My Goals for 2017

Happy New Year!

To make sure this year is a productive year, I’ve made a detailed production plan, and I’m sharing my goals for 2017.

There is no denying that my writing and publishing plans during the last two years have not gone to plan. I am not going to lament over the frustrations and the wobbles of confidence. I am just going to put it all behind me and start 2017 full of optimism and new determination.

As part of that plan, I am setting out my goals for the year so that you know what to look forward to and so I can hold myself accountable for achieving those goals.

Women Codebreakers – The Story of Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever and Joan Clarke

This project is where I feel the slap of failure most but it also where I feel the intoxicated with excitement. I planned to release it two years ago in line with The Imitation Game film. Due to other unavoidable demands on my time I had to set it aside for about eighteen months. Exhausted and low that I couldn’t focus my attention where I wanted to, any attempt to pick up where I’d left off with Women Codebreakers failed.

Since the Autumn I have been feeling more like myself, especially when, at the end of November 2016, I made another discovery of Joan Clarke papers, which – oh my goodness – blows the Joan Clarke (later Murray) story wide open. After six hours of scanning and photographing, I have all the material I need to fill the gaps in Joan’s story and finally finish her part of the Women Codebreakers series. I am sharing some of the items I photographed in a post on Friday.

The Joan Clarke story has grown into a standalone title. Finishing it is the most important of my goals for 2017. I have created a ‘rigid’ timetable for January to weave the new material into the existing narrative. By rigid, I mean I-will-not-waver-from-my schedule-even-a-teeny-bit. I imagine I will be saying no to a lot during this period.

Women Codebreakers will become a 3-part series, starting with The Untold Story of Joan Clarke. I had already planned to release the Joan Clarke part of the book as a standalone ebook because I knew so many people wanted that part of the book as soon as possible. Now her story warrants a print and ebook.

That doesn’t mean that I am setting aside the Margaret Rock and Mavis Lever (later Batey) stories. They will follow with Margaret in March and Mavis in May 2017). Then, the three parts of the Women Codebreakers series will be available as a bundle at last.

Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park 1939 – 1945

The reissue of this resource book has been on the cards for a couple of years now. A PDF copy of the book is still for sale on Scribd. I will also make it available to buy on the Bletchley Park Research website during January 2017.

The text in the revised edition includes more background on each department, Hut and building on the Bletchley Park site to go with the numerical data charting the growth of Bletchley Park between 1939 and 1945. There is also about fifty new tables covering merchant shipping and Bomber Command.

Bletchley Park Family History

I get a lot of requests to help people find out more about their Bletchley Park relatives. I fail horribly at dealing with all the requests as my time is so limited. I love helping people discover more about their ancestor so I hate that I can’t do the research for all the requests.

I’ve considered offering my services as a paid consultant, but that solution doesn’t solve the time-is-limited issue. Besides, why should I have all the fun?

Anyone who has carried out family history research knows how much fun and addictive it is. The key is knowing what resources are available and where to find them. To help, I’ve decided to share my knowledge in a series of instructional videos and a workbook guiding you through the process of finding your Bletchley Park relative.

Hey presto! I can help everyone without time being an issue, and you get to join in the research fun too.

While the target audience for video series is anyone with a Bletchley Park relative, the skills I teach are transferable so you can use them to learn more about other ancestors as well.

I will write about this again towards the end of January and will include an online survey with questions to help me tailor the video content to suit your needs. There will also be a link to a BP family history Facebook group so we can share stories, tips and encouragement.

You can email me now if you would like me to send you a link to the survey or Facebook group as soon as it’s reading finding out about your Bletchley Park relative.

Email Address

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.ukWebsite Revamp and Book Reviews

I plan to revamp the Bletchley Park Research website. The main difference will be the front page, which will hold direct links to areas of the website.

These areas will include the blog, a new section dedicated to books and book reviews, a section of family history resources, existing and new research articles, podcast (see below) and videos. I will post a new blog post once a week, sharing more of my research finds.

