I have always found the wartime work at Bletchley Park fascinating. I don’t know why, I have no idea what triggered this fascination but it is something that, especially considering it’s time, was quite remarkable. I have since been to Bletchley Park and watched a number of series and films based on the works there and as you can probably tell, all of these have inspired the story below.
This story was originally submitted to the Dangerous Women Project, a project exploring the power of women and how they may be interpreted as dangerous. Unfortunately, my submission was not accepted, so I’m sharing it with you lovely lot instead.
Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment!
“Goodness gracious!” Mr Hartman cried out as smoke proceeded to rise from the pot in front of me. I looked up sheepishly. “If you had a brain you’d be dangerous!” He laughed heartily, yet in an unforgiving manner. I was thirteen at the time of this incident. It was one of many. I always had a rather creative knack for Mathematics and Science at school, well, that’s how my teachers put it anyway, but it seems that knack only got me into Oxford University to study Mathematics and I only graduated with a First. I decided right then at that moment that I must, in that case, be dangerous because I was human and I had a brain. The fact was, you can’t live without a brain, so all humans must be dangerous.
Six years on from that particular day and I was in my second year at Oxford. I was walking along the great hallways one blustery afternoon, minding my own business when I found myself jolting as I realised I had speed-walked head-first into a group five boys, all of which were in the year above me. I looked up at them, startled and mumbled an apology. One jeering boy handed me my stack of books that had scattered themselves across the corridor and I quickly carried on in the direction of the residential halls. As I walked past, I heard one of them say, in a deliberately loud voice, “if women had brains, they’d be dangerous.” That was it. That must have been what Mr Hartman meant all those years ago, ” if women had brains they’d be dangerous”. Full marks for your subtlety, Sir.
It is now November 1939 and Britain is in the midst of war. Since leaving university, I have struggled to find work, even as a secretary because I am a woman. Just twelve months later, I received a letter inviting me to an interview at a place called Bletchley Park, however, the exact requirements of the job were suspiciously brief.
The following week I took the train on an hour’s journey to Bletchley and was buzzing with excitement after the interview. As it turns out, Bletchley Park wanted to recruit the most intelligent people in the country, women included, to work there during the war in an attempt to crack the Germans’ coded messages to help Britain win the war. Furthermore, the following day, I got a telegram offering me a position there. I have only eight words for my old Science teacher and those boys in the corridor at Oxford: Put that in your pipe and smoke it.