Type above to decrypt our story...


































As our Learning programme continues to grow, we will be welcoming more students than ever to our new Challenge HQ classrooms to learn about all things Bletchley Park. The war-time staff of GC&CS often had to learn new skills in order to undertake their roles. Learning was also a major focus for GC&CS, when staff often needed to develop new skills for their roles. Some people were recruited because they already possessed useful knowledge such as graduates from leading universities and secretarial colleges. However, many individuals joined the war effort without prior experience and learnt what they were to do at Bletchley Park from scratch, sometimes on an ad-hoc basis.


This album was first published on 17 January 2020.

In June 1942, 20-year-old Dorothy Robertson (Smith) graduated from Aberdeen University with a knowledge of French and German. She signed up for the WRNS. After her basic training at Mill Hill, in a medical research institute that had been converted for WRNS training, Robertson was sent to Wimbledon for an exhausting two-week linguistics course. She passed the final examinations at the end of the course, and became an Intercept Operator based at Withernsea and Scarborough, listening in to signals sent by German E-boats and R-boats. In 2001 she wrote her memories of her wartime service.

Diana Rosemary ‘Bobby’ Stewart was a FO Civilian recruited for her linguistics knowledge to Bletchley Park in 1943. She worked in Naval Section until the end of the war. This typescript sheet of specialist German vocabulary was used by Stewart and includes translations for gun parts.

As part of her intensive preparation to take up her role with GC&CS at Bletchley Park, Diana Stewart had to learn how to read German handwriting in order to translate it into English. This book by H. Oskar Sommer, first published c.1900, was adapted for use during the war. It is a revision aid for people taking linguistics exams and gives samples of German handwriting alongside typescript translations.

As well as German vocabulary, many staff at Bletchley Park had to learn German abbreviations. This document features a list of common military abbreviations with their German full form and English translation. This series of papers also comprises of several troubleshooting-style sections on the most common errors in telegraphic transmission and common Morse confusion. Mistakes and garbles made when intercepting a message could survive the decryption process and had to be put right when a message was translated.

Anne Hill (Zuppinger) wrote to Bletchley Park in April 2000 about her time recruiting and training WRNS to work on the Bombe machines and later in the war, on Colossus machines. Arriving in 1941 and leaving well after VE Day, Anne saw the growth of Bletchley Park first-hand.

Bletchley Park Veteran Margaret Mary Dickinson (Holland) had an ‘English-German German-English Military Dictionary’ to help with her work. Reprinted commercially in 1941, this dictionary by L. von Carstenn paid special attention to technical terms employed by the Navy and the Air Force. The book also includes military sporting terms and soldiers’ slang. This diagram describing in English and German the parts of a cartridge is an appendix to the dictionary. Dickinson has made her own additions in pencil for reference.

This excerpt from a cryptography course, taken by Bletchley Park Veteran Angus Mackintosh, teaches the student how to encipher using the Vigenere table. The Vigenere method of encryption uses a series of interwoven ciphers based on a keyword. Originating in the 16th century, the system was still taught during WW2.

Lt Cecil George worked at Bletchley Park from 1942 until 1944 when he was posted to the Wireless Experimental Centre in New Delhi. This excerpt is taken from a pocket-sized ‘Manual of Military Intelligence in the Field’ issued to George during his wartime career. The manual outlines the responsibilities and training requirements of the Intelligence Officer in the field. George had to be instructed in the use of code names and had to have a good working knowledge of the use of camouflage.

Some people who were recruited to work for GC&CS or SIS came to Bletchley Park to be trained and were then sent elsewhere straight away. William Miller recalls putting his name down for special duties overseas in 1940 and being requested to proceed to Bletchley. After aptitude tests in Morse code, and an interview with Brigadier Richard Gambier-Parry, Miller was put on the SIS payroll. He then spent roughly eight weeks at Bletchley Park being trained on codes and cyphers and how to create his own personal code with a Penguin book. Miller was then posted to Bilbao as a Radio Operator and then to Tangier.

Towards the end of the war TICOM (Target Intelligence Committee) was set up to deploy Allied forces into Germany in order to track down and seize enemy intelligence assets. Several of those sent to Europe for this mission were taken from the pool of staff at Bletchley Park, and as such required special training for field work. This document shows the training schedule held at Bletchley Park for Target Reporting Officers, including training on booby traps and shooting practice.

Related articles