Beds, Herts & Bucks

Duchess of Cambridge opens Bletchley Park restored centre

The Duchess of Cambridge "listens in on the enemy" during a visit to Bletchley Park
Image caption The Duchess of Cambridge "listens in on the enemy" during a visit to Bletchley Park

The Duchess of Cambridge has reopened a World War Two codebreaking centre, where her grandmother once worked.

The home of the Government Code and Cypher School in Buckinghamshire cost £8m to restore and was mostly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The duchess also met Lady Marion Body, a former colleague of her paternal grandmother, Valerie Glassborow, who worked in Hut 16.

The project has seen the buildings returned to their WW2 appearance.

Image caption The Duchess of Cambridge talks with Bletchley veterans (from the left) Peggy Huntington, Joan Joslin, Iris King and Alma Wightman
Image caption The duchess met crowds of children on her visit to Bletchley Park
Image caption The Duchess of Cambridge talks with Bletchley veteran Lady Marion Body, who knew her grandmother, during her visit

Sir John Scarlett, chairman of the Bletchley Park Trust, 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."

Iain Standen, the trust's chief executive, said the duchess had heard "first-hand memories of her grandmother from her Bletchley Park colleagues, demonstrating how veterans' recollections are central to telling this remarkable story".

Ms Glassborow, who married the duchess' grandfather Peter Middleton, was a civilian staff member at the centre where her twin sister Mary was also employed.

Media captionThe duchess tried her hand at being a codebreaker during the visit

Documents dated October 1944 show she was probably a duty officer and worked in Hut 16, now restored Hut 6, where it is thought she chose which intercept stations staff should listen to.

The success of the centre's codebreakers in breaking the German cypher systems Enigma and Lorenz, are credited with shortening the war by two years.

During the tour of the centre, the duchess, dressed in an Alexander McQueen outfit, attempted to intercept radio messages.

Plans for complete restoration began at the end of 2011 when the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the trust a £5m grant and work began in 2012.

Veteran Lady Marion recalls working with the twin sisters on 15 August 1945 when they heard that the war had ended.

The three were on shift when their superior officer told them a signal had been intercepted between Tokyo and Geneva that the Japanese were surrendering.

"We just sat there in complete silence," she said.

"Commander Williams then just told us to get on with our work and we all laughed.

"It's something I could never tell anybody about because we were sworn to secrecy but it was a great moment to feel you were perhaps among the first people who knew the war was at last over."

She was among other former codebreakers meeting the duchess, who will be planting a tree to commemorate the visit.

Media captionHow Bletchley Park looks after the restoration

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