 

Podcast & Research Videos

Podcast – I have a collection of audio interviews that I have done for the official Bletchley Park Podcast and other interviews for my research. I will be creating a dedicated section on the website to share the podcast episodes I have contributed to and those I upload to my RetroResearcher page on Audioboom. I will make the episodes available on iTunes just as soon as I know how.

Videos – I will be making some documentary style videos starting with The Untold Story of Joan Clarke, which will go with the book. I have video recordings that need a home, including one with author Michael Smith which has been dormant on my hard drive for several years. It’s time to share these research gems. After all, the aim of Bletchley Park Research is to share my research!

Fiction

I have two novels that are within polishing distance and beta reading of releasing into the world. The Milliner’s Spy is another long overdue project. Set in a hat shop in London during the Second World War, The Milliner’s Spy is an espionage romance. Love at Victory Teas Café is a modern romance set in a fictional village and has a Bletchley Park in wartime back story. Both books are delicious indulgences into my imagination and just need a little push of confidence to get them over the start line.

Women of Bletchley Park Event

Celebrating Bletchley Park

Charlotte (Betty) Webb, MBE

Some of you know that I am good friends with Bletchley Park veteran Charlotte (Betty) Webb. We live about 10 miles apart and see each other regularly. Our friendship developed during the many interviews we did in preparation for her book Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon.

Over Christmas, we have hatched a plan to deliver two public talks together in the Worcestershire area. I will talk about Joan Clarke then Betty, as the star attraction, will share her memories of life at Bletchley Park.

We’re still in the planning phase, so I will keep you posted about the plans, venue and prices. Sign up to the Bletchley Park Research email list to make sure to receive the news as soon as it is announced.

The Schedule

I have scheduled each project on the calendar to accomplish these goals. It looks ambitious, but most of the projects listed in progress and they need dedicated blocks of time to get them finished. To get the projects to the finish line, I’ve created a rigid schedule that creates routine into my working week. Let me explain why.

Routine works.

Last year I started running (in my case plodding) one morning every week with a couch to 5k program at the local sports centre. I still go out at the same time even though the program has ended. Running has become a habit that I do whatever the weather and whatever my mood.

The running routine has led to a light bulb moment.  I just need to stop writing around the edges of life and use the same unwavering routine I have for my running in my writing life. Hence, I’ve created an annual plan and broken that down into a detailed schedule for each month, week, and day.

By the end of year, I will review my goals for 2017 to see what worked and what didn’t. I hope you join me in January 2018 as I share the results of that review here.

Thanks to everyone who has cheered me on with understanding and words of encouragement.

Have you set any goals for 2017?

Codebreaker Potential

Codebreaker Potential

I am off to Inspirefest 2015 to talk about Women Codebreakers. I thought I would share with you a sneak peek at the ‘codebreaker potential’ slides I will be using at my talk on Thursday morning at 10.10am in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin.

It’s not too late to buy a ticket for the event. It’s bubbling with inspirational speakers I can’t wait to hear speak and there’s a fabulous line up at the Fringe festival. I am particularly looking forward to watching Codebreaker film that fuses documentary and fictional drama to tell the story of Alan Turing.

There is also Computers, a documentary about the six pioneering ENIAC computer programmers’ story as told in their own words. This short file includes with never-before-seen interviews and long-lost 1940s film. Mix that with live music, documentaries, debate and good weather (please) and we’re in for a fabulous event.

I had the pleasure of attending the media launch for Inspirefest 2015 in April 2015. You can read about it here.

Women Codebreakers at Inspire 2015

Inspire 2015

I have the pleasure of announcing that in June I’ll be speaking about the Women Codebreakers of Bletchley Park at Inspire 2015 in Dublin.

Inspire 2015 is a two-day international event at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin. The event ‘connects professionals interested in the future of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with new perspectives on innovation, leadership and success. These perspectives are shared by inspirational women who are leaders in their field, and by advocates of meaningful diversity in education, research, business and society.’

