1 to 8 May – Bletchley Park and East Wittering

Bletchley Park – Friday 6 May overcast warmish

The past week has been spent enjoying our time with Janet, Adrian and our beautiful Grand-daughter.  Adrian went back to work on Tuesday and we helped Janet with the mundane things, like the usual washing, shopping and cooking, while making sure we had lots of cuddles with Ella.  We took the VW Sharan hire car back to National – it has served us well but we don’t need it any more because it is too big!!

On Friday, the two of us headed off on an adventure on our own.  We walked to the station, caught a train two stops to Burnham and walked the short distance to collect our hire car from National Car Hire – a Ford Mondeo.  We had decided that we needed a larger car than Janet and Adrian’s

VW Polo, as we had been invited to spend Saturday with Janet and Adrian’s friends, Hilary and Andy at their beach house at East Wittering.  We decided that as Janet had a friend coming to visit on Friday, we would make the most of having the hire car and head off on an adventure.

We drove from Slough to Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, just over an hour from Slough to Bletchley Park, which was once Britain’s best kept secret centre for cipher and code-breaking during the Second World War.  The most famous of the codes and ciphers to be broken at Bletchley Park were the Enigma and Lorenz machine cipher, which was a triumph of intelligence and logistics, resulting in Britain’s brightest people inventing technology that we all now take for granted eg computers.  This all started in the Mansion House in August 1938 and as more and more people arrived to join the code-breaking operations, the various sections moved into large prefabricated huts set up on the lawns of the park – for security reasons the sections were only known by their hut numbers.  There are still 5 surviving huts, which we saw, one of which, Hut no 4, houses the café where we had lunch.

Our guided tour commenced in the Mansion House and took us to the Post Office, Sir Herbert’s Garage, the stable yard, the wartime garages of classic vintage vehicles and various other sites around the park.  The most interesting of these was the Bombe Room, where there was a mock-up of the original Turing’s Bombe.  This was an electro-mechanical machine of code wheels that greatly reduced the odds and time taken to break the ever-changing keys of Hitler and his allies’ messages. (see photos in gallery).  The other really interesting part of our visit was to see and hear the history of the working rebuild of Colossus, the world’s first electronic semi-programmable computer.  The very elderly gentleman who was the oldest geek we had ever seen, had lots of stories, including the fact that Colossus used over 2,500 valves, some of which dated back to World War Two.

We loved some of the stories that explained how the German codes were broken, e.g the German General who was stationed in the African Dessert, who sent a message every day to say “nothing to report”.  For some time it was this one constant message that allowed the British to identify that day’s encryption keys which enabled them to decode every other message that was sent that day.  Also, the story about the German who sat painstakingly writing his message to headquarters and receiving a message in return to say that not all of his message had gone through and could he please send it again.  He decided not to change the keys and redid the message, shortening words where he could, which then made it very easy for the British to decode his message.

We also found it amazing that there were 9,000 people working there, with bicycle couriers coming in and out every day, with messages to be decoded, and Bletchley Park still remained a secret.  A fellow tourist asked our guide what the locals would have thought about all the people coming and going and the guide said that we need to remember that this was during the war and the locals would not have questioned anything nor would they have discussed it with anyone!

There are many stories that will never be known because the people who worked at Bletchley were sworn to secrecy and many of them never revealed what actually happened there.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at Bletchley Park.

On Saturday morning, we got up, got organised, packed Ella’s travelling bag for the day, hopped into the Mondeo and headed south to Hilary and Andy’s holiday house at East Wittering.  Their house is very close to the beach that we all went 10 days ago while Katharine and Eenie were here.  Hilary and Andy drove down to meet us at their holiday house and we had a wonderful day with them, seeing some of the things that they love about the seaside.  While Janet fed Ella, Hilary and the two of us walked the short distance into the village to the pie shop to buy a Steak and Ale pie for our lunch.  While we were gone, Andy cooked some new potatoes in their jackets, carrots and peas and prepared a lovely dessert.   Although it was overcast and coolish, we enjoyed a walk along the beach, which is two streets from their house and were surprised that the tide was in and there were reasonably large waves.  Then we walked through the village and found a sweetie shop (see photos) and bought some sweets.  From there, we took two cars and drove to Ichenor to the harbour, where we watched the sailing boats and also several boats being launched down the boat ramp.  We could have stayed there for hours, but we needed to continue our guided tour of the area and headed around Chichester Harbour to the eastern end to Bosham (pronounced Boz-m) Historical Village and the Quay area.  We enjoyed a walk along the shore road, which was covered in seaweed as this road is covered by water at high tide.  Andy told us the story about how, on many occasions, people would park their cars on the shore road to go to one of the pubs or to church and come back to discover their car covered in water!  We walked around to the park and then past the Holy Trinity Church, where there had been a wedding – lots of the male guests were in tails and all of the women were well dressed with hats etc.  We also saw where the doorways to the houses in the village have been stepped up to prevent the high tides coming into the houses.  We then drove around the harbour along the shore road, which Richard found incredible as it is a bitumen road that gets covered by the high tide!!

We returned to Hilary and Andy’s holiday house and had a cuppa while Janet fed Ella and then we headed for home at about 7.30pm, stopping on the way at a “services” for dinner, or as some of the English refer to it, for “supper”.  We had light rain most of the way home, but we thoroughly enjoyed our day with Hilary and Andy at the seaside – Ella was an angel in the car and slept most of the day between feeds.

Sunday – Mother’s Day – overcast (rained through the night), warmish

Today was spent relaxing and doing nothing really.  Sandy enjoyed chatting to Katharine, Craig, her Mum and sister, Maria on the phone for Australian Mother’s Day (the Brits had theirs a few weeks ago!)  This is Janet’s first Mother’s Day so that was special too!

In the afternoon, Janet and Adrian took Ella to have her passport photos taken for her big trip to Australia in August, while the two of us did some grocery shopping at Waitrose.

A lovely relaxing day!


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