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Courses

What have I learned in January?

The end of last year felt crazily busy and it was good to take a break from everything over Christmas. You may have seen my 12 Days of Christmas blogs.

Term restarted on 7th January and I am now working on Module 3 of Postgraduate Certificate, focussing on Repositories, Geography and administration. I have been thinking about copyright issues, and working collaboratively. I am incredibly proud of having scored 97% on the end of term Assessment for module 2. The pass mark was 30%.

I am very excited to have begun working part-time from home for the Society of Genealogists on 24th January. I am an Events Assistant helping to organise and run the online, and in person, talks and events. I am really enjoying it so far.

I am also working on two more Pharos Course, Apprenticeship Records and Building on a Solid Foundation. As you can imagine my feet are barely touching the ground, though I did manage to walk a total of 116 miles over the month.

I am beginning to take on some private clients for genealogy work, while still getting all my paperwork in place. It is all very exciting!

I read, and really enjoyed, Janet Few’s Barefoot on the Cobbles for the Society of Genealogists book club. I finished the last of Steve Robinson’s Jefferson Tayte series in December and I’m looking forward to the next being published. I am currently reading Legacies: A Family History Mystery Thriller by Rosamunde Bott.

Meetings, Webinars, Courses etc this month:

04 January
Researching your family history: 1837-1911
Jessamy CarlsonThe National Archives This was actually towards the end of last year but I was double booked and missed it. I finally found time to view the recording. It was a useful general overview of how to conduct family history research. I found the reminder to always start by summarising what you know and proving it to be very helpful.
05 January
Managing Citations & Sources Lists in Zotero
Colleen Robledo Greene, MLISLegacy Family Tree WebinarsAnother that I was catching up with after missing out when it was originally aired. I was surprised that Colleen did not use the automatically generated citations, but stored her own formatted versions within Zotero as a note. I learned some useful tips including how to insert footnotes straight into Word.
08 January
Census surgery: behind the 1921 census
Audrey Collins and Myko ClellandThe National ArchivesA useful session explaining some of the history of census taking. Then focused on the 1921 census, and why the fertility question was removed. Detailed explanation of the newer questions – the orphan question, and the children grid. Myko made a great point that the census reveals that people have not changed in essentials. Horses, dogs, cats, goldfish and a tortoise were enumerated. Nationalities recorded include “Yorkshire man”
08 January
Archive Sources for Local History
Nicola WaddingtonSociety of GenealogistsNicola went through the many records, such as OS, tithe and farm survey maps, census records and electoral rolls, manorial records and many more that can be used to learn about local history which gives more depth to family history.
09 January
Discovering the Unindexed Records in the FamilySearch Catalog
James TannerBYU Family History LibraryI have realised that I am not using FamilySearch enough, it holds a vast range of records, and is free so I really should make more of it. This was a great help in learning how to find the unindexed records. It is like going to the archive and scrolling through a film of parish records to find the right people.
10 January
Using the FamilySearch Catalog
AnnetteFamily History Library WebinarsSimilar to the video I watched yesterday this reinforced how useful, and extensive, FamilySearch is. Good to see a live demonstration of using the search.
12 January
Virtual Common Room Chat:
New Year’s Resolutions – Organising your Family History
Else ChurchillSociety of GenealogistsThe virtual common room chats are really enjoyable discussions. A great perk of SoG membership. Great to bounce ideas off people and realise that I’m not doing too badly really!
15 January
Evernote – The Fundamentals
Graham WalterSociety of GenealogistsI don’t think Evernote is for me, most the suggestions were things that I already do within Legacy but I can see how this could be useful for others.
27 January
Introducing the 1921 Census of England & Wales
Myko ClellanSociety of GenealogistsA fantastic talk about some of the intricacies of the 1921 Census. It is great to see people’s personalities come through in something as mundane as a census return. I haven’t had time, or money, to find more than my grandparents and great grandparents until now.
31 January
Book Club Book 3
Barefoot on the Cobbles
Janet FewSociety of GenealogistsA thought provoking book and just fun to discuss it with others.

Categories
Operation Bletchley

Operation Bletchley: Day 31 Mission Accomplished

In the end I walked over 110 miles in January, including a couple of walks over three miles. I have seen starling murmurations, and wandered around both Criccieth and Porthmadog. I have caught plenty of Pokemon, and seen signs of spring.

The Fundraising

You can sponsor me until the end of February 2022. https://events.soldierscharity.org/fundraisers/RuthWillmore/operation-bletchley-balkans

If you would like to have a go yourself the challenge is repeated each July, and again in January, with different codes to break each time. You can try previous codes in return for a donation.

Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of the British Army and you can make a real difference.

Berlin : 40 Miles

52 miles completed – daily walks

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
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40+ miles walked and 30 codes broken. I gave up on the final Super Cypher code received on 29th January, just too much for my tired brain!

The Balkans : 80 Miles

110 miles completed – every step counts

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80+ miles walked in a month, and 30 codes broken. I paid for a clue for the Super Cypher and we got it, with a whole day to spare.

It has been great fun, good exercise physically and mentally. The codebreaking is very much a team effort with my Mum, with Zoom sessions to work together on some of the trickier puzzles.
My fourth time taking part in Operation Bletchley and I am already looking forward to the next in the summer. Why not join in? You can walk anywhere in the world and earn a medal for completing any one level. You don’t even have to walk, you can log other forms of exercise or challenge instead.

Operation Bletchley: Day 28 Sitrep

I carried on walking, after all I still have Pokemon to catch, and Stepbet and Waybetter challenges to make. It has been a busy week – a new job, assignments due for Strathclyde and two Pharos courses… I did fit in a bit of codebreaking, and the weekend diary is cleared to finish the mission. […]

Operation Bletchley: Day 24 Sitrep

New job day! Very exciting, and not much walking or codebreaking! But I had a codebreaking session yesterday, with lots of help from Mum, and we cracked quite a lot. A walk late afternoon a few days ago to see the starling murmurations helped a lot with getting to the walking targets. The Fundraising Operation […]

Operation Bletchley: Day 20 Sitrep

We have had dry but cold weather. Ideal for walking! I have a couple of longer walks planned to the weekend to should complete the walking part of the challenge with some time to spare for the final codebreaking. The Fundraising Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of […]

Categories
Operation Bletchley

Operation Bletchley: Day 28 Sitrep

I carried on walking, after all I still have Pokemon to catch, and Stepbet and Waybetter challenges to make. It has been a busy week – a new job, assignments due for Strathclyde and two Pharos courses… I did fit in a bit of codebreaking, and the weekend diary is cleared to finish the mission.

The Fundraising

Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of the British Army and you can make a real difference. You can contribute by sponsoring me: https://events.soldierscharity.org/fundraisers/RuthWillmore/operation-bletchley-balkans The codes will be available to purchase once the challenge has finished too.

Stories below are all courtesy of Operation Bletchley and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, not my own work.

Berlin : 40 Miles

40 miles – You Made It

My final mission from British HQ is to save a family beyond the blockade. I was dropped to Köpenick in the Soviet zone, then I made the rest of the journey on foot.

At the rendezvous, I heard singing and spotted the family clambering over a mountain of rubble near the Großer Müggelsee. I met with your contact, an Austrian Naval officer, along with his new wife and seven children. They’ve been trying to return to Salzburg since the war ended, but the activity in occupied Austria has made passage impossible.

To help them on their journey west, I threw on a nun’s outfit and armed myself with fake travel papers. I then arranged for an ambulance to escort me and the family back to the British HQ. On the way, the Naval officer shared some information about Soviet fuel and ammunition supplies from his old friends – the Baroness and Max. This will provide vital to Operation Plainfare and the Western allies.

Back at HQ, I warm up with a cup of tea while waiting for your flight home. I’m confident that I’ve collected enough intelligence to beat the Soviet blockade. But, just when I think my work is done, the Section Warrant Officer appears with one final message for me to decode. Once I’ve decoded the message, I need to brief Major General Sir (Edwin) Otway Herbert, Commander of British Forces in Berlin, on everything I’ve discovered.

40 miles completed – daily walks

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
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The Balkans : 80 Miles

80 miles completed – every step counts

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
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I am still battling a few Cypher Expert codes – another code breaking session is required this weekend, and possibly one or more £5 clues from HQ. The Facebook group for the challenge may have some hints too.

Operation Bletchley: Day 31 Mission Accomplished

In the end I walked over 110 miles in January, including a couple of walks over three miles. I have seen starling murmurations, and wandered around both Criccieth and Porthmadog. I have caught plenty of Pokemon, and seen signs of spring. The Fundraising You can sponsor me until the end of February 2022. https://events.soldierscharity.org/fundraisers/RuthWillmore/operation-bletchley-balkans If […]

Operation Bletchley: Day 16 Sitrep

Halfway through. It has been cold and wet, but we have finally had a couple of nice days where walking hasn’t felt like a chore. The Fundraising Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of the British Army and you can make a real difference. Established amongst the planning […]

Operation Bletchley: Day 12 Sitrep

Over one third of the way through. It has been cold and wet, but we have finally had a couple of nice days where walking hasn’t felt like a chore. The Fundraising Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of the British Army and you can make a real […]

Categories
My family

52 Ancestors: Week 48 – Strength

I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. I should have completed all 52 prompts by now, but I will do so as soon as possible.

