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15 October 2014
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A Volunteer at Bletchley Park

by agecon4dor

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Contributed by 
agecon4dor
People in story: 
Miss Frances Joyce Woodward
Location of story: 
Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A7171689
Contributed on: 
21 November 2005

Machine Room, Hut 6, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire. Taken in 1943.

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from Age Concern, Dorchester on behalf of Miss Frances Joyce Woodward, and has been added to the site with her permission. Miss Woodward fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was born in 1921 in Nottingham and was 18 when the war started. In those days women were called up at 19 but I was allowed to go to Girton College, Cambridge for the next 3 years to read History. So, at the age of 22, I was sent to Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, in 1943 as a decoder. There were about 8,000 people working there — a mix of civilian and Forces personnel. I had to sign the Official Secrets Act. I remember there being lots and lots of long corridors.

I did not have any training for this work, though I had to sign the Official Secrets Act and if anyone “outside” asked what I did I would just refuse to answer. I sat at a desk, in a room with several other girls, looking at a screen across which jumbles of words were passing. If I saw anything that looked like a German word I had to stop the machine; someone would come and note the position where I had stopped and transfer the section of script to their machines for further investigation. I did this work from July 1943 to May 1945 and earned £3 a week. I heard people say that they thought it must be very interesting work but in fact I found it extremely boring.

We were lucky as we worked a 24 hour cycle and changed every fortnight, but other girls had to change every couple of days, we worked three shifts,from 9am-4pm, 4pm-midnight and midnight-9am. I lived at Wolverton and we had a special bus to take us in and out of Bletchley Park; we also had Passes that we had to show every time we entered or left the place.

If we were lucky with our billets we got one good meal a day, subject to rationing. We used to get very hungry.

It was a happy time for me and I have kept in touch with two or three girls that I met there. When peace was declared the people in the Forces had to wait to be demobbed, but we civilians just packed up and went home.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Bletchley Park

Posted on: 21 November 2005 by Hugh Ferguson

The only person I personally knew
who worked at Bletchley was Miss Jill Johnston Abraham. I wonder if it is possible that you ever met her!?
Yours sincerely, Hugh Ferguson.

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