For The Bletchley Girls, the author Tessa Dunlop tracked down a number of women- all in their nineties now- who worked at the Park. The book tells their stories: their lives before the war, their experiences during those years, and what became of them afterwards. At that time, with most able-bodied men headed over the Channel, most of the staff at Bletchley were women. Most, however, weren't working as cryptographers- they were generally doing more mundane, even boring jobs such as collecting incoming information, organizing and typing it up for use. It really becomes obvious that the seemingly miraculous- and truly genius- code breaking that went on there depended greatly on the painstaking and often tedious work of hundreds of individuals who received no recognition for their service, and frequently had little idea themselves of the importance of their work. I find first-hand historical accounts fascinating, so was eager to read this book and learn of the contributions of these women to the war effort in England. Quite a bit of it was very interesting, not least finding out a bit about how Bletchley Park functioned. It seems to have been very compartmentalized, with different departments seldom knowing what others were doing, or even mixing much in their down time. It was also interesting to note the reactions of different girls to the work, depending on their social position. The girls interviewed who were from families of wealth and/or upper class, and were used to travel and interactions in the wider world often found the regimented life at Bletchley limiting and restrictive. Others who were away from home and making money for the first time seemed more likely to find their new positions freeing, even if the jobs they were doing weren't wildly exciting.
I also admire the mental toughness that these women displayed. Although not on the front lines, they were contributing to the war effort in important ways and were not immune from the risks associated with living and working in Britain during the Blitz. Also, many of them lost family members- fathers, brothers, fiances- to the war and kept on working through their pain and grief. Again, at a time where men and women in this age group are now shrieking and crying and running for safe spaces when confronted with opinions they don't agree with, I can but contemplate with admiration the generation which faced down Nazi Germany and didn't falter.