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Wartime Bombs: Dark days when the bombs fell on Park ....
This is where the bomb fell near hut 4 in October 1940
Elmers, an imposing residence near Bletchley Park,
pictured shortly before it was finally demolished.

Nowadays, it is perhaps with almost a certain glibness that Bletchley Park is mentioned to have been the best kept secret of World War Two.
Yet at least three occasions had the potential to either compromise the security, or disrupt the vital work, and il seems to have been that only pure luck prevented such a catastrophe. Local historian John Taylor deciphers the details...

During World War Two, the confidence of the Germans in their Enigma coding system would cost them dear, especially since they had early knowledge that the Government Code and Cipher School, 'GC and CS' was located at Bletchley.

In fact this had been revealed following the 'Venlo incident', which, some two months after the outbreak of war, had occurred when, in the company of a Dutch Army intelligence officer, two British agents, Major Richard Stevens, and Captain Sigismund Payne Best, had driven from The Hague to an afternoon rendezvous at the Cafe Backus.

On the border between the neutral Netherlands and Germany, this was situated a short distance from a customs post near Venlo, and although the agents had been advised not to go, they disregarded the warning and kept their intention to meet a German general who, it was alleged, was plotting a coup against Hitler.

However, as the agents approached the cafe despite being greeted by their German contact with an amicable wave they did not know that he was really a Major in the SS and, as they drew near, a car suddenly pulled in front of their vehicle, with troops firing machine guns from the running boards.

The Dutch officer was mortally wounded, whilst as for the British agents they were hurriedly bundled into the car and driven at speed into Germany.

Through subsequent interrogations - during which they were apparently never tortured - the two agents revealed a wealth of information regarding the British intelligence service, and in fact in a subsequent German intelligence summary prepared for Operation Sealion - the proposed invasion of Britain - the mention was made that regarding the British code breakers 'Stevens says most of the staff have moved to Bletchley.' Yet in confirmation that the Germans paid little heed to the revelations no mass bombing was ever launched, and thankfully the only bombs that Bletchley did endure caused no substantial damage to the Bletchley Park huts.

Indeed it was just as well that Bletchley would be spared from such attention, since many of the local brick kilns were used as a storage facility for vast quantities of ammunition!

With the outbreak of war it was realised that railways would become a prime target for enemy attack, and at night only dim blue bulbs were therefore provided for lighting the interior of carriages, in which yellow notices had been placed instructing passengers to 'Lie down on the floor in the event of an Air Raid.'

In 1940 it then became the official procedure that 'Where a bomb weighing 250kg or more has fallen within a distance of 100 yards from a railway (including an Underground Railway) the full restrictions should be enforced until the bomb has been disposed of. This proviso is necessary in view of the risk of detonation due to vibration', and in fact Bletchley station became a probable target on October 3 1940 when having machined gunned a train and caused two casualties - one by splintered glass, and one by a bullet - a German aircraft dropped four high explosive bombs.

However, they missed the station and landed in the vicinity of Bletchley Park, one falling near Hut 4, then in use for processing naval intelligence, and another demolishing an already derelict greenhouse.

Given the importance of Bletchley Park, after this incident anti aircraft guns were not surprisingly sited for a while between Shenley Road and the railway, and in further measures the buildings of the Park were subsequently strengthened.

Indeed, the competence of the builders would be dramatically proved in recent years when wrecked machinery, brought in to demolish some of the constructions, was itself wrecked whilst attempting the task!

Apart from the mansion, and the huts in the grounds, the code breakers at Bletchley Park also made use of nearby 'Elmers', (now the site of the Elmers Park housing development), which as with several houses in the vicinity would be damaged by enemy bombs.

The imposing residence had originally been the home of the Selby Lowndes family, and of the children of Richard Selby Lowndes, (whose tomb may be seen near the porch of St Mary's Church), a son, Reginald William, was born at Bletchley Cottage in January 1853. Unfortunately he did not survive infancy, but of the eight daughters - who became known as the eight belles, (from which the nearby pub - previously known the Old Bells - took its name) - Eleanora became the second wife of Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres.

Elmers then came up for sale in June 1920 by the direction of Mrs Richard Selby Lowndes, who was leaving the district, and the substantial accommodation, which included 13 bedrooms, four reception rooms and 'a park like meadow' of seven acres, was then bought for use as a school by Professor Alfred Holloway. He had previously run a school in Bletchley Road, and the premises, built in 1891, would become a centre for the Conservative Club, founded in 1930.

After the outbreak of war, during its use by the code breakers Elmers, including a classroom, would be damaged by high explosive bombs on 20 November, 1940 and with these also causing damage to several houses in Church Green Road, this seemed somewhat ironic, since it was at 'Lindthorpe' that Arthur Bates, the ARP Officer and District Sub Controller, lived.

The bombs brought down telephone wires and an electric standard, (which fell, blocking the road), and as a further cause for alarm bombs were variously dropped near the town on other occasions.

Damaging ten yards of hedging, these included a high explosive bomb at Borough Farm, Newton Longville, on 8 September 1940, whilst in early October four high explosive bombs fell on open fields, with incendiary bombs dropped later in the month at Galley Lane Farm, and a field next to the Pulman Cafe. Then on 15 November, 1940, two high explosive bombs fell a mile south east of Bletchley, but fortunately they only caused slight damage.

Two years before the outbreak of war, with a prudent foresight the insurance companies had stopped cover for war damage, and in consequence in 1940 the War Damages Commission was set up, intending to recoup the cost of the payments by an Inland Revenue scheme.

This would provide financial compensation to those people who had suffered damage to their land and/or buildings through enemy action, and the local authority was directed to categorise the extent of such damage into four sub heatings: a) Total destruction b) Damage so severe that demolition was necessary c) Severely damaged but capable of repair i) still usable ii) evacuated or to be evacuated d) Slightly damaged (excluding broken windows only).

Four copies of the report were then to be made, one to be kept, one for the District Valuer of the area, one for the Ministry of Health, and one for the Regional Office of the Ministry of Health.

Taking charge at the scene of any 'major occurrence' would be Incident Officers, supplied by the police, and having fully assessed the situation they would therefore be able to provide guidance to the arriving emergency services.

An Incident Officer's post would be marked by a blue and white check flag and two blue lamps, set one above the other, and - if needed - that for Bletchley would be established on the car park outside the Council Offices.

Should an incident severely disrupt communications, then the ARP service would use the organised system of the police, whereby urgent messages could be delivered by car to the Regional Headquarters at Reading and with two routes always being available, contingency plans were in place should alternatives be needed.