The War Fought off the Battlefield

Just outside London, half way between Cambridge and Oxford, sits the town Bletchley. During the war Bletchley Park was home to British intelligence operations; men and women worked nonstop to crack German enigma codes and aid the Allies on the frontlines. To me, Bletchley Park is a prime example of Britain’s “People’s War.” The “People’s War” is the historical interpretation of British involvement in WWII, emphasizing the importance of civilian contributions to Britain’s total war effort and success. What really reinforced the idea of a “People’s War,” however, was oddly enough the coats, hats, and purses that hung on the walls of the different huts. While these people played an important role in the success of the Allies, they were still just ordinary citizens. Daily work life at Bletchley included women riding their motorcycles to deliver important messages and huts working together to decode German codes. Their offices were nothing glamorous, and at the end of each night they got on the bus or rode their bike home just like any other person. Despite this sense of normality, their work was crucial to Britain’s success.

Additionally, our tour guide reiterated several times just how important secrecy was at Bletchley Park. It is intriguing that even after the war these women and men kept secret what they did. No one attempted to glorify themselves but instead continued on with their lives normally. Walking through the grounds and hearing the tour guide say this both reinforced the interpretation of a “People’s War” and made me question it. For one, their avoidance of the spotlight suggests a group effort towards the war, a sign of the collective effort that was prominent throughout Britain. On the other hand, the work done at Bletchley Park was left out of historical accounts until it was revealed decades after the end of WWII. By that point in time the interpretation of Britain’s war as a “People’s War” was already existent. Standing in the different huts I couldn’t help but wonder if the “People’s War” interpretation has expanded at all since the uncovering of what men and women at Bletchley Park did to greatly aid the war effort. To me, the people of Bletchley Park perfectly embody the interpretation of Britain’s WWII experience, that of a “People’s War.”

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