I have Dr Sue Black to thank for putting my name forward. I am both excited and intimidated – have you seen the caliber of the other speakers? Check out the event at inspirefest2015.com.

It’s the biggest event I have ever spoken at but I try to settle the butterflies by focusing on the fact that it’s a great opportunity to meet inspirational women of our time while sharing the stories of inspirational women of the past.

I will talk about women like Joan Clarke, Margaret Rock and Mavis Lever who worked as senior codebreakers as well as the thousands of women who worked in every area of the Government Code and Cypher School’s codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park during World War 2. That’s a lot of inspiration!

Inspire 2015 is organised by Siliconrepublic.com, Europe’s leading technology and innovation news service. Silicon Republic was named Best Science & Technology Website 2013 at the Realex Irish Web Awards, and Best Technology Website for six years in a row at the Realex Irish Web Awards (2008 – 2013). They also run the highly regarded Women Invent Tomorrow campaign with  industry partners Intel, Accenture, ESB, Twitter, Irish Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland and CoderDojo, to champion role models in the crucial areas of science, technology, engineering and maths.

I will share more details as they become available.

#inspirefest2015.com

Decoding the past at Bletchley Park – an interview

J.Lynn Stapleton's interview with Kerry Howard at http://celtic-dragon.me/
16 December 2014

Bletchley Park ResearchHappy New Year.

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

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

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

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

Warmest Wishes

Kerry

Bremont Codebreaker Watch Launch

Bremont Codebreaker Watch Launch and Kerry Howard interviewed  on The Bletchley Park Podcast.

Bremont Codebreaker watch

Bremont Codebreaker watch

At the end of June I attended the launch of Bremont watches fabulous looking Codebreaker watch. You can find out about Bremont and how the Codebreaker watch has bits of wood from Hut 6 inside as well as pieces of punch cards are inside each watch.

This now has some archaeologists questioning Bletchley’s decision to give pieces of this heritage site to the project. Part of the proceeds from the sale of each limited edition Codebreaker watch will be donated to Bletchley Park to further fund restoration.  The New York Times cover the argument in today’s issue. You can read the full New York Times article here.

I applaud Bletchley and Bremont’s innovative approach to raising money allowing purchasers to have a little piece of Bletchley Park history to keep. Of course the watches aren’t cheap so that piece of history will set you back a bit!

Iain Standen, CEO of Bletchley Park, Churchill and Bremont owners Nick & Giles English

Iain Standen, CEO of Bletchley Park, Churchill and Bremont owners Nick & Giles English

While at the Bremont launch I was interviewed for The Bletchley Park Podcast about my Margaret Rock research, the freedom the digital ages gives us for sharing untold stories about Bletchley Park and the end of an era in handwritten personal papers. I am nestled in the middle of the real stars of the podcast episode, Sir Arthur Bonsall and Maggie Philbin.

The Bletchley Podcast Team interviewing Bletchley veteran, Jean Valentine

The Bletchley Podcast Team interviewing Bletchley veteran, Jean Valentine

Former Bletchley Park Code Breaker & Director of GCHQ, Sir Arthur Bonsall, explains why there was a stone for Winston Churchill to stand on when he visited in 1941.

Science & technology presenter Maggie Philbin talks about Bletchley Park, her mother’s wartime work & the legacy that war brings to modern technology.

My interview starts at about the 16 minute mark and lasts about 7 minutes. I think you get a sense of my passion for Bletchley Park and research, also for my love of using the word ‘and’!

Dear Codebreaker is available to buy

Dear Code Breaker Margaret RockGreat News – The print book of Dear Codebreaker is available to buy on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For those in the UK you can buy a signed copy.

Find out more here, with links to all your purchasing needs.

The book has actually been available since the beginning of August, but I’ve still lots of work to do on the bonus website so I have not really promoted the book to give me more time to sort some of the technical issues.

