Monthly Meeting – Tuesday 12th May 2015
Talk by John Lidstone – My Sister Pamela Lidstone the Bletchley Park Decoder 1941 - 45

John began by telling us about a married couple who both worked at Bletchley Park but only discovered after 47 years of marriage neither knew of each others work there. This was because everyone had to sign the Official Secrets Act which Churchill ruled and who was obsessed with secrecy. Bletchley Park was where, mostly women were used to try and decode the Germans two Enigma machines during WWII. It was very tedious work.

 

Alan Turing created a machine there which broke the codes. He was an eccentric homosexual who used to padlock his tea mug to the radiator and wore his gasmask in the grounds of the park. He was the founder of the modern computer. Eventually he confessed his homosexuality, was chemically castrated, imprisoned, and then committed suicide. A terrible end to a brilliant man.

During this time 240 women, mostly chosen aristocrats, as they were believed to be more trusted to keep secrets. Many of the people didn't really know what they were doing due to the high secrecy. Bletchley Park was chosen as it was equal distance between Oxford and Cambridge universities by rail for the maths and linguistic students chosen to work there. One of the women working was Elaine Pritchard a chess champion and Jean Campbell-Harris who spoke German.

Johns sister worked there for the Royal Navy and on information about Japanese ships in the Far East. All the Forces here knew about Bletchley and about the work there.

When D-Day was planned Churchill asked if Bletchley could find agents to give fake messages to the Germans. By this time 8,200 women and 2,000 men were at Bletchley which their work saved 2 years of war and 10,000 lives. The Official Secrets Act was finally lifted in 1976 and the first John knew of his sisters work at Bletchley was at her funeral in 2003 when a member of the Foreign Office paid tribute to her outstanding work for which she was honoured.

There was no recognition of the women at Bletchley but Churchill later said to them "You are the geese that never cackled".

Bletchley is still a very secret place and things are still being revealed after so long.

Hazel Booth