Jean Valentine and the Bombe

Bletchley Park veteran Jean Valentine demonstrates the Turing/Welchman Bombe

In 2013, Bletchley Park veteran Jean Valentine featured in a short 5-minute video where she gives a demonstration of the machine she worked on during the Second World War.

In a memoir published on her Bletchley Park Roll of Honour Page, Jean recalls:

I joined the WRNS in 1943 in a fit of pique because my application to join the WAAF as an MT driver had been turned down! How wise they were and how stupid I was to think that my little height and leg reach would have been of any useful purpose for driving anything but a saloon car!”

Bletchley Park was not put off by Jean’s stature, even though Bombe operators were supposed to be above a certain height. In the video, Jean explains the simple solution she used to give her a bit more reach.

Jean Rooke (née Valentine) 2015

Jean Valentine (later Rooke) spent time working on the Bombe machines in Hut 11a at Bletchley Park and Adstock, a small outstation located 3 miles south-east of Buckingham. Over 2,000 personnel – mostly women – worked in shifts in Hut 11a, whereas about 60 worked at Adstock.

Later in the war, Jean attended a course on Japanese codes and cyphers before departing for overseas service in Colombo (the capital of Sri Lanka), where she met and married Clive Rooke.

Read more about the Enigma-busting Bombe machine here.

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.

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.

Sir Brian Tovey’s letter to Joan Clarke

Joan Clarke's retirement letter from GCHQ

Following the sad news of the death of Sir Brian Tovey at the end of December 2015, I thought I would share his letter to Joan Murray (née Joan Clarke) following her official retirement from full-time employment at GCHQ in 1982.

Sir Brian Tovey joined GCHQ’s fast stream in 1950 but was posted to an integrated post in the Defence Signals Bureau (DSB) in Melbourne from 1951 to 1953. On his return, he worked on the Soviet target and on planning for the development of GCHQ’s intercept sites.  He went back to the Far East in 1964 as GCHQ’s representative to the military in Singapore, and then became GCHQ’s liaison officer in DSB.  On his return to the UK, after leading a major Soviet reporting branch, he was promoted Assistant Secretary, heading the Planning Staff from 1970-1973, and the Communications Security Policy Division from 1973-1975.

He became a Superintending Director on promotion to Under Secretary in 1975, and was the Director of CESG, the part of GCHQ responsible for protecting the security of British governmental communications.  On the retirement of Sir Bill Bonsall, he was appointed as Director GCHQ in June 1978.  He retired on 30 September 1983.”

Quoted text from the GCHQ Press Release 31 December 2015

Joan Clarke re-joined GCHQ in 1962 and retired from her ‘Principal’ post on 31 August 1977. She was sixty years old but she was not ready to leave her codebreaking life behind and was re-employed the day after her retirement as a ‘Clerical Officer in H Division,’ where she continued to work for five years.

JELC-Retirement Letter

In 1982, while a secretary placed the neatly typed retirement letter addressed to ‘Mrs J E L Murray’ and waited for Sir Brian Tovey to add his signature, Joan was still at GCHQ to carry out a two-month ‘part-time appointment as a re-employed Civil Servant’, commencing 1 July 1982. Her employment contract specified a minimum of eighteen hours a week for a period of two months and paid at an hourly rate of £3.33. She finally left GCHQ on 31 August 1982, well until April 1985 anyway…..

 

IMAGE ATTRIBUTION:

If you wish to share the image, do not alter the image and you must include the following attribution as well as link to this page. Thank you:

‘This letter from Brian Tovey to Joan Clarke (Murray) dated 2 July 1982 is reproduced with the kind permission of the Clarke family via www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk’.

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.

Have you seen this photograph of Joan Clarke from1936?

As we draw closer to the publication of Women Codebreakers, I wanted to share a previously unseen photograph of Joan Clarke (later Murray). More photographs as well as her letters and notes also feature in the book.

It was taken in 1936, the year she matriculated to Newnham College, Cambridge to study mathematics.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

Joan Clarke (Murray) 1936

The book will definitely be out next week. Keep your eye on Amazon, or better still, sign up to the Bletchley Park Research Newsletter and I’ll drop you an email with the date. I will talk about the delays once it’s finally out.

Please feel free to share the photograph of Joan so we can all get to know her, but I ask that you also link back to this post or to http://www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk/research-notes/women-codebreakers/.

women codebreakers, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

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

Waiting for Joan Clarke

Joan_Clarke_Murray_WW2_Horizon_1992The last week has been hectic and very exciting. I’ve worked hard on the planned launch of ‘Women Codebreakers – The Story of Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever and Joan Clarke’. The relatives of Margaret and Mavis have been fantastic with their support. But something very exciting has happened.

I’ve had an exciting breakthrough and finally made contact with Joan’s family.

