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Little known history of Bletchley Park

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Bletchley Park fans are abuzz with the launching of the new film The Imitation Game, all about Alan Turing and the code-breaking world which inhabited this part of Bletchley. Another story which is perhaps less well known is how the code-breaking effort affected this part of Bletchley.

We know that thousands of people worked at this establishment, carrying out all types of job functions with only a few of them knowing the full story. The work went on 24/7 and all these staffs had to be billeted nearby the establishment, although I believe many had to be transported from Woburn Sands and even Bedford since the housing problem was so acute.

Some building work was undertaken, but great efforts were made to keep the establishment as low profile as possible, this was so that they would not attract any unwanted attention from the Nazi planes passing overhead. Bletchley was, of course, a major rail junction too. So any building activity could have been interpreted by the enemy as transport infrastructure.

Now, as clever as that was, this also meant that it was still a target for bombing. The facility management went to a lot of trouble in disguising the apparent size of the facility and also at another level; the individual buildings which were needed. All sorts of infrastructure were disguised so that its size and nature were made to look as domestic as possible from the air. I came across one such building whilst I was measuring up for a domestic extension. This building took on the facade of a greenhouse and garage in the back garden of a property on the periphery of Bletchley Park. This building had an enormous steel water tank half-buried in it. Its purpose was to store water in the event of a fire, a very real possibility of course, with the obvious cause being enemy bombing. Another very real possible fire hazard was the experimental electrical equipment such as the Bombe, the risk of fire and its control must have been paramount.

You will see that the building was not very tall from the picture included. I suppose that given its nature, and that it was designed to look like a piece of domestic architecture from above, why use any more material than was needed? It actually looks as though it was built many years prior to the war, and so it is in contrast to the other buildings within the park itself, which look like the office accommodation thrown up all over the country housing the administrative effort required to prosecute the all consuming war.

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I know that all of this is not the most important part of the Bletchley Park story, but it fascinated me when I was told about this part. It made me think that we should recognise all of the background work which went on to create and keep Station X as Winston Churchill referred to it, safe. We should also bear in mind the unsung heroes who played their part too.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

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