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15 October 2014
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Life in the Wrens at Bletchley Park, 1941

by Martin Hussingtree Parish Church

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Contributed by 
Martin Hussingtree Parish Church
People in story: 
Ann Sturge (Petty Officer)
Location of story: 
Station X, Bletchley Park
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A6982130
Contributed on: 
15 November 2005

I decided to become a Wren. I had always liked the sea and I imagined living in Portsmouth or Dover and enjoying life alongside the Royal Navy. However, in 1941 after some training at Greenwich I was posted to Bletchley Park. There were no Naval living quarters for us there so three of us found ourselves lodging in council houses in New Bradwell, not allowed to wear uniform in case we drew attention to our presence and our secret work. Our landladies were very kind but it was not how we had imagined service life. The local cinema was our only evening entertainment.

Bletchley Park working area consisted of several huts, no one knew the exact work of the various Services and civilians and part from meeting in the canteen we lived separate lives. We were glad that after a short while we were allowed to wear our uniforms at all times, we were very proud to be in the Senior Service even though we were on duty in the middle of England.

Our hut housed the ‘bombes’, large code-breaking machines, soon we needed more space and this turned out to be a hut in the grounds of Wavendon House. Station X personnel filled the House during the daytime, but at night it was deserted apart from our little hut with its two machines, operated by four girls and one male technician.

Our work was divided into three watches, the third was from midnight to 9am. There were no meals provided on that watch so we used to raid the kitchen in the great empty house for any left-overs from the midday canteen. I remember enjoying potatoes on fried bread, at the time that seemed a good filler. Also we found the bathrooms and took the opportunity to use them. That was a real luxury as there were none in our lodgings.

Wavnedon House later became very good living quarters for the Wrens. I shared a room with another Petty Officer who had been a cook in the Royal Household. Sometimes she managed to conjure up special meals in the Petty Officers’ mess, making the most of the food available.

The hut in the grounds had no special guards, no one asked questions. Once we had a party with local RAF friends and afterwards we were rather alarmed to find some beer bottles in the doorway.

It was extraordinary and much to the credit of the large numbers of workers at the Park and in other places that the secrets of Station X were kept all through the war and for some years after.

This story was entered by Jenni Waugh, BBC People’s War Outreach Officer, on behalf of Mrs Anne Sturge who accepts the site’s terms and conditions.

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