In the last few days I have interviewed two relatives who have been amazingly helpful. Joan’s niece, who I interviewed yesterday is sending some photographs. I am hopeful that I’ll be able to speak to another nephew over the next few days.

The result of the interviews is an added depth and richness to my understanding of Joan Clarke. I had been able to peek under the curtains of the past, dig under the stones of related material to build a picture of Joan’s life for the book. So when I set the date for publication I had a story of Joan utilising facts from published work as well as new information I have obtained from the family history research and interviews. But finally speaking to family has blown that out of the water in the way that only personal detail can.

It explains the reasons behind Joan’s shyness as well as an insight into her quirks, relationships and passions. I now need to finish weaving these details into the existing narrative of the book so readers can understand the real Joan Clarke too. It also means reformatting the eBook ready for launch.

For anyone who has pre-ordered the book that launch date was today. I’ve agonised over what to do – do I release what I have today on the day of The Imitation Game’s release in the US and do a later update, or do wait so that I can have Joan’s full story in the book from the start? I’ve changed my mind a million times, left it to the last minute but I’ve finally decided….

I’ve decided that the real Joan Clarke is worth waiting for.

This means the book isn’t going to be available today as planned. This is painful to say as it will disappoint, and possibly alienate people who are expecting the book today. But I think I will be short-changing them when I know I can offer more in light of the family interviews.

It’s all well and good that I work through the ‘eleventh hour and three quarters’ to get it finished (we’ve all been there before – I know I have), but I need to give Joan’s family time to revisit the memories of Joan as they go through papers and photographs to send over. The book will be better for it.

At this point I am going to delay the book by just over a week, so it will be the 7th December. I hope to get some of the photographs by then.

For those eagerly waiting to read it – I am very sorry and I hope you understand. Your support in this is much appreciated. I love the hunt of the research, but you can never tell when something special turns up. These last few days have been very special and I want to do justice to the new information so that this tribute to three inspirational women is the best it can be.

 

Photograph at the top of the page is taken from the 1992 Horizon programme ‘The Strange Life and Death of Dr.Turing’. Reproduced from the programme with the kind permission of its director, Christopher Sykes.

Who Was The Real Joan Clarke?

The Imitation Game: Who Was The Real Joan Clarke? by Mary-Ann Russon, International Business Times UK
14 November 2014

On the day The Imitation Game was released in the UK to much media attention Mary-Ann Russon from the International Business Times UK takes a look over Alan Turing’s shoulder and shines a well-deserved light on the real Joan Clarke.

Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever & Joan Clarke

Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park
Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever & Joan Clarke

You can read more about Joan and the other women codebreakers here.

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.

New Women Codebreakers Book Cover and Limited Pre-Order Pricing

women codebreakers, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.ukI am very excited to share with you the smashing cover for the Women Codebreakers of Bletchley Park book cover. Designed by the fabulous Mark Stephenson at Launch Creative, the cover is everything I hoped for.

Mark transformed my idea of a wartime propaganda style poster bringing together the images of Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever and Joan Clarke brilliantly. It’s eye-catching and fun with a little nod to an era of hand coloured photographs.

I actually felt emotional when I saw it.

My plan to launch in line with the release of The Imitation Game didn’t go to plan (see the post ‘Waiting for Joan Clarke’ for an exciting update & the reason for the change of date).

How exciting.

As a special pre-order reward for those of you who buy it from this website. When it goes live on Amazon, the price will jump up to £3.99.


UPDATE: Pre-orders direct from this website has now ended. It will be available to purchase from 10th January 2015.

 

women codebreakers, book cover Launch creative also designed by Bletchley Park Research logo and can wholeheartedly recommend them to you for any design work. You can contact Mark at www.launchcreative.co.uk.

Mair Russell Jones Hut 6 codebreaker remembers Turing

Welsh codebreaker Mair Russell-Jones recognised Alan Turing's genius by Robin Turner, Wales Online
16 November 2014

The son of a Welsh woman who worked alongside World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing has spoken of how she “clearly recognised” his superb intellect soon after meeting him at Bletchley Park in World War 2.

German language skills, music training and talent for crosswords were the reasons Mair Russell-Jones was ‘headhunted’ by the Foreign Office for the Government Code & Cypher School operation at Bletchley Park. She worked in Hut 6 where the German Army and Air Force Enigma cyphers were broken.

In this article published in the Welsh Times, Gethin recalls how his mother often talked about Alan Turing and expressed her outrage at the way he was treated.

You can buy Mair’s book (written with her son) My Secret Life in Hut Six in bookstores, including Amazon UK and Amazon.com. This is a book definitely on my Christmas list for 2014.
.

