- Contributed by
- Elizabeth Lister
- People in story:
- Connie Snow
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 25 October 2005
This story has been submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from CSV Berkshire on behalf of Mrs Connie Snow and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Connie Snow fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
In 1943 I reached the age of 18 when all able-bodied people not in a reserved occupation received their call-up papers.
There was a choice of the ATS, WAFF or WRNS. I chose the WRNS as I lived in Derbyshire and our visits to the sea were rare. I expected to go to a port. To my surprise, as I had dome maths up to School Certificate, we were needed at a place called Bletchley Park which none of us had heard of. The mansion at Bletchley Park was brought in 1938 ready for the war. It is 40 miles from London and has good rail links. We lived in Woburn Abbey and were transported to Bletchley by buses driven by army personnel.
We were initiated into the work, told how secret and important it was and we signed the Official Secrets Act, which lasts for 30 years. I was one of the WRNS under Professor Newman and we worked on the German High Command messages. The messages were intercepted at Knockholt and brought up to Bletchley. There were numerous huts with people doing different work of which we knew nothing.
We did squares of letters working on the theory that there are more “e”s in a sentence than any other letter. We had teleprinter tapes on Robinson machines and two computers - Colossus 1 and 2. Each computer had a front about 12 feet square. The post office research station was at Dollis Hill in North London. The computers were designed and built there by Tommy Flowers and his team. We had Post Office engineers to service them. We had bright young men like Alan Turing who organised the work.
As our European war came to an end they wanted people to go abroad. We weren’t told where it was going to be but where issued with a tropical kit, given a cocktail of injections and went up to Liverpool by train. It took 17 days to sail to Colombo in Ceylon. We did similar work there but quite soon the atom bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which finished the far eastern war. There was a march past taken by Admiral Mountbatten at 9.00am on Galle Face Green. Soon afterwards troops ships called at Colombo. They were occupied by prisoners or war — now released from the camps. There were a few women but mainly men. They were skeletons with tropical diseases. The hips stopped to give the released prisoners time to relax and recover.
We were asked to go down and entertain them. They told us that some of the prisoners had jumped overboard before arriving in Colombo. As the men contacted their homes they found that the girls they had left behind were now married to someone else. We did clerical work at an army camp until we returned home.
After 30 years people who had worked at Bletchley wrote several books. A TV programme appeared — made by Professor Newman, the head of our unit.
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