The website works fine and there is some content there but the main purpose of www.dearcodebreaker.com is Dear Code Breaker book coverto offer copies of the original letters and photographs in zoomable format. Unfortunately there are a few problems getting the zoomable software to work.

The bonus website is an evolution, with regular updates of more content but I wanted there to be more of the original letters from the start.

However, never fear, it does not detract from your enjoyment of the book or from how proud I am of it. It looks great, reads great and I’m getting some brilliant feedback from readers. It is such a wonderful insight into two lives, especially during World War 2.

DC BACK coverThe ebook version (mobi & epub) will be available in about a week. Watch this space.

There is a special gift coming soon for those on my email list. Want to know what it is? Sign up for the Bletchley Park Research Newsletter to find out!

Have you read your copy of Dear Codebreaker? What do you think?

Remember to leave a review on Amazon and GoodReads if you can.

Dear Code Breaker Delayed

Dear Code Breaker publication is delayed

Dear Code Breaker Margaret RockIt is never good to put off anything. Especially when you’ve announced a specific date of delivery to the world.

Unfortunately, I am not yet happy to release Dear Code Breaker just yet. Now that it’s finished I have realised that I need to make minor, but important changes to add to the reader’s enjoyment.

Also, I’ve decided to upgrade the photographs and original letters on the website so that they are zoomable. This involves converting hundreds of images into a specific format required by the software. It really is a worthwhile exercise, especially when trying to read some of the original letters!

Pulling a launch is never an easy decision to make. It’s made more difficult by the fact that the release of Dear Code Breaker was a present to myself on my 40th Birthday. Instead, I’ve given myself the present of disappointment, and much more work to do……

To ease your wait, I will be posting a video introduction to the book next Tuesday (16th July 2013). It will introduce Margaret and John Rock, the research, and of course, the photographs and letters.

Dear Code Breaker

I hope you are not too disappointed by the extra wait. The 1st of August is not that far away.

I will keep you posted.

Best Wishes

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

Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park 1939-1945

I’ve been receiving some requests and orders for copies of Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park 1939 – 1945 by yours truly and John Gallehawk.

It’s been painful to have to say the book is now sold out and I am not reprinting further copies until the revised and improved edition is released.

For those keen to still get a copy, I know that the Bletchley Park bookshop have the last few copies on their bookshelves. You can buy a copy here.

The data in Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park is totally sound and unique but I want to improve the text and the layout.

Let me tell you a bit more about the book.

It is a book mostly made up of tables taken from the official weekly returns taken between March 1941 and August 1945. It covers data for men and women civilian and service personnel, their accommodation, billeting arrangement, their eating habits, transport arrangements as well as figures for their departments and some work output.

The information covers figures for the Government Code and Cypher School operation and the Secret Intelligence Service at Bletchley Park and Broadway Buildings, London. There is also figures for the Outstations, such as Wavendon and Eastcote.

It took a year to compile to the data from the official wartime records held at The National Archives, and nearly as long to reproduce that data in tables and charts, then check and double-check to make sure the data was accurately recorded.

The book is mostly tables and it’s amazing to see the story of Bletchley Park unfold through the numbers. Those numbers really do the talking! However, I have decided to revamp it as John and I produced it as a book with speed in 2007 so that it could be ready for the 2007 Veteran’s Reunion weekend.

My knowledge and love of publishing has changed dramatically since then and I now have the pleasure of publishing other books about Bletchley Park and related World War 2 signals intelligence subjects at www.booktowerpublshing.co.uk. I have temporarily taken Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park out of print so that I can improve the text that accompanies the tables, correct some minor formatting errors and improve its layout.

I am also experimenting with a series of infographics to go with chapters so that those fascinating numbers have increased visual impact too.

As I overhaul the book, I will be reissuing related sections as eBooks and then producing a compilation of those sections once again as a printed book. I am experimenting with how best to present a book of tables compatible with Amazon’s Kindle, which historically has issues with presenting tables and images effectively. In the meantime there will be and EPub format for other devices as well as a PDF version for Scribd and this website.

