not only did they not know, but if you told them, “Alan Turing invented the computer,” most would reply “who?” So I decided to write a book about Turing and the computer.

Q: But your book isn’t just about Turing is it?

A: No it isn’t. I decided that I didn’t want to just focus on Turing – I wanted to put his contribution to the computer in its context- what came before and what followed. Also there are already many books solely dedicated to Turing and I didn’t feel I could necessarily add anything new to them. In fact that applies to everyone who features in the book: Charles Babbage, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and so on. There are many biographies just about these people or whole books just about Silicon Valley in the 1970s, or IBM in the 50s and 60s. I wanted to distil all of these into a single history so that in about 350 pages the reader would get a great overview of the history, development and future of computing. However, Turing’s universal machine is the constant theme that unites the book.

Q: Why is Alan Turing considered the father of computing?

A: Because he discovered a theory of computation upon which all our modern computational devices are based. For example, Charles Babbage the Victorian mathematician and engineer, who preceeded Turing by a century, isn’t the father of computing because he had no underlying theory upon which his marvellous mechanical engines were based. Had Babbage ever built his Analytical Engine, incredible as it would have been, it would just have been a very complex machine. What Turing showed was that underlying his Turing Machine or an electro-mechanical computer or a modern digital computer was a single theory of computation. In fact, as with many great inventions, Turing didn’t really come up with the idea alone; a mathematician called Alonzo Church came up with the same idea, and technically it’s known as the Church-Turing thesis. But, Turing, imagined a simple machine that could be built to illustrate the thesis and it’s his idea that stuck, not Church’s pure mathematical explanation.

Q: What was the highlight of writing the book for you?

A: Well, two really. Visiting Bletchley Park was fascinating; seeing Turing’s Hut 8 and the rebuilt Bombe, and the Colossus computer was for anyone with an interest in the history of computing just wonderful. The other highlight was meeting Steve Wozniak. I had the great pleasure of spending a few hours segwaying with him when he visited New Zealand and then by coincidence later the same year we met again when were both speakers at the Turing Festival in Edinburgh. Woz really is a remarkable man and come to think of it I can imagine him working at Bletchley, had he been born earlier and in the UK of course.

Q: Has there been good feedback on the book?

A: Yes, I haven’t had a single professional review less than 4/5, so I can’t really complain about that and the reviews on Amazon from readers are also good. Obviously with a subject as large as this I had to make some tough decisions as to what was included and what was skipped over – I was writing a 350 page book, not an encyclopaedia. So certainly you might find that your favourite computer scientist or machine has been omitted but in general I think readers find there’s lots of information they weren’t already familiar with.

Q: Does all the activity and publicity last year for Turing’s centenary now mean everyone knows what he did?

A: I’d like to say yes, but actually I think that though many more people now know of Turing’s genius and certainly those who already had an interest in him know much more about him – most of the public still don’t. However, assuming the movie The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, actually gets made, which is looking very likely, and assuming its good, then that should really drag Turing out into the public domain once and for all.

Q: Where can people find out more about The Universal Machine?

A: I write a blog to support the book, which can be found at: http://universal-machine.blogspot.com There is a free sample chapter (click here for free chapter) available there formatted to read on a PC, iPad or Kindle. Amazon of course has the book and you can look inside some sample content there as well.

Q: Where can people find out more about you and how to connect with you?

A: You can find me at the following places:

Universal-Machine.blogspot.co.uk

Twitter 

Facebook

Google+ (includes more links to other places you can find me online)

 

Q: How do I buy the book?

A: Click the links below to the Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk links (these are affiliate links meaning Bletchley Park Research will earn a few coins from your purchase. It doesn’t affect the price you pay for the book).

The Universal Machine: From the Dawn of Computing to Digital Consciousness by Ian Watson at Amazon.co.uk

The Universal Machine: From the Dawn of Computing to Digital Consciousness by Ian Watson at Amazon.com

Kerry Howard Profile

The Bletchley Circle Series 2?

The Bletchley Circle Series 2I heard a little murmur on Twitter the other night. A murmur that suggests that there could be, wait for it….

The Bletchley Circle Series 2

I have been unable to find out more at this stage. I look at the website of the production company, World Productions, but there a no hints there about a possible second series. I might just drop them a line and ask..

I will see if I can find out more and keep you posted.

I enjoyed The Bletchley Circle series. You can read my review of Series 1 by clicking here.

The prospect of a second series made me think of potential story lines, well, a broad outline at best.

