Remembering VJ Day at Bletchley Park

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge’s grandmother was among the first few people in the world to know World War Two had ended. On VJ Day, 15 August 1945, she was working in Hut 16 (as the now-restored Hut 6 had been renamed) when a message was intercepted as it was sent from Tokyo to Geneva, indicating that surrender was imminent.

Marion Body, who worked with Valerie Glassborow and her twin sister, Mary, recalls “Valerie, Mary and I and two other girls were on the day shift, which was rather fortunate. Mr Williams came in, he was smiling, he said ‘Well done girls, a signal’s been intercepted going from Tokyo to Geneva; the Japanese are about to surrender.’ We just sat there, shocked into absolute silence. He shuffled from one foot to the other – he didn’t know what to do either – then he said ‘well, bloody well get on with your work!’

“He told us a message had gone to the King and the Prime Minister. It couldn’t be announced before the message had gone on from Geneva to London because they would have known we’d been listening. It was a great moment, one that I’ve remembered all my life.”

Valerie and Mary Glassborow went on to marry the Middleton brothers. In June HRH The Duchess of Cambridge visited Bletchley Park to mark the completion of the £8 million, Heritage Lottery Fund-supported restoration and to walk in her grandmother’s footsteps. The Hut where Valerie and Mary worked is now open to visitors, who can experience what it was like for the Codebreakers whose work helped shorten the war. Bletchley Park also has a display dedicated to Japanese Codebreaking; The Japanese Challenge – Breaking the Japanese Codes.