This weekend has been a busy, culture filled one for myself with a trip to the local museum with my son and then a visit to Bletchley Park. I’ve lived in Milton Keynes for nearly twenty six years and have never visited either. I love the forties and grew up watching wartime documentaries with my dad, I even had a forties themed wedding, so why I’ve never been to Bletchley Park before is beyond me. I absolutely loved it though.
The lavish mansion once owned by the Leon family served as headquarters during the war. Its surrounding lake, cricket pavilion and gardens remained as they were before the war broke out to boost morale and maintain a college campus feel.
The huts themselves, in juxtaposition to the main house, are very dimly lit and uniformed, reminding us that this was a military operation. Secrecy was so absolute that departments were known solely by their hut number so that nobody knew what other sectors did.
Because the operations at Bletchley Park were so sensitive any messages that were intercepted needed a cover story. one example of this was when they sent a plane over a group of Italian ships which were planning an attack on the British three days later. This gave the intelligence at Bletchley Park a cover story for the British targets, saying that the plane had spotted the activity, as well as allowing the Italians to think that this was the reason their plans were found out. Which left me wondering how much influence Bletchley Park had on William Boyd’s Restless.
Anyone who has watched Bletchley circle will know that you have to have a unique perspective on problem solving in order to have worked at Bletchley Park, I for one still don’t know how the codes were broken and am grateful that there are far more intelligent people out there than myself. Although you hear a lot about the Bombe machine and the German’s Enigma it is really the staff at Bletchley Park that did all the hard work. Of the 10,000 or so members of staff 75% were women.
Rank or status cuts no ice – American cryptographer William Friedman
Many romances blossomed here, some of which turned into marriages. Our tour guide told us a story about an elderly couple who took the tour before us; The wife upon hearing the guide’s description of life in the huts piped up to say ‘that’s not quite how it was young man’, her husband looked at her and asked ‘how would you know?’ to which she responded ‘I used to work here’, ‘you used to work here? so did I’ he said. This is an example of how seriously the staff took the official secret act.
Although I chose not to take my eldest son with me this time (Dylan won’t sit still for one minute let along follow a tour guide) there were parts that I think he would have enjoyed. The play park with the giant chess set being the first thing that springs to mind, the other being the toy and memorabilia museum. Any child who is interested in history as I was would love it. Get them a headset from admissions and they’ll feel so grown up as well as looking adorable.