Bletchley Discloses Real Intention of 1938 'Shooting Party'

The only known picture of the gathering known as Captain Ridley_s shooting party. Photograph Bletchley Park TrustA shadowy gathering of spies and codebreakers in 1938, under cover of a country house shooting party, has gone down in history as being a rehearsal for the real work of Bletchley Park, but research has revealed a more intriguing story.

The men and women from MI6 and the government’s code and cipher school (GC&CS) were sent there as part of a much bigger and more serious operation than previously thought.

“This wasn’t simply a recce or friendly rehearsal,” said Bletchley Park’s research historian, David Kenyon. “It was the activation of one of the government’s most secret war stations at a time when conflict appeared imminent.”

The details are being revealed to coincide with an important anniversary. It was 80 years ago on 18 September that men and women arrived at the Buckinghamshire country mansion as guests of what became known as “Captain Ridley’s shooting party.”

It had been thought that about 50 people were involved. Kenyon said the figure was more like 150, all members of MI6 and GC&CS, the forerunner of GCHQ. Kenyon said the real urgency of their work had only recently been understood.

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