I apologise for those keen to get their hands on a copy of this book. Rest assured that the next edition will be worth the wait. Thank you for your patience.

 


How to get the Secret Intelligence Service to talk

I’ve been trying to solve this enigma – How to get the Secret Intelligence Service to talk. Clearly simply writing to it with a request for information is not the answer as I’ve already tried that. Twice.

You may not be surprised to find that they have not granted me access to information about Captain Ridley’s World War 2 employment with the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), which is more commonly known as MI6. I wasn’t particularly surprised but I have to say, I was disappointed not to have my letters acknowledged or a formal decline to provide the information on the grounds of national security (which I secretly think would have been exciting in itself).

When you think of the Secret Intelligence Service, you probably think about James Bond’s MI6, high-octane action, dashing agents and lovely Bond Girls. According to the historian of the first ever official history of the Service, Professor Keith Jeffery, the start of the Service was a much more understated affair. After his first day the newly appointed Chief, Mansfield Cumming, wrote in his diary,

‘Went to the office and remained all day, but saw no one, nor was there anything to do there.’ 

Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming

The Secret Intelligence Service was created in 1909 as the Foreign Section of a new Secret Service Bureau. Captain Mansfield Cumming was offered the post as Chief of the Service on 10 August 1909 by Admiral Alexander Bethell (Director of Naval Intelligence) and continued to drive the service forward through political insecurities and inter-departmental reshuffling until he was succeeded by Admiral Hugh Sinclair in 1923. Admiral Sinclair, as head of the Secret Intelligence Service and the Government Code & Cypher School, set up the now famous codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park during World War 2.

Professor Jeffery’s extensively researched book:MI6:The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949 makes for fascinating reading. I have a hard copy of this hefty book and the e-book, as I easier to read on my Kindle. The paperback shown here is also easier to handle.

The book covers the beginnings of the Service to 1949, the ‘watershed’ of the Service and its ‘move to Cold War targets and techniques’, whereby data from that time remains too sensitive to release into the public domain. Professor Jeffery considers that it is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime achievement (and privilege)’ for him to write the history of a Service that remained unacknowledged by the British Government until it was given a formal legal basis in the Intelligence Services Act 1994.

The modern remit of the Secret Intelligence Service is as an intelligence organisation ‘tasked by the British Government to collect intelligence world-wide in support of its security, defence, foreign and economic policies’. It is ‘primarily responsible for gathering intelligence outside of the UK…’ This differs from The Security Service (MI5) which is responsible for ‘protecting the UK, its citizens and interests, at home and overseas, against major threats to government security.’

The Secret Intelligence Service, like other security agencies, is exempt from the legal requirement under the Public Records Act of 1958, which requires government authorities to transfer records to The National Archives. The reason is obvious – there cannot be a situation where the release of documents shows how and who carries out important work designed to protect our nation.

Despite this exemption MI5 and GCHQ have placed some of the records in the National Archives and our understanding of the history of intelligence services is richer for it. Even the Secret Intelligence Service recognises the importance that publicly held records have in preserving our past. Consequently it has released Special Operation Executive (SOE) papers into the public domain. These have proved popular with researchers searching for interesting stories within their family history and writers exploring the dramatic exploits of our agents who were dropped into enemy territories during World War 2. With this exception the service continues with an unwavering policy of non disclosure about the identities of former staff or agents.

End of story?

Well, not quite. Something I read in Professor Jeffery’s book gave me a glimmer of hope that I may get the information I need. Maybe, just maybe I could get access to information about Captain Ridley by basing my request on the Secret Service’s own policy of disclosure which was set out for Professor Jeffery’s book.