I initially planned to use this prompt to write someone who demonstrated great strength of character. But I just couldn’t choose anyone, and kept coming back to my 2nd great granduncle, Samuel Fisher, who was an iron puddler. I thought this must have been a job which required great strength. His father, Jessie had been an iron bundler which I am yet to investigate.

From previous reading when I first came across the occupation of iron puddler, I knew it was to do with making cast iron, working with furnaces and so on. I have been intending to visit the museums at Ironbridge to find out more, but well, Covid. I really must get there.

Samuel Fisher was born in about 1849 and lived in Topton, Staffordshire. It was on the 1871 Census[1] that he was a puddler, and two of his younger brothers were puddler’s assistants.

In planning this blog post I googled “iron puddler” which took me to a page on Wikipedia[2] where I learned that puddling was a process for converting pig iron into wrought iron boiling out the silicon, sulphur and phosphorus. A puddler and his assistant would produce about 1.5 tons of iron in a shift. It was hard, hot work with toxic fumes leading to a life expectancy under 40 years. Samuel lived to almost 80 years old[3], he must have been one of the lucky ones.

The Wikipedia page mentioned that U.S. Senator James. J. Davis had written a book[4] about his early experiences of being an iron puddler. He was younger than Samuel Fisher, born in 1873[5] but he was working in the iron mill by the age of 12, so I felt I had to read the book to learn more about the working conditions Samuel would have experienced.

Davis describes a housewife sweating over a batch of biscuits, how the oven makes her hot and bothered. He explains how his job was similar,

“There were five bakings every day and this meant the shoveling in of nearly two tons of coal. In summer I was stripped tot he waist and panting while the sweat poured down across my heaving muscles. My palms and fingers, scorched by the heat, became hardened like goat hoofs, while my skin took on a coat of tan that it will wear forever.

What time I was not stoking the fire, I was stirring the charge with a long iron rabble that weighed some twenty-five pounds. Strap an Oregon boot to your arm and then do calisthenics ten hours in a room so hot it melts your eyebrows and you will know what it is like to be a puddler.”

Davis, James J. (2019) The Iron Puddler : My life in the rolling mills and what came of it. [Kindle version] CAIMAN. https://smile.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07V7H6KH2 : accessed 18 January 2022. p.48

Well, I was right about iron puddling being an occupation for a strong person.

Iron puddlers at work

I didn’t finish the book I’m afraid, it got really rather political, in a time where eugenics and communism where widely supported.

Other posts about this family



References
  1. Census records. England. Tipton, Staffordshire. 02 April 1871. FISHER, Jessie (head) RD: Tipton. RG10/3000. FL 52. p. 45. ED. 16. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 21 November 2020.
  2. Wikipedia contributors. (2021) ‘Iron puddler’, In: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Iron_puddler&oldid=1051665209 : accessed 22 January 2022
  3. Deaths index. England. RD Dudley. 1st Qtr. 1928. FISHER, Samuel. Vol. 6b. p. 978. https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/search.pl : accessed 21 November 2020.
  4. Davis, James J. (2019) The Iron Puddler : My life in the rolling mills and what came of it. [Kindle version] CAIMAN. https://smile.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07V7H6KH2 : accessed 18 January 2022.
  5. Wikipedia contributors. (2021) ‘James J. Davis’, In: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=James_J._Davis&oldid=1023190926 : accessed 22 January 2022

Categories
Operation Bletchley

Operation Bletchley: Day 24 Sitrep

New job day! Very exciting, and not much walking or codebreaking! But I had a codebreaking session yesterday, with lots of help from Mum, and we cracked quite a lot. A walk late afternoon a few days ago to see the starling murmurations helped a lot with getting to the walking targets.

The Fundraising

Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of the British Army and you can make a real difference. Established amongst the planning for D-Day in 1944, the charity was created to ensure that every soldier, veteran and family member in need receives the help they require.

You can contribute by sponsoring me: https://events.soldierscharity.org/fundraisers/RuthWillmore/operation-bletchley-balkans The codes will be available to purchase once the challenge has finished too.

Stories below are all courtesy of Operation Bletchley and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, not my own work.

