Bletchley Park & The Shelter

Posted on 11 June 2014 by Andy   |    


In 'The Shelter', Martha Watts and Elsie Sidthorpe are members of a group known as 'The Central Party' which, in 1942, moves from Beaumanor Hall to Bletchley Park.

It is ironic, given the secrecy that until recently surrounded the work of the code breakers at Bletchley Park, that I probably don't need to deal with the major part of the Park's history here, as so much has been written on the subject elsewhere. It was as recently as the 1970's that the work of Bletchley Park gradually began to be revealed to the general public and not until more recent times that the full story has begun to be fully appreciated.

In his book 'The Hut Six Story', Gordon Welchman, describes the log readers at Beaumanor moving to Bletchley Park in 1942, where he says that they became known as the 'Central Party'.

Welchman says that the Central Party worked in a separate hut but had such an intimate knowledge of German radio nets and the structure of the German communication system, that they quickly became an integral part of the Hut 6 organisation.

The Central Party was made up of a number of army men and A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service) women and later, a group of men from the United States Army. When it came to writing the book, I had it mind that Martha and Elsie would have been recruited from the Auxiliary Territorial Service, as many of the women at Beaumanor Hall (and indeed, Bletchley Park) were.


In The Shelter, Harry Stammers tells John Watts that his sister had been engaged in "enormously important work".
The work of the Central Party was indeed important. It was the integration of knowledge from signals intelligence with the decodes from cryptography, which the Central Party supported, which enabled a complete picture to be built up of
the enemy's plans, movements and orders.


In 1939, Beaumanor (which is near Loughborough, in Leicestershire) had been occupied by the 'VI Intelligence School' (part of the intelligence effort to intercept and interpret enemy communications). It later became one of the most important of the 'Y Stations' (the 'Y Stations' intercepted enemy radio transmissions and relayed them, for decryption and analysis at Bletchley Park or 'Station X’).

The Magic of Bletchley

Posted on 11 June 2014 by Andy   |    

Bletchley Park

I had, perhaps, one of my most moving experiences at Bletchley Park when I met an elderly woman who came into Hut 1 with her family, one Sunday afternoon in 2009. She was in a wheelchair and was almost blind. But, as she entered the Hut, she heard the morse code that was being demonstrated to visitors by one of my amateur radio colleagues. Her family had only recently learned that she had worked at Bletchley Park during the war and were astonished when she announced to everyone in the hut that she could still understand the morse code, despite the fact that she hadn't practiced it in over fifty years. We offered to test her skills and, to everyone's amazement, she was able to read morse at the first attempt and to a reasonably high level of accuracy and speed. She even tapped out a few words, with a surprisingly steady hand, in reply. Her granddaughter burst into tears and her great grandson, who can have been no more than twelve or thirteen years old, left the Hut with a look of awe on his face, very proud of his great grandmother, as indeed he was right to be.

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