That glimmer of hope I just mentioned is nestled as a neat, provocative disclaimer written in small letters at the beginning of the weighty tome…

‘SIS does not disclose the names of agents or of living members of staff and only in exceptional circumstances agrees to waive the anonymity of deceased staff. Exceptionally and in recognition of the Service’s aim in publishing the history it has been agreed that there is an overriding justification for making public, within the constraints of what the law permits, some information which ordinarily would be protected.
However, SIS’s policy has not restricted the occasional official release of some Service material – we have previously authorised a limited release of SIS information for other biographies of important intelligence figures.’ quoted from MI6 The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909 – 1949 by Professor Keith Jeffery

A set of principles for the disclosure of information for the book was devised, of which part is shown below but the complete version can be found at the official website for SIS. Click here to view.

‘1) The publication of MI6: A History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949 is an important milestone for SIS. By giving Professor Keith Jeffery unrestricted access to our archive for the period, we have enabled him to explain the history of the Service’s origins, activities and role in government. Our aim has been to improve public understanding of how and why we act in support of the United Kingdom’s vital interests and carry out our statutory functions.

2) Fulfilling this aim has required SIS to allow Keith Jeffery to disclose in the History information hitherto kept secret. In so doing we have been careful neither to compromise national security, nor undermine the Government’s policy of neither confirming nor denying matters of intelligence interest (NCND). This policy and the protection of national security have been the foundation for the Service’s consideration of what information could or could not be disclosed in the History.

3) The matters which exceptionally are disclosed in the History may be categorised as follows:

SIS staff

4) SIS will neither confirm nor deny the names of serving or former officers during their lifetimes, with the exception of C, whose name is announced publicly on appointment. The strong presumption is that this policy continues to apply after the death of an officer or former officer.

5) SIS has allowed Keith Jeffery to include in the History the names of a number of officers, who were members of the Service between 1909-1949 where:

  • SIS judges that individual officers serving between 1909-1949 filled roles of sufficient seniority and thus would usually have been known as SIS officers to a range of British or foreign officials outside the intelligence community, or
  • The name of an individual officer serving between 1909 and 1949 has already appeared in an official or approved history or been released to an official archive.’

There it is in print – the Secret Intelligence Service had released information in the past for other biographies. Captain Ridley fits the criteria for disclosure in that his name is in the public domain, he is identified in most books about Bletchley Park as a member of Secret Intelligence Service personnel. He is also recorded in primary sources that are official government documents from World War 2 that are held in the National Archives. Also, Captain Ridley’s role within the Service appears to be mostly administrative. Surely releasing information about him is unlikely to breach the ongoing operational or political sensibilities? The benefit of releasing information would only add to a greater understanding of those early days at Bletchley Park.

Surely? I felt confident that my request would be viewed favourably. So I wrote to this notoriously tight-lipped source. You have to write, there is no email address listed. I waited and waited. No response. So I wrote again – perhaps it didn’t arrive. Maybe I needed to address my letter to the archives. Still no response!  If I had a reply, I would know where I stood.

A fellow researcher surmised that I should have been more specific about the information I wanted. Provide a list of questions that gave a clear basis for providing the information. Good suggestion and after reviewing the letters I had sent, I accept they are a bit sweeping. If you have any suggestions or tips then get in touch, I’d like to hear them.

So here I am, no closer to answering the question of How to get the Secret Intelligence Service to talk. I don’t think I am asking for the world, but perhaps an unwanted precedent will be set if the Secret Intelligence Service releases information to me. The last thing it wants, or needs, when there are more important things demanding its resources, is a torrent of requests for information from people like me.

Shall I leave it here and accept that part of the career of the man whose name is now synonymous with the first occupation of Bletchley Park in 1938 will remain its own sort of enigma.

You know what I may just try again.

 

RELATED LINKS

If you would like to listen to a BBC programme about MI6, click here.

You can learn more about more about the previous Chiefs of the Secret Intelligence Service on the SIS website here.


Subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about Bletchley Park Research and my forthcoming book, Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party.

How I discovered Bletchley Park

Every spark of inspiration has a start point. It is often the case that the start point is forgotten or becomes a mere blur of memory, especially as at the time it was nothing more than the rough outline of an idea. The true significance of the inspiration is often not realised until much later. This is true of many of my moments of inspiration but there are a few that I remember exactly, and how I discovered Bletchley Park is one of them.