Alan Turing and the Solitaire solution

Enigma genius Alan Turing solved my childhood puzzle - article by Pamela Owen, The Mirror
16 November 2014

As a child Maria Summerscale was baffled by the puzzling board game Solitaire. During evenings with Maria’s parents in 1952 Alan Turing sat on the floor with Maria, watching as she struggled to solve the puzzle.

Maria describes Turing as ‘ a very warm person who ­always took an interest in what I was ­doing..’ He also took an interest in the puzzle and sent Maria a surprise letter explaining the solution and providing a diagram .

Such a kind act shows Turing’s fascination with the challenge of puzzles – regardless of whether the soluction could turn the tide of war or end the frustration of an eight year old child.

A year after sending Maria the letter Alan Turing tragically committed suicide. We will never know just how many other puzzles this brilliant man could have solved had he lived to fulfill his potential.

This is a fascinating article in the Mirror, shining an endearing light on the personality of Alan Turing.

Women in wartime

Article by Sarah Dawood for The Guardian
8th November 2014

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.ukWar change the women’s roles and increased their career opportunities. But has that change been sustained?  Sarah Dawood discusses Women in wartime – the role of the female public servant.

http://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2014/nov/08/world-war-women-workplace-public-services

[I get a mention and a little quote about women in World War 2 codebreaking].

My Engagement to Alan Turing by Joan Clarke (later Murray) is an extract of an 1992 Horizon programme about Alan Turing featuring the enigmatic Joan Clarke. In this short extract from the original programme hear Joan talk about Alan’s proposal of marriage and his revelation about his homosexual tendancies.

Can’t see the video above.  Click here to watch ‘My Engagement to Alan Turing by Joan Clarke’ on YouTube.

You can find out more about Joan Clarke and a new ebook celebrating the lives of 3 of the Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park – Margaret Rock, Joan Clarke and Mavis Lever (later Batey) . The book will be available for pre-order on Amazon from 1 November 2014.

Joan Clarke, Mavis Lever, Margaret Rock, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

You can watch the full progamme: The Strange Life and Death of Dr Turing at http://youtu.be/gyusnGbBSHE

With thanks to the programme’s Director Christopher Sykes for making it available to share http://www.christophersykesproductions.com/

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

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon (BookTower Publishing, 2014)

The extended second print edition of Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon is now available to buy on Amazon. The ebook version is available to pre-order and will be available on 17 November 2014.  Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon (Amazon UK), or Secret Postings on Amazon.com

The second edition includes lots more images, including extracts from a rare brochure Charlotte purchased at the Pentagon in 1945 detailing the design, construction and management of a building needed for the 32, 000 workers employed to work there in World War 2. (image copyright Department of Defence).

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon

The blurb:

At 18 years of age Charlotte Vine-Stevens leaves college and volunteers for the ATS, the Womens’s Army. After basic training she is given a travel warrant and instructions to go to Bletchley Station. Between 1941 and 1945 Charlotte finds herself stationed at the Government Code & Cypher School’s codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park.

After working with Major Ralph Tester in the Mansion, she moves to the Japanese Section in Block F to paraphrase deciphered Japanese messages. In 1945 this work leads Charlotte to see out the war in the Pacific at The Pentagon. (Image copyright Charlotte Webb).

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon

Secret Postings follows Charlotte’s life from a childhood in rural Shropshire, to a turbulent pre-war Germany, a World War 2 adventure at Bletchley Park, The Pentagon and beyond.

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon (Amazon UK), or Secret Postings on Amazon.com. Alternatively search for the book on your region’s Amazon site to buy your copy. Soon it will be available in other online bookstores and the ebook is available for pre-order.

Cournswood – A Day at Dilly Knox’s House

 John Gallehawk, Bletchley Park Research contributor shares our the story of our day out to see Cournswood House, the home of Bletchley Park Codebreaker, Dilly Knox.

On Monday 9th June 2014 two inveterate and intrepid investigators left the urban parts of High Wycombe and ventured forth into the wooded and hilly village of Naphill and in particular to the Village Hall where we could look again at the Memorial plaque to Dilly Knox set near the large Atlantic Cedar tree that he donated in 1936 .This plaque had been unveiled by Mavis Batey in 2009.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, Dilly Knox

John Gallehawk & Ian James at Naphill Village Hall, Bucks

We were met by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Ian James, estate manager at Cournswood House. We travelled a short distance through the village of Naphill before turning right down a lane to the entrance driveway to the house we had come to see .

Front view of Cournswood House

Front view of Cournswood House

That house is Cournswood House – the home of Bletchley Park codebreaker, Dilly Knox until his death in 1943. The gates opened as we approached and we continued to a magnificent home set deep in the woodlands in wonderful surroundings.

We approached Cournswood House with a mixture of awe, humility and excitement, for very few people have seen this house. We had passed a couple of dwellings and took a sharp left turn to take us past the front of Cournswood House.

