Last Sunday, 1 September, marked one of the most important dates in the Bletchley Park calendar.
The Annual Veterans’ Reunion welcomed over 75 former wartime staff back to Bletchley Park, the once top-secret World War Two base, exactly 80 years to the day since Hitler invaded Poland, marking the start of World War Two. Two days later on 3 September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
The group of Veterans with ages ranging from 92 to 105 travelled from all over the country for the event with some making the trip from as far away as Australia and Canada. Reunited at the museum for the annual celebration of their work, the guests were able 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.
With the average age of the Veterans this year being 96, the reunion provides a poignant opportunity to interview the Codebreakers and hear stories of how their secret roles influenced the outcome of World War Two. Interviews with Veterans form a key part of Bletchley Park’s Oral History Project.
Jonathan Byrne, Oral History Officer at Bletchley Park, said: ‘This event is a unique opportunity to meet the Veterans at the site in which some of them worked. In our interviews we hear how enemy signals were intercepted, decrypted and turned into intelligence. As well as giving us fascinating glimpses of their daily lives in wartime, individual Veterans really bring the Bletchley Park story to life with their experiences.’
The Oral History Project aims to capture the stories of people who had a connection to Bletchley Park or one of its outstations during World War Two, nearly 500 Veterans have been interviewed since the project began in November 2011. The range of interviews highlight the broad range of roles people were fulfilling, from the upper echelons of Oxbridge academics via machine operators and clerical staff to cooks, cleaners and even delivery staff from the local bakery.
Guests on the day were welcomed by Bletchley Parks CEO Iain Standen and given a private guided tour ahead of a buffet lunch. The Veterans also got to see the park’s newest exhibition coinciding with the 75th anniversary of D-Day, ‘D-Day: Interception, Intelligence, Invasion’, presenting the vital impact intelligence produced at Bletchley Park had on the invasion plans.
For visitor information, please visit www.bletchleypark.org.uk.
Image by Will Amlot, courtesy Bletchley Park Trust.