I would like to see a longer Bletchley Park in World War 2 flashback. So, perhaps the show starts in 1952 and the Circle women have a crime to solve that leads them back to Bletchley Park and the flashback reveals that something that happened in World War 2 is key to solving the crime.

Come on, more flashback, more Bletchley Park please!

Millie, Jean, Susan, Lucy

Millie, Jean, Susan, Lucy

 

What would you like to see happen in The Bletchley Circle Series 2? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear your ideas.

If you would like to know more about Bletchley Park Research and keep up to date with news about articles, books and new research, then please subscribe to the Bletchley Park Research newsletter and Download a free WW2 codebreaker’s letter.

Kerry Howard Profile

Codebreaker Jerry Roberts receives MBE Honours

 Bletchley Park codebreaker Raymond ‘Jerry’ Roberts has been appointed MBE in the 2012 New Year Honours

Raymond 'Jerry' RobertsThis morning Jerry Roberts, 92, tweeted that he is to receive the honour for ‘promoting Bletchley Park in the last 5 years. Not Wartime work.’  He still hopes that the whole team will one day be fully recognised.

Jerry Roberts told the BBC he and his wife, Mei are delighted by the honour:

“She is very pleased that something has come through; we both wish it could have been a bit more, not because we are fixed on titles, but just in gesture to those other guys – the Testery,” he said

“They did a brilliant job, we were breaking 90% of the German traffic through ’41 to ’45.

“We worked for three years on Tunny material and were breaking, at a conservative estimate, just under 64,000 top line messages.

“It was an exciting time because once you start getting a break on a message and seeing it through and getting it.”

Recruited to Bletchley Park in 1941 and became a senior linguist/cryptographer. He was one of four founder members of Ralph Tester’s code breaking unit the ‘Testery’. From July 1942 until the end of the war the team were responsible for making daily breaks into the German Army’s secret top-level Lorenz teleprinter cipher machine, given the cover name Tunny. The messages enciphered on this machine were often signed by Hitler.

At the end of the war Jerry served as a member of the War Crimes Investigation Unit where he worked until 1947. He then enjoyed a 50 year career in marketing and research.

For 10 years now Jerry has been instrumental in the campaign for greater recognition for Bletchley Park’s ‘Four Ts’ – the Testery, Turing, Tutte, and Tommy Flowers. Tommy Flowers designed Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer to aid the Testery. You can watch Jerry, who is one of the last surviving codebreakers talk about the Testery, the little recognised work of his colleague and the significant impact their work and that of Colossus had on the Second World War.

Earlier this year Jerry Roberts was part of the Turing’s 100th Birthday Party in the Park and  delivered the 2012 Annual Turing Lecture. His topic is Breaking Tunny in the Testery. You can listen to his lecture on the Bletchley Park Podcast (produced by www.bletchleypark.org) by clicking on the links below.

Click here to listen to Bletchley Park podcast Ep02 for the first part of Jerry Roberts lecture.

Click here to listen to Ep03, the second part of Jerry Roberts lecture on how Tunny was broken.

Well done, Jerry. I am not sure why you have not received this honour before now, and I am sure that your dedication and growing awareness will see to it that the Testery team are fully recognised in the annuls of history.

Kerry Howard Profile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Margaret Rock – Bletchley Park Codebreaker

I would like to introduce you to Margaret Rock, Bletchley Park Codebreaker.

 

Margaret RockMargaret Rock was one of Dilly’s girls as well as colleague and lifelong friend of Mavis Batey.

Margaret Rock has been a bit of an obsession for the last few months. After watching The Bletchley Circle I thought it would be nice to write an article about women codebreakers at Bletchley Park during World War 2. The idea for this article has propelled me into researcher’s heaven.

Literally, I am blown away by what I have found and what I am going to share with you in January 2013.

Margaret was a mathematician who appears to have been introduced to codebreaking by her Paratrooper brother, John Frank Rock. She was unassuming, avoided confrontation but had a quiet confidence and strong sense of independence. She and her brother were very close until his death in a gliding accident in 1942.

Google John and you will see he is a revered World War 2 hero. He was put in charge of the first British Paratrooper regiment and subsequently, Glider unit. He was an enthusiastic photographer, which means I have some amazing photographs to share. More about John Rock in a later post.

The letters these two fascinating people wrote to one another during World War 2 are a truly amazing find and I can’t wait to share them with you.

There is also a letter to Margaret Rock from Dilly Knox himself, just before he finds the solution for the German Abwehr Enigma cipher.

