A cinematic experience brings back memories for Mansfield Woodhouse World War 2 code breaker Wilfred

Wilfred Bingley who worked at Bletchley Park in WW2
Wilfred Bingley who worked at Bletchley Park in WW2

Watching Benedict Cumberbatch’s powerful performance In the Imitation Game has brought back memories of his own wartime code cracking exploits for a Mansfield Woodhouse pensioner.

Wilfred Bingley, 92 was part of the team of elite Morse Code breakers who worked for the genius Alan Turing in an operation to crack Nazi codes at Bletchley Park.

Wilfred and his daughter Elaine were given free tickets to watch the film when the manager of Mansfield’s Odeon Cinema heard he had actually taken part in the operation said to have saved Britain from a Nazi invasion.

The film begins in 1939, when the newly created British intelligence agency MI6 recruited Cambridge mathematician Alan Turing played by Benedict Cumberbatch, to crack Nazi codes, including Enigma --which cryptanalysts had thought unbreakable.

Back then Wilfred had just married his sweetheart Barbara when he was called up at the age of 19 for service with the Royal Navy.

After showing promise during his training the seaman became a specialist Morse Code reader at a facility in Scarborough.

Later, he was moved to join an elite team at the top secret Bletchley Park facility in Buckinghamshire, where for three years he helped crack Nazi codes by taking down everything the Germans communicated to each other.

It was only 50 years later Wilfred felt able to reveal the part he played in bringing an end to the war.

“I had never even heard of Bletchley Park and all of a sudden I found myself working there,” he said.

“It was a great feeling to know you had worked on something they say brought the war to an end two or more years earlier than it would have otherwise ended.”

“I worked at Bletchley Park but I never saw Turing,” said Wilfred.

“I heard Winston Churchill used to visit us too but everything was so hush-hush.”

Wilfred was part of an elite team working in shifts around the clock decoding the German Morse signals at a rate of 25 words a minute.

“We had to be fast - you couldn’t ask them to slow down. And accurate because any imperfection would spoil it for the code breakers.

“Alan Turing was the cleverest man in Britain and if it wasn’t for him, I think we would have lost the war.

“By the end of the war he knew where every U Boat was and every ship.”

The computing genius Turing was pursued for homosexuality, a crime at the time following his conviction and punishment, he was to apparently kill himself two years later aged only 41.

Mr Bingley said: “It was disgusting the way they treated him. The whole thing has bothered me for 60 years.

“A man as great as Nelson and they treated him like a pig.

“He couldn’t say what he had done for his country,

“He couldn’t get another job and he was driven to suicide.

“I never met Turing but I think the film portrayed him very well.”

Following the war Wilfred returned to his home with wife Barbara in Mansfield Woodhouse, where they raised their two children Melvyn and Elaine.

The couple were man and wife for 71 years until Barbara died in her sleep in 2012.

He went into the building trade, and retired as a brick layer.

“People often say to me - I never knew you were at Bletchley, but we were sworn to secrecy and never talked about it - we were too frightened to mention it.” said Wilfred.

In 2009 Wilfred received an official letter marking his service during the war from the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown and has been presented with two Bletchley Park medals.

Bletchley Park was eventually opened up as a visitor centre in 2014.

“I went there with my wife and daughter to see the place again,” said Wilfred.

“I put them straight on a few things. They told us nobody lived on the park at the time.

“I said you’re wrong - all 24 of us did.”

Wilfred’s daughter Elaine said: “ When the film was released, I phoned up the manager and told him my father wanted to se the film and had worked at Bletchley.

He said”In that case you’re not paying and he gave us free tickets for the best seats in the house.”