The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Bletchley Park, D Block; Photo © Rachael Marshall

100 Buildings 100 Years

1943: Bletchley Park, D Block, Buckinghamshire

Condition: Poor/damaged condition
Architect: Ministry of Works and Buildings
Location: Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK3 6EB

Heroic things sometimes happen in the most banal settings. D Block, its bungalow wings laid out off one long corridor in a ‘spider’ plan, is more substantial than Bletchley Park’s earlier wooden huts. It has steel reinforcement and a concrete roof, so might have survived a near miss. Happily for the struggle to rid Europe of fascism – which at times appeared nearly lost – Bletchley Park was never bombed. D Block was the setting of the industrial scale interception and decrypting of war-time messages. In 2014 the wooden huts are undergoing restoration and D Block is next in line. Three shifts of staff each of up to 700 people worked 24 hours a day in D Block alone, bussed in from their small-town billets across Buckinghamshire. Nearly all women, hardly any D Block staff knew what the millions of messages and decrypts they were handling meant, or why they were important. Most were banal, serving merely to indicate the enemy’s usual patterns of operation from which strategic changes might be deduced. The brilliance of the Bletchley mathematicians, their cracking of Enigma, the creation of the world’s first electronic programmable computer on the site – all have captured the world’s imagination. But for me, D Block and its routine and dutiful drudgery is as worthy of remembering.

by Roland Jeffery

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