Blakedown WI

Jan Cook, vice- president, welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked Diana Edwards for providing flowers for the front table. After apologies were given, Chris Burt spoke about the recent sad and untimely death of member Naomi (Pippa) Twait and asked that there should be a minute’s silence before the evening proceeded. Members decided that a donation to the local voluntary group for the blind, to which Naomi gave a great deal of support, would be appropriate.

On a happier note, member Joan Peck and her husband Ken are just celebrating their 70th Wedding Anniversary. Many congratulations to them.

Matters arising from the previous meeting included a reminder of the meal in October at the Brasserie, the confirmation that the Annie Harris competition for baking will be in June from next year and the first meeting of the craft club will be on September 30. Looking ahead to next year’s AGM, it is already time to start thinking of new resolutions. So all gathered were asked to put forward any burning issues. A report from Kath Lahive confirmed that the two W.I Book clubs are thriving,whilst the monthly walking group had to abandon their June walk owing to bad weather. Sandra Lloyd, now in charge of notices, ran through the many other activities available through County in September and October, which included the Annual Council Meeting at the Three Counties showground, Archery and Rifle shooting, lunch at Holtfleet with an “Archers” scriptwriter and Bridge at Blakedown Parish Rooms.

Blakedown was especially pleased to welcome as the speaker for the evening Mrs Charlotte Webb, who astonishingly had worked from 1941 at Bletchley Park as an 18 year old until the end of the war. Mrs Webb was excellent and kept everyone fully engaged as she described life at Bletchley, the work she undertook, her background and education and her time at the close of the war when she worked at the Pentagon. Because of the thirty year rule stipulated by the Official Secrets Act, Mrs Webb like everyone at Bletchley was not allowed to tell even her parents where she worked. Unfortunately they were never to know what secret work their daughter had undertaken, as they died before they could be told. Mrs Webb was a member of the ATS as far as her family knew. However her bilingual skills and obvious intelligence singled her out for this top secret work. She emphasised that no-one was allowed to discuss their work with anyone from another section. The main aim at Bletchley was to collect the enemies’ messages as they criss crossed the globe in Morse. Ten thousand such messages were coming in daily. Consequently the number of people working there increased from 180 in 1939 to 8,000 eventually. W.I members were fascinated by Mrs Webb’s experiences. She spoke eloquently and amusingly, belying her age as she continued to answer questions for a further half an hour. Mrs Webb has given 145 talks about Bletchley and has been very active promoting the museum there. After a vote of thanks she was warmly applauded.

Before wishing us all goodnight, Jan Cook reminded everyone of the Blakedown Produce Show on August 20, where members will be supporting the various stalls and helping with the many competitions. Scarecrow making workshops during July will ensure a good display of scarecrows in front gardens during August.

The two winners of this year’s bursaries for courses at Denman were announced as Liz Horne and Judy Tromans. The next meeting will be on August 10 featuring a talk on "Moats, mills and fishponds".