This is a large house, extended at both ends since Dilly’s time here but it still has a strong sense of the past.

We were taken on a tour around the outside and had pointed out to us where windows had been added, a wooden workshop removed and the earlier septic tanks covered over. We took a picture from outside the Library where Dilly had worked.

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

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

 

The immediate views from the back of the house are superb, one of two small lakes with carp and ducks and woodlands from which two deer and a fawn appeared later on. There are pictures of the house showing this aspect and photos were taken in an attempt to replicate this.

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

John Gallehawk photographing the rear view of Cournswood House

We were told the story of how Dilly would ride his motorbike from the house down to the rail station at High Wycombe to travel to London, allegedly studying Greek papyrii while other passengers read their newspapers. He apparently had a very bad accident on the bike and thereafter had a limp. He subsequently had a small Austin car to make the journey.

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

The drive leading to Cournswood House

The garage housing Dilly’s prizedAustin has now been converted into a cottage set within the woods surrounding Cournswood House. He is reputed to have coasted down the hill from the garage to see how far he could go before having to start the engine. He also had a rather unique way to traverse crossroads – straight across as fast as possible.

As we completed this stroll around the exterior the owner of the house, Sharon Constançon, came down the stepped path from the large Conservatory and Office, beside the lawn that had probably been a grassed tennis court in past times. She invited us into the luxuriously appointed home.

We saw Dilly’s Library from the inside, now also used as an office. A drawing of Cournswood hung on the wall. We were enveloped by history at this point as the reader can imagine, an unforgettable experience. Most intriguing was the safe hidden behind the oak panelled wall. Its key is long-lost. It was hard not to imagine a stack of papers, a lost pipe or glasses.

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

We had pointed out to us some of the alterations that were thought to have been made since Dilly’s time in the passage way and the now considerably enlarged lounge.

We were indeed privileged to be shown the upstairs rooms that enjoyed a magnificent view over the grounds and lake. As we looked, the delightful sight of two deer and a fawn came out of the woodland into the paddock just below the house and seemed quite unconcerned.

After these memorable hours we were invited to walk out of the immediate estate and across into the woodland where a memorial stone to Dilly is located to mark where his ashes were placed along with those of his wife, Olive. The woods were Dilly’s passion, he planted the trees that now stand there and guard his resting place.

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

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

Back at the house, our host bade us goodbye and we strolled back to the car, we had been talking there for a while when our host re-appeared, rather excited to say that back in her office she had come across, by chance, some documents about past details of the house and we were so fortunate to be invited back to take a look at these.

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

Dilly Knox 1884 – 1943

We mentioned that we ought to be able to locate the Finance Act 1910 survey records for the house. This was in fact subsequently done and there was the bonus that a sketch plan with measurements had been included in the Rating assessment of the time. (There will be more about the Finance Map for Cournswood in a future post).

What a memorable day!

Images were tumbling though our heads as we eventually made our way back towards Naphill.

John Gallehawk Profile

Bill Tutte, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk Bletchley Park codebreaker, Bill Tutte is honoured today with a memorial in his hometown of Newmarket, Suffolk.

Bill Tutte, a Cambridge graduate is the man who first worked out the structure of the highly complex Lorenz teleprinter cipher machine used by Hitler and his High Command. Breaking the Lorenz gave the Allies a crucial insight into Hitler’s battle strategy.

What is the Lorenz machine and how did Bill Tutte come up with the solution without ever seeing the machine?

I leave you in the capable hands of James Grime, who explains it in a very accessible way during this excellent video.

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

Click here to read a BBC article about Bill Tutte.

3 women codebreakers at Bletchley Park

women codebreakers, Joan Clarke, Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.ukWith all the buzz and excitement around the forthcoming movie, The Imitation Game I think it’s a brilliant time to really celebrate the few women codebreakers at Bletchley Park who were actually breaking Enigma codes alongside their male peers.

Rumour has it that the movie will include some areas of  ‘artistic licence’ to add to the relationship between Alan Turing and Joan Clarke (one of the few women codebreakers at Bletchley Park).

I don’t have a problem with a bit of fictional embellishment but I think it is vital to keep the facts at hand too.

So, I’m compiling my research into three women codebreakers- Margaret Rock, Joan Clarke (later Murray) and Mavis Lever (later Batey) and publishing a short e-book to pay tribute to these inspirational women at a time that one of them is portrayed in a leading movie role.

women codebreakers, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

This short e-book ‘Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park’ will be available on Amazon at the end of November 2014. If you would like to be notified as soon as it’s listed, then click here to keep up to date on the Women Codebreakers e-book news.

I would love to see their faces at the top of the Amazon charts for the world to see and discover – but I’m going to say that, aren’t I!

I have already provided links to some of the available information about Margaret, Joan and Mavis on a dedicated page – Click here to read more about these women codebreakers .