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15 October 2014
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Denis Whelan - His Association with Bletchley Park

by Fran Whelan

Contributed by 
Fran Whelan
People in story: 
Denis Whelan, Mr. Keen, Ron Grimes, Norman Hedges
Location of story: 
Letchworth and Bletchley Park
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 September 2004

Before the war I was a Civil Servant - a Telephone Engineer, concerned with the maintenance and development of automatic exchanges in London, and was in a "reserved occupation".

In May 1942 I was called for an interview at the Forgein Office and, as a result, received notice of appointment to Bletchley Park. I was notified that before reporting to the Park, I was to spend some time working at the British Tabulating Machine Company with a "Mr. Keen".

When I arrived at the Company I found I was one of twelve Telephone Engineers who had been appointed to Mr. Keen's department. He told us that our group was the first of a pair and that our duties were to ensure that the quipment was in first class condition for despatch to The Park/

As things went on, it became apparent that maintenance crews for the machines (called "Bombes", of course) could be provided from armed services (eg. Royal Engineers) so that we would only be 'associated with' the Park, who would be responsible for arrangements with us - through the Foreign Office. There were three of us who had worked in Central London (myself, Ron Grimes, and Norman Hedges) and we had several thoughts and ideas on various ways to produce automatic test-gear for components of the BOMBES - (this was because we were fascinated by the fact that auto telephone "uniselectors" were devices which had an automatic selection sequence of 25 outlets with a single "home" position - i.e they had 26 sequential contacts - which corresponded to the number of letters in the alphabet! We developed a system for checking cable connections inthe BOMBES automatically. This led to Ron and myself being provided with packs of tesing equipment so that we would remain on call for any examples of poor response or innacurate working of the machines already in service - and so we were permanently on standby for trips to The Park or its outstations.

An emergency call was always followed within some 30 minutes by a young lady driver from the Army Transport Unit. Thus I visited The Park and its outstations very many times.

Incidentally Ron Grimes died about 18 months ago, and we lost touch with Norman Hedges some 50 years ago*

*This is taken from a document my Father wrote for the Bletchley Park Trust dated 20th August 1995

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