‘I would never have revealed Bletchley Park secrets,’ says former resident who became youngest person to sign Official Secrets Act

Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park

A WOMAN who lived at Bletchley Park during World War Two and became the youngest person to sign the Official Secrets Act says there was no need, as she never would have spilled the secret.

Wyn Hymer, born Ribchester, was privy to top secret information about the codebreaking operation going on around her family home from 1938 to 1942.

Last week, during a visit to Bletchley Park, she said her father, who was one of very few staff to live on site, had already impressed upon her the importance of keeping quiet about what was going on at the Home of the Codebreakers.

One day after school he took her to The Mansion and she was questioned by three high ranking armed forces offices.

She said: “Seated at a table there were three very high ranking officers, one from each of the services.

“In front of each man was a brand new, unused notepad and a pencil and his service cap. It amused me faintly because every peak of the service caps were pointing in the same direction – all very military.

“The man in the middle said, ‘when you are at school, do the other children ask you what’s going on here?’ and I said ‘Oh yes, all the time.’

“And they all leaned forward rather anxiously and said ‘And what do you say?’

“So I said, ‘well, it’s just a lot of civil servants from London’, because that’s what my father had said.

“And then he made a great long speech about how important Bletchley Park was and it was absolutely vital that nothing should be discussed or given away at all.

“And he really hammered this point home. Then he fished into his briefcase and put out a document in front of me and said, rather solemnly, ‘This is the Official Secrets Act.’

“I could see that because it was on the top. He said ‘It’s a solemn pledge, a solemn promise, this place has got to be kept secret’, he went on and on. Then he handed me a very very posh fountain pen and said ‘You must write your name in capitals there and then you must sign it and date it.’

“So I did that and he said thank you for coming and I went to join my father and as I went out I heard someone chuckle.

“I was a prickly little devil, actually, and I said ‘they’re laughing at me.’ He said no they aren’t, they’re laughing because you’re the youngest ever to sign the OSA.’

“I was 13 and they needn’t have bothered. It was obviously very, very heavily stage managed to impress a schoolgirl. But as I say I’d had it drummed into me by my father so it was really a bit of a rain dance.”

Wyn said living in such a unique environment made her grow up fast.

“We had billetees. (Some) were terribly indiscreet. They would talk about anything,” she said.

“I think they felt that since they were on station, it didn’t matter. One was a squadron leader in the RAF and I kept hearing him and his chums talking about something I couldn’t catch and I asked what it was and he told me it was RDF.

“I asked ‘what’s that?’ and he said ‘It stands for Radio Direction Firing. You fire a radio beam up into the sky and if there are aeroplanes there, the beam is reflected back to England.’

“And he said, ‘there are RDF listening stations all around the coast.’ I mean, it was terrible, him saying all this. I said ‘Well, what good does that do?’ So he said ‘They can tell from the echoes how many aeroplanes, their height, their direction and their range.’

“So I said ‘That’s marvellous.’ And he said ‘Yes, and it’s all very secret, so you keep your mouth shut’, which of course I did, and of course that was later known as radar.”

Wyn cultivated her own nickname for some of the short term billetees: ‘fly-by-nights’.

“They would come from I don’t know where and they would stay a few days, maybe a week, and I noticed that they never went out of the Park and they spent all their time in The Mansion.

“And they didn’t work shifts, they did sort of office hours. And then they were gone. They were very nice and very friendly and they used to tell me all about the theatres and the art galleries and museums that I would see after the war and they never, never talked down to me.

“They never patronised me or anything and I liked them all very much actually.”

But there was a down side to growing up in such a secret place. Wyn was never allowed visitors, nor could she ever play in the grounds.

She said: “I never had a birthday party or a birthday tea. One Saturday a couple of my chums came up to the Park and said ‘Can we go and see Wyn?’ and they were told in no uncertain times to push off.

“So all my friendships were very one sided. I could see them but they couldn’t see me so it was lonely really, but you just put up with things as a child, don’t you, you adapt.”

Like many of the Codebreakers themselves, Wyn never had a chance to talk about Bletchley Park with her parents after the war.

“My father never said a word. We went back to Twickenham to live and I said ‘Where are you working?’ and he said ‘I’m working in London’, end of conversation. And that was that.”

During her visit last week with old school friend Jean Cheshire, Wyn toured the museum which is about to undergo a £7.4 million, Heritage Lottery funded renovation programme.

The renovation programme will see the restoration of the iconic codebreaking Huts 6 and 3 to their wartime condition and will allow visitors to experience the atmosphere and learn more about the work carried out by the Government Code and Cypher School, renamed GCHQ after the war.

The former Card Index, Block C, will also be restored, becoming the new visitor centre. The project will also see internal landscaping, restoring the Park to its wartime atmosphere.