An exciting interactive exhibition about the work of the Women’s Royal Naval Service has opened in the newly restored Hut 11 at Bletchley Park – the Bombe Hut.
This Hut was nicknamed the Hell Hole by the WRNS (nicknamed Wrens) who operated the Bombe machines.
The machines helped speed up the process of breaking into the daily Enigma settings on hundreds of different networks.
The Hut was hot, noisy and the WRNs (nicknamed Wrens) knew their work was of huge importance. Quotes from the women themselves form the foundation of a hugely atmospheric exhibition, telling the story of their time at Bletchley Park and its outstations. These personal testimonies were gathered as part of the Bletchley Park Trust’s ongoing oral history project.
Steve Lumby, Senior Designer with Event Communications, which created the exhibition, said: “The key element of exhibition design is getting the story right. It’s a great help that you can go back to the original source because so many of them are still alive. The exhibitions are about the people who worked here and will give them a chance for their voices to be heard.”
The exhibition has been funded by a hugely generous £250,000 legacy left by a Bletchley Park veteran, Maureen Jones. She joined the Government Code and Cypher School aged 18 with the lowly job title of temporary clerical. After the war she stayed on with GCHQ. By 1975 she had risen to Senior Principal and in 1985 was appointed an OBE.
The exhibition features interactive elements allowing visitors of all ages to try their hand at ‘plugging up’ the back of the Bombe machine and turning the drums to the correct position, illustrating the high level of knowledge and concentration that was required during long, round-the-clock shifts.
Victoria Worpole, the Bletchley Park Trust’s Director of Learning and Collections, said: “It’s extremely exciting to bring this building to life with an exhibition about the women who worked here. Over the next few months we will be able to bring visitors closer than ever before to the wartime atmosphere both inside these buildings – some of which have never been open to the public – and in the landscape of Bletchley Park.”
This is the first of a raft of major new galleries and exhibitions to open in the coming months as the £8m, Heritage Lottery Funded restoration project comes to fruition. Elsewhere work is progressing apace and soon highly atmospheric light touch interpretation will bring Huts 3 and 6 back to life.
These iconic historic buildings have never been open to visitors in Bletchley Park’s 19-year history as a heritage attraction. Also soon to come is an overview exhibition in Block C where visitors will be welcomed into the world of the WW2 Codebreakers. And Bletchley Park is gradually being restored much closer to its wartime atmosphere with the removal of parking and modern day street furniture from the core of the site.
Members of the Friends of Bletchley Park will be invited to exclusive, Friends only events and private viewings of new exhibitions before they open to visitors. The Friends membership scheme provides vital income towards the ongoing restoration of this uniquely important heritage site. They will be first in the queue for ticketed events with priority booking for lectures, conferences and other special events.
They will also receive a biannual magazine with exclusive interviews, features and the inside track on the transformation of Bletchley Park from a crumbling but beloved national treasure into the world-class heritage attraction and education centre it deserves to be. Friends will be kept up to date with all the latest from the Home of the Codebreakers by a monthly E Newsletter.
Annual membership is £40 and family membership is just £60, with a £5 discount on both for paying by direct debit. Find out more about the Friends scheme on the Bletchley Park website or call the Development office on 01908 272652.