Bletchley Park heroes reunited

Over 70 Veterans who worked in secrecy at Bletchley Park and its outstations during WW2 were reunited yesterday (11 September, 2016). Former staff of the Government Code and Cypher School travelled from as far as Louisiana, USA, to attend the annual gathering.

“They like to come back and see the place where they made such an important contribution,” said Iain Standen, Chief Executive Officer of Bletchley Park Trust. “They can meet with their friends and reminisce. Crucially, for us, it keeps that connection with what we are all about. Every time they come back we record their memories to include in our exhibitions, so visitors can understand the fantastic work they did.”

For many Veterans, the reunion was a chance to see their vital contribution recognised on a new Codebreakers’ Wall, featuring the names of former staff, as well as supporters of the Buckinghamshire heritage attraction. This proved to be an emotional experience for those who had been bound by the Official Secrets Act.

“I’ve come today to look at the wall, I’m 90, so it will probably be my swansong,” said Joan Lever, a WAAF teleprinter operator who worked in Block E from 1944-1946. “The work was all codes and cyphers ­– we did not do anything in plain language. It never, ever got monotonous because we were so busy. At the time we just thought we were doing ordinary work, we did not feel clever.”

Standen added that the Codebreakers’ Wall is a way of raising vital funds for future development of the site, with bricks available to sponsor in the name of Veterans or supporters. “It also allows us to commemorate the Veterans themselves, so people can see their names recorded for posterity,” he said.

The Veterans, who are all now in their 90s or 100s, enjoyed performances from the Vauxhall Men’s Choir, as well as guided tours around the park with their family and friends. It also proved a unique opportunity for members of the public visiting Bletchley Park to pay their respects to those who performed such vital war work.

Eric Jacobson, from New York, has visited the heritage attraction every year for the past decade and has a huge interest in the development of computing and Alan Turing’s work. “The importance of what happened here is still underestimated and it is terribly important to tell that story,” he said.

The next episode of the Bletchley Park Podcast, out on 10 October, will feature interviews with those who attended the reunion.