Some of the world’s greatest experts on the secret wartime codebreakers of Bletchley Park are coming to Firle this weekend, to speak at a two-day public conference revealing the hidden work that shortened the war.
At Celebrating Bletchley Park, Alan Turing’s nephew is among the featured guests, along with veterans who assisted the codebreaking efforts in wartime Britain.
It is likely this will be the last meeting of this scale while Bletchley Park is in living memory.
Up to 300 audience members will gather on Saturday and Sunday, March 19 and 20, in the Riding School of Firle Place, to hear a sequence of illustrated talks, some of which will be about Alan Turing and the famous Enigma cipher. They will also learn about Turing’s colleagues including the women who helped to break enemy codes during World War II, and create the birth of modern computers.
Visitors will also hear about daily life for wartime workers, and how society continued to function under the threat of enemy bombs.
Each talk is followed by a Q&A session, and books by the speakers will be on sale at discounted prices.
On the Saturday night, a special event will allow old and new friends to meet and talk about Bletchley Park, and share their own experiences and stories. The Saturday evening begins with a discussion between a panel of experts and the audience on the subject of Bletchley Park films including The Imitation Game. Then will follow drinks with canapés from Lewes-based The Buttercup Café, as rare wartime films are shown, and music played.
As well as expert speakers, authors and broadcasters on the topic of Bletchley Park, an important part of the event is its social aspect. The public will have free time to share information, family histories, recollections and questions they may have about the codebreakers’ work in World War II, and a bar will be open.
At the centre of the event is the host Elisa Segrave, who lives in the village of Ripe. Her mother Anne Hamilton-Grace was an indexer in Bletchley Park’s Hut 3. Later, she was promoted to fourth Naval Duty Officer during the lead-up to, and during, Operation Torch, the Allied Invasion of North Africa in November 1942. Anne’s diaries prompted Elisa, an established writer, to publish an account of her mother’s life, The Girl From Station X.
Tickets are available from the event’s website, and by post from the event office in Lewes. The box-office is open now, and orders received through the post are rewarded with specially-made souvenir tickets in the form of ration coupons. However, the lunch (which must be booked in advance) is not subject to rationing at all.
Any profits made at the event will be donated to the charity Save The Children. Visit www.celebratingbletchleypark.co.uk for a full list of speakers and ticket details.
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