A Christmas card sent to one of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park has been discovered.
The card reads ‘Wishing you a very happy Christmas & New Year, Evelyn Sinclair’, it was sent to workers at Bletchley Park in 1938 by the wife of the head of MI6, Admiral Hugh Sinclair, known as ‘C’.
The card is not at all festive, it is a photograph of what was euphemistically known as ‘Captain Ridley’s shooting party’ that had taken place in September. This was a gathering of around 150 codebreakers and spies to discuss what seemed imminent – the conflict that was World War Two. The photograph was known to be in existence, however, it wasn’t known until this item was unearthed that it was sent along with a Christmas message. It is attached to blue writing paper on which the address of the Sinclairs’ home, 3 Carlisle Mansions [Westminster], is printed.
The Christmas missive belonged to Bletchley Park codebreaker Joan Wingfield, whose task was deciphering Italian Naval codes. She had spent some time in Italy in the 1930s and was a cryptographer. Her war work was not discussed at home and it is thanks to her daughter that the Christmas card has come to light. She believes that the card must have been special to her mother as she was not one for saving sentimental items.
Wingfield met her husband at the Bletchley Park facility and was recommended for the post of codebreaker by her uncle, the spy Claude Henderson, whose own copy of the photograph was saved without the Christmas wishes from Evelyn Sinclair. Codebreakers, such as Joan Wingfield, are estimated to have shortened the war by two years and saved thousands of lives.
Historians are excited about the discovery as very little is known about certain aspects of Bletchley Park as the people who worked there were naturally reticent to talk. Which does imply that they were perfect candidates for the job!
If you’d like to read about another codebreaker, Alan Turing, click here.