I have always been a paper person.
When I was a child in school, I remember very clearly that my schoolbag weighed a ton. My back ached from the dense mass hanging from it- a bag full of copy books, workbooks, textbooks and the associated paraphernalia- but I loved all those little bits and didn’t equate their various delights with the heavy backpack.
Back then, ‘fancy paper’ was a thing- coloured pages; paper shaped like animals or hearts; scented paper. All of it seemed amazing to me at the time. When I look back now I realise that I literally collected sheets of paper and found it fun. I’m sure kids today would flush heads down toilets for less.
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Located in a leafy section of Milton Keynes in England, Bletchley Park was the home of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) during World War II. In 1938, the mansion on the site and a lot of the surrounding acreage was planned for a housing estate but was instead purchased by Hugh Sinclair, head of the SIS. The purchase price was £6000, which Sinclair paid out of his own pocket.
The Mansion at Bletchley Park
79 years later, I got the chance to spend some time at Bletchley, seeing an incredibly under-recognised piece of history in all of its understated glory.
Hugh Sinclair thought Bletchley would be useful in the event of a war; it had good transport connections and it would be easier to keep secret because it was outside London. ‘Station X’ was kept secret long after the end of World War II, it staff bound by a fierce code of honour that prevented them sharing the secrets of their work, until 1974, when FW Winterbotham wrote The Ultra Secret. Winterbotham has been a top ranking member of MI6 who reported directly to Hugh Sinclair- and though his knowledge of the actual codebreaking has been recognised as inaccurate and some of his account is blatantly incorrect, the story still captured the imagination of the public. In 1993, the site was opened as a museum.
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