Bletchley Park codebreakers share their memories of VE Day

Betty Webb and Marigold Freeman-Attwood who have shared their memories of working at Bletchley Park PNL-150705-112759001
Betty Webb and Marigold Freeman-Attwood who have shared their memories of working at Bletchley Park PNL-150705-112759001

Bletchley Park veterans whose codebreaking skills were vital to winning the Second World War have shared their memories of VE Day.

Dot Tuffin, Joyce Roberts and Marigold Freeman-Attwood are among the veterans to appear on the Bletchley Park Podcast since it began in 2012.

The next episode, number 34, which comes out on May 10, includes veterans remembering how they felt when the war in Europe ended, how they celebrated and commemmorated those who didn’t come home and what they did next.

Mrs Tuffin, who was a Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNs, known as Wrens) bombe operator struck a sombre note. She said: “We weren’t the heroes – the heroes were dead.”

Many of those working at Bletchley Park were moved onto the job of Japanese codebreaking after VE Day.

For everyone who signed the Official Secrets Act and kept quiet for at least another 30 years, their obligations didn’t even end when peace was finally declared around the world.

“It was like a family. Many girls went straight from school. Some were more innocent than you would believe possible – one little 17-year-old really didn’t know what men were for.”

Marigold Freeman-Attwood

Joyce Roberts, a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) teleprinter operator, said: “I was in Trafalgar Square on VE night. I remember hearing about the atom bomb – the beginning of the atomic age.

“On VJ night, the chaps in the men’s billets were very naughty – they took the furniture out and made a bonfire of it. I think they couldn’t care less, because they’d been demobbed.”

Marigold Freeman-Attwood, a Wren who operated the world’s first semi-programmable electronic computer, Colossus, recalls being treated with respect at Bletchley Park, and the social life.

She said: “It was like a family. Many girls went straight from school. Some were more innocent than you would believe possible – one little 17-year-old really didn’t know what men were for.”

She added there were frequent trips to London, with a sneaky change into civilian clothes or, as she describes them, ‘glad rags’.

“Luckily a lot of the officers had no idea what we were up to,” she said. “I look back and think I did once do something valuable for my country. It was lucky that we came to such an unusual, and really rather sparkly place.”

Mrs Tuffin added: “My husband would wear his medals on Armistice Day. We would hug each other and say we were the lucky ones – we came back. This is what matters.”

Bletchley Park is looking for more veterans to share their wartime memories. Anyone who knows someone who worked at Bletchley Park or one of its outstations, should contact oral history officer Jonathan Byrne on jbyrne@bletchleypark.org.uk or 01908 640404.

The archive of Bletchley Park Podcast episodes and extras is available on Audioboom’s Bletchley Park Channel and iTunes.