Kate told of grandmother's war role

Hillingdon Times: The Duchess of Cambridge is to visit the restored code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park The Duchess of Cambridge is to visit the restored code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park

The Duchess of Cambridge has heard stories about her grandmother's wartime role at the famous Bletchley Park - home of the code-breakers.

Lady Marion Body, friend of Kate's grandmother Valerie Glassborow, described how as young women they worked together directing the efforts of listening stations.

She confessed that their job was "tedious" but said they were young women who still managed to have fun.

The pair met when the Duchess toured Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes, to see the results of a major £8 million restoration project that have returned the derelict huts used by staff back to their wartime appearance.

Miss Glassborow, as she was known before marrying Kate's grandfather Peter Middleton, was a civilian member of staff along with her twin sister Mary at the Government Code and Cypher School and worked in Hut 16, now restored Hut 6.

Her role, like Lady Body's, was mostly an administrative one, checking that listening stations, which monitored Axis diplomatic messages, were targeting the right areas.

Lady Body, 90, chatted to Kate in a tiny room in Hut 6, surrounded by period furniture and effects.

Speaking about her grandmother's work the Duchess told Lady Body: "When I was a young girl, I did ask granny about it", but it is known that Mrs Middleton did not speak much about her wartime duties.

The 90-year-old said after talking to Kate: "It was tedious, we were monitoring what signals were being picked up.

"The radio stations, called Y stations, were listening and they used to send in, I think every 15 minutes, the call signs they were picking up and we had to check they were doing the right thing.

"The Duchess' grandmother worked on the same desk as me. I had been at secretarial college with those two girls so I knew them very well.

"They were fun, when you have such a boring job you had to get on well. We knew exactly what we were doing - it was part of the war effort."

The success of Bletchley Park in breaking the German cypher systems, Enigma and Lorenz, was key to defeating the Nazis and has been credited with shortening the war by two years.

Many of the veterans who worked at the code-breaking centre are still reluctant to talk about their roles.

The centre's work helped lay the foundations for modern inventions like the computer and some aspects are still classified to this day.

Lady Body, who chatted to Kate just a few rooms away from where she worked with her grandmother and great aunt, said: "She wanted to know what she did here. I was able to tell her. Valerie would never have spoken about it - I wouldn't have done until very recently."

She added: "The secrecy was oppressive. When you left your room you shut the door pretty quickly when you left, and you didn't go into anyone else's room."

The 90-year-old was clearly happy to meet the duchess, and said: "She's lovely I think she's absolutely wonderful," and added: "There is a likeness, hair colouring I think and possibly her eyes.

"I'm very glad she's come, she's obviously the right person to do it and her connection with her grandmother puts her seal on it."

Lady Body described how she told Kate the story about working with her grandmother, who died a few years ago, when they were told by a senior officer about Japan's plan to surrender, discovered in intercepted diplomatic messages on August 15, 1945.

She said: "We just sat there in complete silence nobody knew what to do or say and then he said 'you just get on with your work' - he didn't know what to say either."

He later returned to confirm the king and prime minister had been told and the war was finally over.

Lady Body said: "Valerie died a few years ago and it was only fairly recently that people felt able to talk about it."

Speaking about Kate she added: "She didn't know about that and said she'd go and tell her father."

During her visit Kate toured the restored single story huts, that were used by the code-breakers, and also the visitors' centre.

As she walked around the new centre the Duchess was offered the chance to sit at a desk and attempt to intercept radio messages.

Turning a radio dial Kate tried to find the enemy message and when she did successfully decoded the Morse code secret.

Despite the funds spent on the restoration some of the veterans complained the fixture and fittings were not authentic.

Jane Fawcett, 93, who worked at Bletchley said: "I didn't recognise any of this, least of all the lights, we had proper lighting.

"We had great big lights hanging from the ceiling, then we had lights all around the wall. The floors were dirty and there were torn blinds."

Kate was joined during her tour by Sir Iain Lobban, director of GCHQ, and Sir John Scarlett, former head of MI6, and now chairman, Bletchley Park Trust.

Sir John said: "The work at Bletchley Park made an immense contribution to the victory of Great Britain and our Allies in World War Two.

"It was a great honour to welcome The Duchess of Cambridge and to show her where her grandmother worked, especially now that Hut 6, along with other fragile buildings, has been restored to create a permanent and fitting tribute to the thousands of men and women whose work helped to shorten the war."

Comments (2)

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10:29am Wed 18 Jun 14

Umm1972 says...

Hard day for u then .....can't stand her
Hard day for u then .....can't stand her Umm1972
  • Score: -6

10:53am Wed 18 Jun 14

vicn1956 says...

An amazing place. The codebreakers were truly geniuses.
An amazing place. The codebreakers were truly geniuses. vicn1956
  • Score: 6
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