Veteran Wren – Women’s Royal Naval Service – Bombe Operator, Audrey Wind, recalls how she was plucked to do a ‘very secret job’ as the ITV drama based on the real life events returns tonight.
Half a dozen of us were told to report up to the castle and one by one we were taken into a room. One came out and we asked her what had gone on and she walked straight past us and out the door. This happened with each one. I was next to last and poor old Pro Wren Wright had to be left on her own and I said ‘Don’t worry, I will tell you no matter what it is.’
So I walked in and there was a long oak table. In the middle was a Wren officer. I saluted and she told me to stand at ease. She said ‘We want you to do something that is very, very secret. We can’t tell you what it is but when you leave this room you must not mention this conversation to any living person. I saluted, about turned and went out and, of course, straight past pro Wren Wright. – Audrey Wind
Audrey was posted to Eastcote, an outstation of Bletchley Park, where she operated Bombe machines which helped speed up the process of breaking Enigma by helping to find the daily settings on hundreds of networks. She says that ‘The pressure was enormous.’
It took me a long time after the war to get over it and I’m sure it did for everyone. It was terribly stressful.
The shared secret of what went on at Bletchley Park is the common bond between the characters in the hit ITV drama, The Bletchley Circle. They re-unite to solve mysteries, ten years after the war ended, when no-one but those who were there knows what they did or how important it was.
Long before the veil of secrecy was lifted, while working as a school secretary, Audrey was spotted by a colleague, the school Headmaster, Oliver Berthoud, as a fellow alumnus of Bletchley Park.
I worked very happily with him, we seemed to blend in an extraordinary way; we almost used to know what the other person was thinking. He had a suspicion I had worked for Bletchley Park because of the way my mind worked. One Easter holiday when we were alone in the school he suddenly looked across at me and asked what I had done in the war. I thought it wouldn’t mean anything to him so I said ‘Eastcote’.
He nearly fell off his chair, he put his head in his hand and then he looked across and said ‘I will just make sure the caretaker isn’t around.’ He came back into the room and said ‘I think it would be wise if you test me and I test you. Think of something I wouldn’t be able to answer if I wasn’t at Bletchley Park.’ My regret to this day is that I can’t remember how we tested each other. It was difficult. We made sure the school was empty and we had a good old natter about it. It was wonderful to be able to talk to someone about it.
Their secret conversations became noticeable to colleagues over time and suspicion grew that they were having an illicit affair. Audrey is emphatic ‘We most certainly were not.’
You can hear more from Audrey in the January episode of the Bletchley Park Podcast, on Audioboo’s Bletchley Park Channel from the 10th of January. An interview with Audrey, who now lives in her lifelong hometown, Folkestone, will form a DVD extra on series two of The Bletchley Circle, which returns to ITV tonight at 9pm.