Dilly Knox, Margaret Rock

I’ve been frantically transcribing the letters which I will release as an e-book mid January 2013.

Shortly after I will launch an exclusive premium multi-media site that will share the research I have, which includes photographs (which are amazing), video and audio interviews, transcriptions and copies of original documents belonging to Margaret and those found in the National Archives. It will also chart the  research journey I take to learn more about Margaret and her family.

20% of the profit from the book of letters and extended material will go to the Bletchley Park Trust.

Margaret RockThe extended material will also go with my biography of this enigmatic woman.

I had wanted to keep this research under my hat until I was ready to launch, but then again, I’ve never been good at keeping secrets…

I hope you will join me and learn more about Margaret Rock and her brother John Rock. I can also introduce to the people who made this all possible.

To keep up to date with the launch details, please Subscribe to our newsletter

Bletchley Park Pigeon

Everyone did something for the war effort during World War 2 – every man, woman, child, carrier pigeon….

Sometimes its easy to forget that our friends in the animal kingdom had a part to play and a remarkable story that hit the news today illustrates that very fact. That story is about a coded message discovered in a red cylinder attached to the remains of a World War 2 carrier pigeon.

The pigeon, found in a chimney in Bletchingley, Surrey, kept its last secret for over 70 years until Mr David Martin ripped out the fireplace in his house as part of a renovation project.


The pigeon’s skeleton and the coded message it was carrying

 

During World War 2 Bletchley Park was home to a large covert operation where code breakers frantically worked to decipher messages on enemy cipher machines, such as the Enigma. It was also home to a classified pigeon loft, part of  the National Pigeon Service and is the place that experts believe the pigeon was returning to when it either lost its way or was too fatigued to continue.

A fascinating article in www.aboutmyarea.co.uk for the Milton Keynes area states:

The crack team of birds were a secret wing of the National Pigeon Service – which had a squadron of 250,000 birds during World War Two. This included some of the King George VI’s birds from the Royal Pigeon Loft on the Sandringham Estate. The military pigeons were dropped behind enemy lines from bombers, where upon resistance fighters picked them up, before releasing them homeward bound with top secret messages.

Colin Hill, a volunteer for the Royal Pigeon Racing Association and the curator of Bletchley Park’s ‘Pigeons at War’ exhibition, said: “We have more than 30 messages from WWII carrier pigeons in our exhibition, but not one is in code. The message Mr Martin found must be highly top secret. The aluminium ring found on the bird’s leg tells us it was born in 1940 and we know it’s an Allied Forces pigeon because of the red capsule it was carrying – but that’s all we know.

You can read the full article here.

All that is known about the message is that it was sent by Serjeant W. Stot. The use of the J in his signature indicates that he was an RAF airman rather than Army, who used ‘G’. We won’t know the meaning of the message until codebreakers at GCHQ are able to crack the message, which is made up of 27 blocks each containing 5 letters or numbers.

The article also reports that more than 60 animals received the Dicken Medal between 1943 and 1949, ‘including 18 dogs, three horses and one cat.’

Pigeoncameras

 

I find this totally apt for me as I embark on the first day of my children’s fiction début as part of the National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo. This fun project challenges novelists to write 50,000 words during the month of November.

Run by the charity, Office of Letters and Light, the project aims to ‘bring free creative writing programs to nearly 350,000 kids and adults in approximately 100 countries, 2,000 classrooms, 200 libraries, and 500 NaNoWriMo regions every year’ by raising funds from donations.

It’s described as a ‘creative revolution’ and I decided to write a story for children as a fun way to pass on the facts about Bletchley Park to my young son. Here’s the short introduction I’ve added to the NaNoWriMo site.

The Captain’s Cat

 

War. Everyone is doing their bit for the war effort. Even the animals.

 

Me? I’m not eating the pigeons for the war effort. I can’t tell you how hard that is.

 

My name’s Cap, short for The Captain’s Cat, and I’m at Bletchley Park, milling between the legs of the humans who are here to crack top secret codes. Like the humans I’m here for a reason – I’m here to catch a traitor.

 

It’s September 1941 and I have formed a reluctant alliance with the pigeons (the ones I’m not eating). They’re not just ‘any’ pigeons but an elite group of spies. Together we are hunting the Controller of our target. It is imperative that we find the human who is feeding intelligence to the enemy. 

 

Let’s go, it’s time to get the job done and help get this war ended.

 

Then I’m going to eat a tasty pigeon….

 

See, totally apt.

