Bletchley Billet in Woburn Sands

Pamela Downing’s longest and last billet, whilst serving in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park, was in Woburn Sands. Here she shared a house with her colleagues, Jane Morris, Daisy Genge and Margaret Bonser.

Garden in Woburn Sands billet, from l-r, Daisy Genge, Pamela Morgan, Margaret Bonsor and Jane Morris

Garden in Woburn Sands billet, from l-r, Daisy Genge, Pamela Downing, Margaret Bonser and Jane Morris

The dates the four stayed here would appear to be Sep 1943 through to Aug 1945. A notebook where the girls wrote pencil messages to each other has survived. This was used as a form of communication to deal with the different shift and sleeping patterns. The four evidently looked after each other to ensure food and other essentials could be shared or guarded as appropriate. It offers interesting insights into the juggling of rations, attempts at cooking and the relishing of the occasional treat.

Pamela’s earlier billets were seemingly with a family or landlady but this accommodation worked much more as a house share. The proprietor would appear to be a Miss Roberts. Much of the discussion in the book is about ensuring the coal stove provided enough hot water for baths at the right time and ensuring hot water bottles were put in beds awaiting the return from an exhausting day at work.

The commute was a short train ride from Woburn Sands to Bletchley but there was also a dedicated bus service that ran out of Bletchley Park at night to ferry people to and from their work at awkward hours.

At one point in the ‘Doodlebug Summer’ of 1944 the niece and nephew of Jane Morris came and stayed to escape London. The notebook shows that the two children were put in the bed of whoever was working nights. Photographs of a picnic during the day shows the two children, Sally and Christopher Arkell with Oliver Kirby, an American, along with Joy Edwardes, Margaret, Jane and Pam.

Picnic on the Heath, 26 Aug 1944. From l-r: Oliver Kirby, Jane Morris, Sally & Christopher Arkell, Pamela Downing, Joy Edwardes. Margaret Bonser took the photograph

Picnic on the Heath, 26 Aug 1944. From l-r: Oliver Kirby, Jane Morris, Sally & Christopher Arkell, Pamela Downing, Joy Edwardes. Margaret Bonser took the photograph

Notes

  • Kathleen Mary (Jane) Morris (1918-2007), godmother to Pamela’s youngest son, married Geoffrey Aubrey in 1983
  • Jane Morris’s sister, Dorothy was married to Edward Holmes Arkell. Christopher Arkell (1935-2017) went on to become Head of Modern Languages at Aldenham School
  • Phyllis Mary Joy (Joy) Edwardes (1918-2001), a botanist, was godmother to Pamela’s oldest son
  • Margaret B Howard had married Stanley Haslam Bonser, RAF, in 1941
  • Oliver Kirby was an American linguist and cryptanalyst who worked in Hut 6