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Away from their families and far from other major towns around the country, it became necessary for the staff of Bletchley Park to organise much of their own entertainment to help them to relax and unwind from the important work they were doing. Whether it was dancing, music or participating in various sports, the Bletchley Park Recreational Club offered something for everyone.  The surviving material, including programmes, photographs, letters and financial accounts, provides a fascinating window onto the social side of working at Bletchley Park. Discover more material relating to the Bletchley Park Drama Group in our Collections uncovered 6


This Collections uncovered album was first published on 11 October 2019.

The Bletchley Park Recreational Club was started in October 1940 under the Chairmanship of Captain Stanley Edgar. Its aim was “to provide, for all members of Bletchley Park, facilities for recreation and amusement which otherwise do not exist in Bletchley”. At first, only a small number of activities were offered but, as membership grew, more were offered. In addition to the activities listed here, staff could play squash, tennis and table tennis. There was also an Art Section and a Rambling Club.

This membership card belonged to Emily Cundall, a Foreign Office Civilian who worked at Bletchley Park. Each member received a membership card on which the subscriptions paid would be entered and receipted. Members were expected to pay their subscriptions regularly the first of each month and should carry their cards with them when visiting the Club.

The Musical Society would occasionally host concerts by external groups at the Assembly Hall. The Assembly Hall – originally called the Lecture Hall – was built outside the gates of Bletchley Park in 1942 to facilitate social activity. It seated up to 400 people.  The Griller Quartet, led by violinist Sidney Griller, was a popular British musical ensemble active from the 1930s.

As well as hosting concerts, the Recreational Club would also perform themselves, sometimes for charities such as the British Red Cross. Here, Roma Craze, a Foreign Office Civilian at Bletchley Park, was singing mezzo-soprano and Reginald Parker, who famously devised the procedure to reveal repeat keys used by Enigma operators known as ‘Parkerismus’, was performing sketches. Parker would later become Chairman of the Recreational Club Executive Committee.

Our collections include original material written and performed by members of the Recreational Club, usually based on their lives at Bletchley Park. This song doesn’t appear to have a title but seems to have been performed by a group of women who were poking fun at some of their male colleagues.

Herbert Murrill, who worked on Japanese codes and ciphers at Bletchley Park, was also the conductor for the Bletchley Park Music Society. He was Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music and went on to become Head of Music at the BBC in 1950.

A Club Art Section was formed following the establishment of a small art studio in the gatehouse at Bletchley Park. Here is a selection of the items exhibited in Summer 1945. This is only the first page of three – a total of 83 items were exhibited by 34 different people.

Dance Section was one of the first Recreation Club sections to be created. Initially, many of the dances were held at a local school in Bletchley. After Assembly Hall was built, dances could be held more regularly. In 1944, 75 informal and seven formal dances were held, and ballroom dance classes given by a professional teacher. Scottish reels were also popular, with lunchtime practices and a weekly evening dance.

Various sports clubs were introduced at Bletchley Park. Annette Townend, an Air Ministry Civilian, took up fencing in January 1941. In one of her regular letters to her parents, dated 29 September 1941, she describes competitions with other sections and winning trophies. The last letter of hers in our collection reveals she was still fencing in 1944.

The Recreational Club grew so large that it needed a President, Executive Committee and Secretary and kept financial accounts. 1945 was a difficult year for the Club. The exodus of staff after VE Day meant a decline in both membership and revenue. Many who left had given valuable and unselfish assistance in running the various subsections. The Recreational Club was ultimately dissolved in April 1946 following the move of the Government Code & Cypher School from Bletchley Park to Eastcote.

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