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WELCOME TO BEXLEY U3A The University of the Third Age
A   group   of   Bexley   U3A   members   are   currently   working   on   a   Shared   Learning   Project (SLP)   at   Hall   Place   under   the   guidance   of   Priscilla   Macpherson   (SLP   Coordinator)   and Kirsty   Macklen   (Bexley   Heritage   Trust   Collections   Manager).   The   aim   of   the   project   is to   gather   material   for   a   new   exhibition   about   the   200   GIs   from   U.S. Army   6811   Signal Security Detachment who were stationed at Hall Place from 1943 to 1945. The   GIs   were   working   as   wireless   intercept   operators,   listening   to   German   messages transmitted   by   radio.   These   intercepted   messages   from   the   Bexley   operators   were sent   to   Bletchley   Park   where   they   were   collected   together   with   messages   from   the whole   network   of   'Y'   stations   and   analysed   to   incorporate   into   the   ULTRA   information which   has   been   credited   by   some   sources   as   shortening   WWII   by   as   much   as   two years. At the very least ULTRA saved thousands of lives. The   Bexley   SLP   group   decided   to   visit   Bletchley   Park   to   gain   a   deeper   understanding of   ULTRA   and   the   Bletchley   Park   'Y'   station   network.   The   visit   was   organised   by   Terry Moseley   and   a   group   of   10   of   us   (some   project   members,   together   with   family   and friends)   met   at   Euston   and   went   by   train   to   Bletchley.   As   we   were   travelling   by   train, we   were   able   to   take   advantage   of   a   2   for   1   offer   to   get   into   Bletchley   Park   at   a   good price. We   did   some   general   exploration   of   the   site   in   small   groups   and   then   met   up   at   the Chauffeurs'    Hut    for    a    brief    introduction    and    a    1-hour    guided    tour    led    by    a    very knowledgeable    guide,    Joel    Greenberg.    Joel    has    recently    written    a    book    entitled Gordon   Welchman:   Bletchley   Park's   Architect   of   Ultra.   So,   we   were   in   good   hands with   Joel   who   started   his   tour   by   telling   us   how   the   Bletchley   Park   estate   was   initially rented   in   1938   and   then   subsequently   purchased   by   the   government   who   wanted   to move    the    Government    Code    and    Cypher    School    out    of    its    central    London headquarters. It   was   astonishing   to   realise   that   the   codebreakers'   wooden   huts   and   later   brick buildings   all   had   to   be   built   very   rapidly   as   the   growth   in   the   number   of   staff   was meteoric.   No-one   is   exactly   sure   how   many   people   worked   at   Bletchley   Park   over   the war   years,   but   it   is   estimated   that   in   1944,   at   the   peak   of   activity,   there   were   about 10,000   people   working   in   Bletchley   Park   and   the   associated   out-stations.   There   was hardly   any   billeting   onsite,   so   the   staff   were   billeted   for   many   miles   around   in   varying degrees   of   comfort   from   rooms   with   local   families   within   walking   or   cycling   distance,   to Woburn   Abbey   which   provided   accommodation   for   hundreds   of   Wrens   who   were bussed in to their work each day. We   all   found   Bletchley   Park   to   be   a   fascinating   place   and   in   one   day   we   only   really touched   the   tip   of   the   iceberg,   as   the   grounds   are   extensive   with   various   themes   in many   different   buildings.   Our   entry   tickets   are   valid   for   a   whole   year,   so   many   of   the group   are   planning   to   make   a   return   visit   later   this   year   to   visit   the   restored   wooden huts   when   they   are   reopened   with   new   exhibits   and   all   the   sights,   sounds   and   smells of that early codebreaking era. For more information, you may be interested in these websites:
VISIT TO BLETCHLEY PARK 4 APRIL 2014  
Arrival
The Mansion
Slate statue of Alan Turing
Enigma
Hut 1
Alan Turing's Office, Hut 8
Bexley U3A