Bletchley Park revisited (5): The dispatch rider

Posted: March 25, 2014 in History, UK
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Most of the signal intercepts that arrived at Bletchley Park came by the hands of the motorcycle dispatch riders, who came into and out of Bletchley Park by a gate at the rear of the complex.

The gates at the rear of the Park where the disptach riders arrived and left.

The gates at the rear of the Park where the disptach riders arrived and left.

One rider remembers ” there was always someone to show the pass to at the gate. You just walk straight in, you never had to wait, and gave it to the Wren on the desk. You emptied your bag and put the new stuff (outgoing messages) in the bag and went straight back out. They were big envelopes with big red seals that said “on his Majesty’s Service” and “most secret”. I knew that it was a secret place, what they did I didn’t know. It’s only after the war we realised the stuff we were carrying was really vital in the war effort” (Darrell Briggs, Dispatch Rider)

The dispatch riders could stop any army vehicle in an emergency and asked for petrol. They were not held up or delayed at road blocks by either the police or the military and they could seek assistance and shelter at army camps or barracks when on duty.

A disptach riders motorbike

A disptach riders motorbike

A disptach riders helmet and panniers

A disptach riders helmet and panniers

But it was a hard and dangerous job. They had to travel backwards and forwards from the intercept stations at all times of day and night and in all weathers. One worker at Bletchley remembers “. I can still see an army motorbike dispatch rider, arriving one dark winter nights at Bletchley Park from an intercept station, covered from head to foot with snow. (James Thirsk). Another recalls “The debt that we owe to these riders, who face all kinds of weather on their motorcycles has never, to my knowledge, been properly recognised” (Gordon Welchman).

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Comments
  1. I was an apprentice with the GPO Telephones, now BT – one their basic training sites was at Bletchley park, with some of the social facilities available in the Mansion. (What stories could be told!)

    • Pete says:

      How much did you know about its war time history at the time?

      • Difficult to say now, as I’ve learnt so much in the intervening years. We certainly new it was the site where the code-breaking was done and a number of the huts were hightlighted as ‘the ones’. Our accommodation was in single story buildings made of engineering bricks, steel window frames and flat roofs – which always reminded me of war time buildings thought they may have been put up in the 50s. Trouble is 16-18 year olds were distracted by ranging testostorone and the knowledge that the pubs were only a few minutes walk away (‘ course at that age we didn’t drink and they didn’t serve us).

      • Pete says:

        Sounds like it might have been the blocks where the museum and the offices are now – put up I think in the later part of the war when the huts proved too small for the increasing number of staff on site. I will be sorting out my photos of the house for future posts, so they may bring back more memories.

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