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Our VIP’s veteran visit

Posted on May 1, 2012 by Milkwood Admin

Chatterwood resident, Esme Walker (Betty), recently attended a very exclusive event at Bletchley Park, the renowned Buckinghamshire 19th Century mansion and estate – a World War II veterans’ reunion. 

Betty was treated to a guided tour around the once top-secret home of the World War II Codebreakers, and said it was lovely to return to the estate, more than 70 years after she worked there, and meet up with other veterans. 

Betty recalled that the old huts that she had worked in had all gone, replaced by modern buildings. 

During her visit, Betty was asked by the BBC, as part of its coverage of the lead up to Remembrance Day, to take part in a short interview and to talk about her time working at Bletchley Park. Excerpts from the interview were shown on the BBC television programme, ‘Home Front Heroes’ on 9th November 2018. 

Betty retold her personal story and shared fascinating memories of her time at this iconic, historical location:

At the beginning of the war, Betty applied originally to be a volunteer for the Women’s Royal Naval Service (The WRENS) but was told that applications were only being accepted for cook positions. But then, eighteen months before war ended, Betty was approached by the Foreign Office to work at Bletchley Park, and it was her role to translate messages into German, using the famous German code-breaking machine, Enigma. The intelligence gained from the cryptanalysis of German signals that people like Betty undertook during this period, was pivotal in shortening and determining the outcome of the war.

Whilst working at Bletchley Park, Betty lived in Bedford and travelled by bus to and from work each day. Betty retold a fond memory from her commute home from work – a young naval officer who worked the night duty, regularly got on her bus and sat next to her. 

She said that on every journey he would, without fail, remove his hat, place his head on her shoulder and fall asleep, all the way to Bedford.

Betty remembers that there was a close camaraderie between the people she worked with. Betty said that she never met Alan Turing, the infamous mathematician leader in charge of Hut 8. 

After the war, Betty was offered a job at the Foreign Office but applied to join the Admiralty and was employed as a Personal Assistant for the Naval Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty. She was later was given an MBE for the services to the Royal Navy.

When Betty retired from the Navy she went to work at a jewellers in Bond Street, London, for two years and then eventually moved to Petersfield.

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