It was exactly September 1995..

I know this because it is the month and year that Enigma by Robert Harris was first published and my copy is a first edition.

I was browsing in my local WHSmith bookstore, which was the only bookstore in my town at the time. I remember taking the hardback book off the shelf and bought it without even reading the blurb. All that mattered was that it was by Robert Harris and I had devoured his previous book, Fatherland.

I read Enigma in a few days. I was totally fascinated by the idea that somewhere like Bletchley Park had existed during World War 2. I had to find out more, I had to visit and I wanted to be part of it.

The date I first visited is completely lost in time and I have little memory of the process I undertook to finally decide to become a volunteer. It must have been 1999 or 2000 that I first started driving to Bletchley Park every other Sunday. I started as a room attendant and moved to the Archives, where I met John Gallehawk.  I spent my time cataloguing photographs and documents.

For reasons I won’t go into here, I had to stop travelling down after about a year but carried on working for the Archives remotely.  I then began working on a project independent of Bletchley Park with John Gallehawk, which drifted along as my career changed and my family grew. Eventually we quickly cobbled together the research into a book of tables called Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park 1939 – 1945. It was produced quickly to be ready for the Veteran Reunion weekend of September 2007.

I look at the book now and can recall my sense of pride but I can also see all the mistakes and lack of publishing experience. It was such a learning curve and finding all the information was time consuming. It was at a time that self-publishing was still a dirty word and unlike today, there was not the mass explosion of information, resources and service providers to help a newbie at publishing their work (well, there were those shady vanity publishers demanding thousands of pounds).

Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park is now undergoing a revision to develop the text and regularise some of the formatting quirks. As each chapter is revised I will publish it as an ebook. To me, it is still the best book ever because it became a significant spark of inspiration in itself.

9780955716409

From Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park came BookTower Publishing and a desire to research, write and publish more about Bletchley Park. BookTower Publishing is a small independent publisher of local history books. The focus of its launch is, you guessed it, Bletchley Park, but as my day job is researching local history with a view to investigate the existence of public rights of way, I want to help bring relevant stories about local communities into the public domain. Things are progressing nicely and I have been fortunate to be able to assist other Bletchley Park writers to publish their work and have several new projects in the pipeline.

I am also writing my new book about the first occupation of Bletchley Park and the man behind the cover name, Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party. It’s been an ongoing project for a long time. but watch this space.

The Bletchley Park Research Blog is also part of this journey. It is a place I want to share my research and bring it to others with an interest in the Government Code and Cypher School’s codebreaking operation during World War 2. I want other like-minded people to contribute so that we can develop a community of researchers and research.

The project is in its infancy but I find that I don’t want this site to be a beautifully polished blog from the outset; I want it to evolve, change, grow and be a real extension of how I develop into the project.

Who knows what new sparks of inspiration may come of it…

Vera Constance Ridley

While researching Captain Ridley for my forthcoming book ‘Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party‘ I have come across reference to his wife, Vera Constance Ridley. It appears that she was also helping out at Bletchley Park during World War 2.

At the time war broke out Vera Constance Ridley (nee Walker) would have been approximately 55 years old and had been married to William Henry Wake Ridley since 1913. I know that she was beautiful and spirited with a great sense of humour, as did her husband.

The quote about Vera Constance Ridley can be found in ‘Bletchley Park People‘ by Marion Hill.

Unfortunately, because of the way the author has created a composite picture of life at Bletchley Park using quotes from hundreds of people who worked on the site, she has opted to list all contributors at the back of the book rather than put a name to each individual quote. This means that, at the moment, I do not know who described the formidable Mrs Ridley as follows:

Mrs Ridley was the wife of Capt. Ridley in admin – a formidable personality…She acquired tables and chairs, cups, saucers, an urn and a permit for milk and sugar. She conscripted fellow naval wives as helpers and opened the Coffee Hut. She would pour out the coffee, add the milk and then look fiercely at one and say, Sugar! At first I said, Yes please, then my nerve failed me… I’ve never taken sugar in coffee since.”

