07/09/2018
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Codebreaking veterans return to Bletchley Park

990eee97-7aaa-4d60-9abe-e0e9f3bb80f7

Former codebreaking staff have been reunited at a special event at Bletchley Park, the top-secret World War Two base.

Sunday 2 September saw a group of 72 Veterans of Bletchley Park and its outstations gather at the former code-breaking site. The men and women – all in their 90s or older – came to share stories and spend time with family and friends at the site that played a key role in Allied success in World War Two.
 
 
At its height in 1945, over 10,000 people were occupied with work connected with Bletchley Park, around three-quarters of whom were women. Today, surviving Veterans live in the UK and abroad, with many in the US, Canada and Australia. Veterans travelled from as far afield as the Isle of Wight, Lancashire and South Devon to gather at the museum for the annual celebration of their wartime contribution. 
 
“The Annual Veterans’ Reunion is a very important day in our calendar”, said Iain Standen, CEO of Bletchley Park. “These Veterans made a vital contribution to World War Two, and this event is our opportunity to honour them and their work in person. It was wonderful to welcome so many to the museum, where they could renew old friendships, make new ones, and share stories of their wartime service.”
 
September 2018 marks the eightieth anniversary of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women’s branch of the British army. Several ATS Veterans attended the reunion, including Betty Webb MBE, aged 95, who worked at Bletchley Park during her time working with the Intelligence Corps, and later was part of a team who were sent to the Pentagon, US. “My training at the Royal Welsh Fusiliers depot in Wrexham was jolly hard work, physical work. We had to learn how to march. how to wear our uniforms and how to address our superiors. At the end of our training we had a gas mask drill. We wore obviously military gas masks and in this exercise we were put into this small room and the gas masks would be taken off whilst they sprayed some gas, so it was impressed upon you that you don’t disregard a gas warning,” said Betty.
 
Like many Veterans who came to work at Bletchley Park, Betty Webb and ATS Veteran, Mary Watkins, both consider BP to have been their university. “I went into college after I came out of the forces but the army training and being with the others I considered more my university.  I didn’t really aspire to go onto further education but because of Bletchley Park I got the chance,” said Mary Watkins. 
 
The 80th anniversary of the ATS is being marked by a new display in the garages at Bletchley Park running 6 September to 10 March 2019. 
 
Following the reunion, it is likely that more secrets will be revealed as the museum’s Oral History Officer, Jonathan Byrne, said that a further 16 Veterans had agreed to be interviewed for Bletchley Park’s Oral History project. The stories of many Veterans can be found on the Roll of Honour at the website.
 
Image credit: Will Amlot for the Bletchley Park Trust.
 

Back to "Real-life stories" Category

07/09/2018 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

What is the purpose of family history?

Why do we do family history? That's the question that Patsy Trench asks in this guest blog on the various ...


Week 4 of our genealogy bootcamp - rev up your research

In the concluding part of our month-long genealogy bootcamp, we explore how to go way beyond the census and ...


New oral history project seeks family stories of people who lived near top secret WW2 station

Bletchley Park, the former top secret codebreaking station, has launched a new oral history project in a bid ...


3 key websites for researching and commemorating your First World War ancestors

The First World War centenary has seen a wealth of digital resources made available to family historians ...


Other Articles

Week 3 of our genealogy bootcamp - rev up your family history research

Discover new research ideas and tips for finding your ancestors fast in week 3 of our genealogy bootcamp. ...


Welcome to week 2 of our genealogy bootcamp - rev up your family history research

Get some new ideas for expanding your family tree and discovering new ancestors in part 2 of our one-month ...


Explore the lives of maritime ancestors with new Tudor & Stuart Seafarers gallery at Royal Museums Greenwich

The lives of Tudor and Stuart seafarers can be explored as never before through a brand new gallery, opening ...


53 million indexed electoral registers released by FindMyPast

The genealogy website FindMyPast has today announced the release over 53 million indexed England and Wales ...