Bletchley Park Podcast Christmas Special - A Landmark Year

  |  Published: Jan 2nd 2015

2014 has been a landmark year at Bletchley Park. It’s seen the transformation of the site, returning it to its wartime glory with phase one of the restoration. Royalty returned with not one but two Veterans in the family this time, and the stranger than fiction story of Alan Turing hit the silver screen.

Back in January we celebrated the second series of the hit ITV drama, The Bletchley Circle, and one of the series’ directors had a very personal connection to the story - Sarah Harding’s mother was a Morse slip reader at Bletchley Park from 1943. Sarah came back in the summer to give a talk as part of the hugely successful Bletchley Park Presents lecture series.

In February Living History brought the Mansion to life with actors who interacted with visitors in character. They included the granddaughter of a Bombe maintainer, playing a Wren. In March it became clear how close to the wind the restoration project had sailed, when the construction site manager said Codebreaking Huts 3 and 6 would not have survived the windstorms had they not been shored up in the nick of time.

The 70th anniversary of D Day brought the past and present together when a Veteran RAF Type X operator met today’s equivalent, and founding volunteer Peter Wescombe, who sadly died in November, examined in his inimitable style the preparation and planning that went into that incredible operation.

April brought more bright young things in 1940s period dress, bringing the buildings to life, but this time they were volunteer actors from the local community, whose images and voices help make up the hugely atmospheric interpretation of the restored buildings.

In May it was announced that Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge would visit to mark completion of phase one of the restoration, and the first people to see the transformation of Bletchley Park were, of course, the Veterans themselves.

The Duchess of Cambridge walked in her grandmother’s footsteps in June, in the newly restored Hut 6 as well as the Block C Visitor Centre and the reinstated parkland. Among the many Veterans she met was Marion Body, who worked and was friends with both her grandmother and her twin sister.

July saw the launch of the Secrecy and Security, Keeping Safe Online exhibition in the Block C Visitor Centre and Bletchley Park’s chairman, Sir John Scarlett, spoke at the launch about how the work carried out here during World War Two remains relevant today.

In August we welcomed the 100 thousandth visitor of the year earlier than ever before, and it was announced that the film about Codebreaker Alan Turing’s life, The Imitation Game, would open the London Film Festival.

September heralded the annual Veterans’ Reunion and this year we started to see the baton be handed to Veterans’ children. Turnout was higher than ever as many waited until this get together to see the transformation of the site.

Hollywood hit Bletchley Park in October as The Imitation Game premiered at the London Film Festival. We were finally able to bring you behind the scenes gems from during filming at Bletchley Park, a whole year earlier, as the finishing touches were put on The Imitation Game, The Exhibition in the Billiard Room and Ballroom. This exhibition runs for a year - don’t forget to come.

In November, the film opened in cinemas on both sides of the Atlantic and visitor numbers doubled almost instantly. Also in this month, families of the Polish mathematicians whose work was handed over in secret as war loomed, providing huge assistance to the Allies’ attempts to break Enigma, visited the site and laid a wreath at the Polish Memorial.

This month, we brought you a very excited and awestruck movie star in the shape of Benedict Cumberbatch, who spoke exclusively to Bletchley Park about what it was like filming on site and how seriously he took getting the part right.

2015 will be bring ever more fascinating stories from six short years that changed the world. We’ll be opening new exhibitions including a look at Codebreaking in World War One. The roots of the white heat of development which took place at Bletchley Park in the 1940s had its roots in the Great War, with some of those who would be key players already cracking codes.

Listen to the Christmas Special of the Bletchley Park Podcast - A Landmark Year - here.

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