 

I have looked on Bletchley Park’s Roll of Honour and Vera Constance Ridley is not listed. Looks like we have another name to add to the list..

Bletchley Park Research writing progress

It’s half term. I’m off work for some family time but it also gives me some much needed time to work on the much needed content for the Bletchley Park Research blog and also to work on the book ‘Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party’. To achieve this I’m dividing the day into early morning writing time before the the household is up and demanding my attention.

While working on Hitler’s Codebreakers by John Jackson, which I’ve published under my independent publishing company BookTower Publishing, I’ve fallen into the habit of working in those quiet early hours when it is just me and the cats padding around the house. The light mornings make it easy. I’m not sure this plan will succeed during the winter months.

I’ve found a great writing tool – Scrivener.

Its primary aim is to help fiction writers structure their work. There is non-fiction elements but I find that I can still work with my non-fiction material in the main novel structure. That’s probably more to do with my novice status rather than the capabilities of the software. I work visually so the presentation of chapters on a cork board is brilliant for me. I like the way I can drag and drop the chapters around the cork board to find the ideal chapter order. I’ve been able to import my existing text for Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party and I can also include all my research within the application so everything is to hand. I’m using the free trial at the moment but will be sure to buy this usual writing tool.

So, I’ve set myself some serious goals for the next 2 weeks and I will share the Bletchley Park Research writing progress here. You will also have more factual content to read as I share my research finding about this fascinating subject.

How do you fit your hobbies into your day?

A historic pub crawl

I have been catching up on my face-book & twitter pages this eve and then its on to preparing for my pub crawl. Unfortunately, it’s not a boozy event but a slightly stalker-esque visit to the pubs and hotels used as billets during the early occupations of Bletchley Park.

I found myself in The White Hart in Buckingham a few weeks ago. It’s one on my list. I was viewed strangely by the customers as I wondered around taking pictures in a slightly excitable state. No doubt I will receive equally odd looks this weekend in Leighton Buzzard…

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Bletchley update – it’s been awhile

I haven’t posted for awhile but that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle. With so many balls in the air, my blog has faltered in its infancy. Still it’s time to tell you I’ve been writing, editing, designing, formatting, pulling-my-hair-out, researching, doing the day job, reading, forming contacts, failing to get responses from contacts, more writing, researching, talking, dreaming and, when I can, sleeping.

Oh, and Christmas revolutionised my  life. My Kindle – it was love at first site and has already become my No.1 research plaything and my physical bookshelves can heave a sigh of relief. As the queen of post-it notes, I now can do mark items of interest digitally too.

My book, Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party is still progressing – albeit slower than I had hoped. It contains exciting new research and will be in the public domain by the end of 2012.

John Jackson’s book ‘Hitler’s Codebreakers’ is much more advanced and is out 20 March 2012. My new independent publishing label BookTower Publishing is fortunate to have John’s expertise work to add to its list. The e-book version for Kindle should follow shortly after. All in all, 2012 promises to be a big year with excellent  books  to be published; finally bringing my Bletchley Park Research project into the public domain as well completing my book.

Hitler's Codebreakers

A Good Place to Start….

So this is the start – the start of a very public journey into researching, writing and publishing about Bletchley Park.

It’s my goal to encourage other researchers to unearth their papers and notes that would otherwise remain hidden in paper and electronic filing systems. I want to encourage all Bletchley Park researchers to share, exchange and even sell their data.

free the filing

My website bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk is still under construction (it will be available soon, honest) but will invite others to contribute to the public’s knowledge of the Government Code & Cypher School’s code breaking operations at Bletchley Park during World War 2.

This project is in its infancy, as is my knowledge of blogging, but I’m going to share the journey with you, I hope someone wants to follow…