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Bletchley veterans reveal what their Enigma Code work was like

Tessa Dunlop ANL-161107-153718001
Tessa Dunlop ANL-161107-153718001

Two of the women involved in Britain’s top-secret WWII Enigma code-breaking organisation at Bletchley Park will appear alongside BBC Two presenter Tessa Dunlop and historian during an evening of conversation in Colchester.

Tessa Dunlop and the Bletchley Girls takes place at The Mercury Theatre on August 2, from 7.30pm.

Pat Davies and Ruth Bourne (both now in their nineties) were part of the predominantly female workforce who worked night and day to intercept enemy messages and break the code.

Aged just 18 Wren Rating Ruth Bourne was selected to operate one of the now world famous Bombe machines; invented by Alan Turing she worked night and day to help crack Enigma encrypted enemy messages.

‘You knew you had to be quick especially at midnight when the codes changed. We knew if we didn’t get a ‘job up’ someone might not live.

“They made us aware it was important. You were so bushed as a Bombe operator at the end of the first night shift that on the second shift they had you sitting down doing the checking.’

Pat Davies (93 in June) was at the coal-face of the code breaking process. She was a Y station listener hunched over headphones listening to German communications.

“It’s strange to think I heard the war almost entirely from the German side

“The Official Secrets Act was a very binding act, it left me secretive for the rest of my life.”

Ruth and Pat, both storming performers in their own right, are brought together by historian, writer and BBC2 Coast presenter, Tessa Dunlop.

In 2014 Tessa spent a year ‘hanging out’ with 15 Bletchley Veterans to research her book The Bletchley Girls where she revealed, for the first time, the full extent and nature of the contribution made by very young women in helping the Allies win the Second World War.

In a compelling, moving and very witty evening these exceptional women share their wartime stories and reveal the impact Bletchley Park has had on their lives.

At the end of this show there is nothing you won’t know about The Bletchley Girls.

The show runs for 1 hour 50 mins (including interval). It comprises a structured conversation between Tessa and the ‘veterans’ and ends with an opportunity for the audience to ask questions of Ruth, Pat and Tessa and has wowed audiences from Cheltenham to the Edinburgh Festival.

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