Bletchley Park

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Things to do


Date of travel

September, 2016

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Reasons for trip

When war was increasingly looking likely, the Government Code and Cipher School with its operational Head, Alastair Dennison, was looking for a place outside London. ‘Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party’ were a group of wealthy young friends who were exploring the huntin’ and fishin’ possibilities of the area, complete with their own chef. They were in fact looking for a suitable location well away from London to use a a base for their activities. Bletchley Park with its large Victorian house set in its own extensive grounds, was ideal as it had good links to both London and the rest of the country.

It had a railway station within a short distance of the house and was close to the A5. It was close to the main GPO trunk line with teleprinter connections. It would be an ideal centre for the large spider’s web of communication lines. Between Oxford and Cambridge it proved a fertile hunting ground for some of the best academic brains in the country and most of the early recruits were from them.

Personnel moved here in early January 1940. Beginning with 200 personnel, this increased to over 9000 by the end of the war. The brightest mathematical brains were recruited as well as those with a gift to crack ciphers and cryptic crosswords. Large numbers of clerical staff, mainly women, were recruited for the long boring and repetitive tasks.

Initially all work was based in the mansion, along with the stable block and the cottages. The telephone exchange, teleprinters and the code breakers were based on the ground floor and out buildings. The offices of the senior staff were on the first floor. It soon became apparent that more accommodation was needed and a series of huts were built in the grounds for the different code breaking activities.

The ground floor of the mansion is now open to visitors. It is a very elegant building with wood panelled entrance hall. Off the hall is a glass roofed Atrium. Beyond this is the tea room which serves afternoon tea for visitors who have pre booked it. The big drawing room running across the front of the house now has an exhibition about the life and work of Gordon Welchman.

Alastair Denniston’s study is in the morning room to the left of the entrance hall. Denniston welcomed all new recruits to Bletchley Park here. Beyond it is the library.

At the far end of the entrance hall in the Billiard and ball room is an exhibition and artefacts from the film ”The Imitation Game” part of which was filmed here.

At the back of the mansion are the garages.

These house a 1940 Packard Six touring sedan. These were fitted with wireless receivers, batteries and chargers to be used as mobile radio stations if the Germans invaded Britain.

There is also a Norton 16H which was used by dispatch riders. They were responsible for delivering up to 3000 messages a day from the Y stations and could cover up to 1200 miles a week. Dispatches were carried in specially designed bags worn over the right shoulder with the strap across the chest. This left the right hand free to draw a revolver if necessary. They wore special blue and white armbands which confirmed they had the right to stop any army vehicle and ask for petrol, they were not to be held up or delayed at road blocks by either the police or military and they could seek shelter at any army camp or barracks while on duty.

All my pictures can be found “here.”:


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