I’m not sure if my story will end up being any good and I don’t think I’ll hit the 50,000 words because of my non-fiction writing commitments. It doesn’t matter as I’m in it for the fun and educational entertainment for my son, who is showing a great interest in code breaking, the Enigma machine and the Bombe. We can talk about the story and the facts during out next visit to Bletchley Park and I can show him the Bletchley Park pigeon exhibit in Hut 8.

My fictional story aims be as factual as possible and give a key elements of the Bletchley Park story that can easily be identified on a visit to Bletchley Park. In this way I find the Bletchley Park pigeon story amusing because it seems that I have unwittingly (well, the cat part anyway) chosen animal protagonists that have a strong basis in fact.

I am also amused by the remarkable naming coincidence – the pigeon was found in Bletchingly, Surrey and was reputedly on its way to Bletchley, Buckinghamshire.

There has to be some story mileage in that, surely…

 

If you would like to keep up to date with my progress on The Captain’s Cat, or learn more about the more serious side of Bletchley Park Research and its contributors, please Subscribe to our newsletter.


GCHQ Apprenticeship is announced at Bletchley Park by William Hague

William HagueToday the new GCHQ Apprenticeship is announced at Bletchley Park by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary. To launch this innovative apprenticeship scheme Mr Hague will talk about the need for a future generation of codebreakers and praise those who worked at Bletchley Park during World War 2.

It is apt that the announcement is at Bletchley Park, the World War 2 home of the Government Code & Cypher School (GC&CS), which was later renamed to Government Code Headquarters (GCHQ) and is now based in Cheltenham. Another key reason for holding the event at Bletchley Park is because Mr Hague is able to announce £480,000 of Government funding for the Bletchley Park Trust, which will open up a further £5 million in funding

Traditionally the way into the Intelligence Services was by recruitment during University. However, during the World War 2 GC&CS at Bletchley Park recruited from a diverse range of backgrounds. Not everyone was an academic genius recruited from Oxford or Cambridge.

There were rich society girls who were recruited from family connections but also the diverse range of backgrounds of the women recruited from the services, the WRNS, WAAF and ATS and by the Foreign Office. Local Bletchley residents were also recruited in various roles and it’s this melting pot of skills and backgrounds that made Bletchley unique and successful.

This new GCHQ Apprenticeship will also be looking beyond background to find those that will best fit the organisation. It hopes to recruit and train applicants at a much younger age.

Based in Cheltenham, the two-year Higher Apprenticeship programme will be recruiting approximately 100 British students that, of September 2012, will be eighteen and have obtained three A levels, with at least two A levels in grades A-C in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. Salary starts at£17, 066.

GCHQ (photo from GCHQ website)

There will be a university delivered education, specific technical training and work based placements and projects. Students will get hands on experience building and maintaining some of the world’s most sophisticated electrical/electronic equipment. This work will help the ‘government can operate in cyber space with confidence and stay ahead of the swift pace demanded by the evolving digital world’.

Some of the subjects covered include,

  • Programming
  • ICT Infrastructure (computer systems, operating systems, hardware)
  • Information Assurance
  • Object Orientated Software design and development
  • Forensics and security (Linux and Windows systems)
  • Telecommunications
  • Web applications / internet protocols / databases

Students who successfully complete the GCHQ Apprenticeship leave with a foundation degree in communications Systems, Security and Computing and a level 4 diploma in IT Professional Competence.

IMPORTANT NOTE – the way for an applicant to instantly fail the recruitment drive is to post on Facebook or Twitter that they’ve applied!

If you’d like to know more about the application process (or be nosey like me) go to GCHQ recruitment page here.

Mr Hague also praises the work carried out at Bletchley Park during World War 2. A number of Bletchley Park veterans were present as were Bletchley Park Trustees. You can read the speech he gave at Bletchley Park here.

Charlotte Webb is one of the veterans invited to hear Mr Hague speak today. She has promised to write about her day for the Bletchley Park Research website.

2012 is a great year for Charlotte – she has also met the Queen and been on Celebrity Masterchef.

Charlotte was home schooled in rural Shropshire. She visited Germany in 1937 as part of a student exchange and experienced the Nazi regime first hand. It was her knowledge of German that took Charlotte from the ATS (Women’s Territorial Army) training camp to Bletchley Park in 1942, where she worked for Major Tester and then in the Japanese Section. It was here work in the Japanese Section that led Charlotte to the Pentagon after VE day to continue her work as war still raged in the Pacific.

You can read more about Charlotte’s journey here and buy a copy of her fascinating memoir, Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagonhere.

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