VE Day at Bletchley Park

By Bletchley Park

Various Wrens' Portraits (1939/1944)Bletchley Park

8 May 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the Allies’ formal acceptance of the unconditional surrender of Germany’s armed forces, and the end of the war in Europe.

For some Bletchley Park staff, VE Day did not feel hugely significant. Britain was still at war with Japan and, as their colleagues celebrated, their work continued.

Various Wrens' Portraits (1939/1944)Bletchley Park

But many remember it clearly. For those focused on the war in Europe, VE Day marked the end of their service and the beginning of a new way of life.

Two Wrens celebrating VE dayBletchley Park

Some were apprehensive about returning to civilian life after so many years in uniform. Others were relieved. The war in Europe was over, and soldiers would be returning home. Britain and the Allied countries could begin to rebuild and work to ensure peace.

Handwritten intercept of Germany's surrender to the Allies in WW2 (1945-05-08)Bletchley Park

This handwritten document is the one of the first records outside of the British Government and Allied Command of Germany’s surrender to the Allies.

The surrender message was sent by radio from France to the remnants of the Nazi government in Lüneburg, carried partly on British wireless links.

The message was intercepted by George Curd, a Wireless Intercept Operator at Beaumanor Y Station, whose job was to track and record enemy signals. Curd allegedly picked up the message on 7 May 1945 while on ‘search’ duty and transcribed it on an official W/T (wireless traffic) Red Form.

The document was found after Curd’s death by his wife, Netta, who has also worked at Beaumanor. He had kept it secret for more than 40 years.

Congratulatory message to staff from Director-General on VE Day (1945-05-08)Bletchley Park

8 May 1945. A congratulatory message from Stewart Graham Menzies, MI6 chief and Director-General of the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, thanks the staff for their contribution to the war.

In it, he says: “This is your finest hour”.

The front is covered with stamps used by the staff of Bletchley Park's Block E.

Reverse of congratulatory message to staff from Director-General on VE Day (1945-05-08)Bletchley Park

While the reverse has signatures and good luck messages.

This copy of Menzies’ message was kept by Jane ‘Jean’ Hunter, a WAAF (Women’s Auxillary Air Force) Wireless Operator/Morse Slip Reader.

A group of WAAFs in Trafalgar Square on VE Day (1945-05-08)Bletchley Park

These Bletchley Park WAAFs travelled to Trafalgar Square to join in the national VE Day celebrations, echoed in street parties across the country.

Mrs Margaret Rowland (nee Writer), second from the left in the back row, and friends pose with one of the famous lions.

Diary of WAAF Constance M Thompson (1945-05-08)Bletchley Park

Constance M Thompson, a WAAF working as a sergeant in Block F, Air Section at BP, writes that on VE Day she attended a Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) dance in the evening, despite having just come off night shift.

Her celebrations continued with a “super time” at another NAAFI party at the following evening.

Embroidered scarf with signatures of WRNS (1945-05)Bletchley Park

Signatures of WRNS (Women’s Royal Naval Service) staff billeted at Wavendon House cover this scarf.

Jeanne Templeton, a Typex Operator, kept it as a memento of her time at Bletchley Park. She later embroidered over each signature.

Message from an autograph book, on the day before VE Day (1945-05-07)Bletchley Park

‘On the day before V. E. day - let’s pat ourselves on the back for all the stooging we have done’.

This note in an autograph book belonging to WRNS Josephine Hatter (nee Lewington) was perhaps premature. Hatter’s work did not stop on 8 May - she continued indexing and filing at Bletchley Park until October 1945.

Photograph of WAAF Caroline Shearer (nee West) (1942/1945)Bletchley Park

“I remember the sudden crashing silence when the deafening noise ceased, and we first realised the War was over. Only then did I get to the real RAF camp, with real airplanes and airmen, I had asked for in 1941! I have been married to one of those airmen, who was flying those airplanes, for over 50 years”.

WAAF Caroline Shearer (nee West), a Watch Supervisor at Bletchley Park in May 1945.

Letter to of thanks to staff from John Herivel, head of the Newmanry (1945-07-10)Bletchley Park

A final message from Codebreaker John Herivel to his team in the Newmanry, on 10 July 1945.

He acknowledges their vital work and, with remarkable foresight, suggests that one day in the future their story would be told.

Credits: Story

With grateful thanks to Mrs Margaret Rowland for the loan of her photograph (WAAFs in Trafalgar Square).

Text and all other images copyright 2020 Bletchley Park Trust

Credits: All media
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