Ladies and gentlemen, I woke up this morning and turned the wireless on and heard something about Bletchley Park and I thought, ‘Oh lord, what have I done now?’ But I was so pleased to hear that attention is being paid to this remarkable place because for both my wife and I, today has been a great treat, if I may say so – having this opportunity to go round and have a look at somewhere I’ve always wanted to see, having heard so much about all the work that was done here during the war.
Not only has it been a great treat but it has also been a particular privilege for both of us to meet those remarkable people who used to work here during the last war who have been kind and generous enough to come along today and to at least impart some of their memories and knowledge. I only wish there had been more time to listen to a great deal more of what they have to say. Because there is no point in listening to me – I’d much rather hear all the reminiscences of those who literally helped to ensure that this country finally emerged victorious.
Because if it hadn’t been for the work done here - and you don’t need me to tell you that - and all those thousands of people who were involved in these deeply secret operations, it is very likely, if they hadn’t cracked those codes, that we probably might have been in a completely different situation altogether now. We owe all of them and all of those who are still with us today quite the most enormous debt of gratitude and appreciation.
And then, again, for us what was so fascinating was to witness all the work that has been going on in terms of rebuilding the Bombe and the Colossus, and particularly interesting to meet those really remarkable skilled electronics engineers and others who I know only too well love tinkering with all those things for hours and hours.
But the result was quite remarkable, after 13 or 14 years - that was another great thrill to see just what all that dedication and effort and enthusiasm has managed to produce. And now, when people come round here they can actually see for themselves these remarkable machines built as a result of so many ingenious people who’ve put so much into it.
Also, as you can imagine, for me, another real fascination today was meeting Mr. and Mrs. Batey – in fact for the second time I met Mavis Batey – because she was involved in helping, at that particular point in the war, to crack the code for the Italian Navy before the Battle of Cape Matapan, in which my father was involved. In fact I rang him up this morning to say I was coming to Bletchley Park to see some of the people who were involved and asked him if he remembered about the code-cracking, and he said “I was only a mid-shipper!” He of course was in charge of the search light at the Battle of Matapan.
I remember, as a child, him telling me the story about that - he was on HMS Valiant. It brought back all sorts of childhood memories.
I remember listening to all sorts of stories about the last war when I was put to bed. I heard also a huge number of stories from Lord Mountbatten my great uncle, who as you can imagine, told some deeply interesting stories.
You used to be able to say to him ‘number 42’ to recall a story – he used to have a brain rather like a computer so if you gave him the right a piece information, the reminiscence appeared. He would have loved it here today.
So, more than anything else, may I just express my admiration for all those who have done so much to bring this place back to life but above all, if I may say so, to prevent it from being raised to the ground. That was the thing that really frightened me. I can only speak from the point of view that I am also one of those people who spends a large amount of time stopping places like this from being bulldozed, or being lost, or becoming completely derelict. Because so many of these remarkable historic sites have huge value when converted to other uses. So I could not admire more all those who literally stood in front of the bulldozers and have ensured that this immensely special place has been retained for national benefit.
So, if I may say so, you are the keepers of on of the greatest British success stories and I can only wish the (Bletchley Park) Trust well in its plans to develop the site into a world class heritage and educational centre reflecting its significance on the outcome of World War Two and the 20th century.
The other thing of course we have to remember, I think, on an occasion like this, is that there are still remarkable people working in this kind of field as we speak and as we sit here. Fortunately I’m lucky enough to come across them on various occasions, or even to give them in some instances decorations.
I can never get over the kind of remarkable enterprises they embark upon and the courage that so many of them display, unseen and unheard, most of the time. But it does mean that all of us can sleep much more safely in our beds at night, and for that again, we owe the successes of those who did so much to ensure our freedom in the last war another great debt of gratitude in today’s world.
So having said all that, nothing could give greater pleasure than to unveil this plaque…