Seventy Years Ago This Month at BP – April 1942
When I first started visiting Bletchley Park over 10 years ago, a Bletchley Park volunteer and guide Brian Oakley was producing a monthly account of the war called ‘Sixty Years Ago at BP‘. The newsletter was available for free in the mansion and recounted the events unfolding during the corresponding month during World War 2. This series of informative sheets appeared every month for the period of July 1999 to August 2005.
My collection of those Sixty Years Ago sheets is incomplete so I purchase an updated version of the whole series from the Bletchley Park Bookshop. It has been produced as a thick spiral bound A4 document called ‘The Bletchley Park War Diaries July 1939 – August: Secret Intelligence and the Second World War’.
The sheets have been updated and reissued as ‘Seventy Years Ago This Month at BP‘ and were available online at the Bletchley Park website for many years.
Below is a list the topics covered in the April 1942 newsletter and I only list a few of the many events covered as a taster of what is contained in the full version:
Another Bleak Month – includes a summary of the war in the Pacific and Russia. On 24th April 1942 air raid misery returns as the Germans start a series of raids that become know as the Baedeker raids, which target the cathedral cities Exeter, Bath, York and Norwich.
Attack on Colombo – the codebreaker’s success with reading the Japanese naval code JN25 means that the attack on Colombo causes less damage than it might have done. The codebreakers reveal another attack on Trincomalee, a British Naval base in Sri Lanka, where little damage to the harbour and airfield is caused but the total loss of British Naval ships is nine.
Malta and the Mediterranean Scene – covers the planned attack on Malta and heavy air attacks on the British convoys. BP breaks Chaffinch, Rommel’s enigma key used to communicate with high ranks in Italy and Berlin.
The War at Sea focuses on the work of Hut 8 against the main Atlantic key, Dolphin, used by surface ships in the Atlantic and U-Boats in the Baltic. The break in the Royal Navy’s Cypher No.3 mean the U-Boats increase their success rate of sinking ships during the first quarter of 1942. On 14 April 1942 HMS Vetch and HMS Stork sink the U-252.
Conditions at the War Station – includes information that staff numbers have increased to 1860 at BP and its out-stations, with approximately 500 staff on day shift at the park. Work is undertaken to make more space available including the construction of 2 two-storey blocks, Block A & B. Block B is intended for Military Section but ends up housing the remainder of Naval Section from Hut 4 by mid-September 1942. Single storey Block C is started but delayed to strengthen the roof and Freddie Freeborn’s Hollerith section moves from Hut 7 in November 1942. There is also an interesting summary of ‘Notes to Staff’ by Commander Bradshaw covering junior staff pay, war bonus pay, billeting costs and work hours. [As someone who is very interested in the logistical evolution of Bletchley Park, I find this fascinating]