On 19 October 1991 Bletchley Park was about to be bulldozed for housing. A group of local historians organised the first – and, they thought, last – reunion of Veterans of the Government Code and Cypher School in the very buildings where they did their war work. They believed it would be a chance for the Veterans to have one last look around the site before it was consigned to history, and bid it a fond farewell.
That day, though, the Veterans lent their support to a burgeoning desire among those local historians to stop Bletchley Park being torn down, and the campaign to save it for the nation was born.
Volunteers recorded 14 hours of audio that day, capturing conversations and informal interviews with the Veterans on cassette tapes. We’ve recently discovered that these audio cassettes had been digitised and were not, as feared, lost to history.
The campaign to save Bletchley Park from being bulldozed was not the only thing that party started. It was also the first of what has become the highlight of the year at Bletchley Park – the annual Veterans’ Reunion. This year’s was another great day, with Veterans bringing their families to remember and celebrate their contribution. This year, for the first time, many of them were searching for their names cemented firmly into Bletchley Park’s future as well as its past, in the Codebreakers’ Wall.
Next month, we’ll bring you more from the party that saved Bletchley Park. We’ll share some of the insights into what life was like – apart from the all-important work these people were doing – looking both inside and out the gates of Bletchley Park.
Many thanks to Helen Legh & Tilda for capturing interviews at this year’s reunion. Thanks also go to Kerry Howard for roving reporting at this year’s reunion, and you can hear some of the fascinating conversations she captured next month.
Visit Bletchley Park. It happened here. Book now.
Image: ©Bletchley Park Trust