Berlin : 40 Miles

32 miles – Hiding in Plain Sight

The 903 FSS agents directed me to my next destination: the Friedrichstraße S-Bahn station. I was dropped off at the Tiergarten, only this time I was equipped with false residence papers, so I managed to pass through the Brandenburg Gate in the Soviet zone without any trouble.

I walked two miles to the rendezvous, where I was suddenly accosted by border police of the Hauptabteilung Grenzpolizei und Bereitschaften. I noticed that they all looked clean, healthy and well-fed. Just as planned, one of the policemen made an extravagant display of roughing me up and checking my papers before forcing me to pay a fine. He then handed me a receipt and sent me on my two mile journey back to the pick up point. 

The receipt was a coded message about the border police. It confirmed that the Soviets have been trying to keep them loyal to stop a flood of refugees moving from East to West. It seems that Soviet efforts to damage the West are being disrupted by their own problems.

Back at HQ, I find a second coded message in myback pocket. The policeman must have dropped it in without me noticing.

Day 2121st January 20222.26 miles walked
Day 2222nd January 20223.06 miles walked
Day 2323rd January 20221.54 miles walked
Day 2424th January 20222.07 miles walked

42.04 miles walked 0 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
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10Will receive tomorrowWill receive tomorrowWill receive tomorrow

The Balkans : 80 Miles

80 miles – The Home Straight

Blighty beckoned. It had been a cold, arduous journey through war-torn Yugoslavia. Now I had to race to deliver Fungus’s intel.

The airstrip is north of enemy-occupied Glamoč at Opačić. So I found a meandering route through the mountains to stay out of sight. The sun continued to shine across the region, turning the snow to slush. At one point, I leapt to the side to dodge a Ustashi patrol and ended up face down in an ice-cold pool of snow melt. So I moved faster than ever to keep my body warm.

Things didn’t get much better when I reached the airstrip. I was held at bayonet-point by a nervous partisan teenager. But the person in command quickly came to diffuse the situation. It was none other than the partisan leader, Tito. He outlined his offensive plans throughout the spring before giving me another coded message to solve on my journey home.

DELIVERING THE MESSAGE

I flew to the island of Vis on a Lysander before boarding a Halifax bomber to Marrakech via southern Italy. It was the warmest I’d felt in days! I was swiftly escorted to meet with the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who was recovering in his bed after falling ill in Tunis. Churchill explained that he’ll be flying to Gibraltar shortly, before attending Prime Minister’s Question Time. So the intel I gathered in Yugoslavia will be essential to his plans.

Question is: have I managed to crack all the codes so I can deliver the final message to Winston Churchill?

Answer is: Junior and Codebreaker – Yes. Cypher Expert – Still working on it!

Day 2121st January 20223.78 miles walked
Day 2222nd January 20224 miles walked

83.25 miles walked 0 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
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8SolvedI have the answer but don’t understand how!Solved
9SolvedSolvedReceived
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The walking is done, I hadn’t realised that over half of my steps come from “incidental” walking rather than my daily walk and Pokemon Go playing. Those Cypher Expert codes are really difficult this time. Two out of six messages delivered, and a week to go. Apparently there is a Super-Cypher at the end too!

Operation Bletchley: Day 8 Sitrep

Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of the British Army and you can make a real difference. Established amongst the planning for D-Day in 1944, the charity was created to ensure that every soldier, veteran and family member in need receives the help they require. The Fundraising It […]

Operation Bletchley: Day 4 Sitrep

Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of the British Army and you can make a real difference. Established amongst the planning for D-Day in 1944, the charity was created to ensure that every soldier, veteran and family member in need receives the help they require. The Fundraising It […]

Operation Bletchley: Day 1 Sitrep

January 1st 2022 marks the beginning of Operation Bletchley, a fund raising challenge for The Soldiers’ Charity. I have one month to cover the miles, crack the codes and deliver the final secret message. This will be my third time taking part, after joining in the summer of 2020, 12 days of Christmas 2020 and […]

Categories
Operation Bletchley

Operation Bletchley: Day 20 Sitrep

We have had dry but cold weather. Ideal for walking! I have a couple of longer walks planned to the weekend to should complete the walking part of the challenge with some time to spare for the final codebreaking.

The Fundraising

Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of the British Army and you can make a real difference. Established amongst the planning for D-Day in 1944, the charity was created to ensure that every soldier, veteran and family member in need receives the help they require.

You can contribute by sponsoring me: https://events.soldierscharity.org/fundraisers/RuthWillmore/operation-bletchley-balkans The codes will be available to purchase once the challenge has finished too.

Stories below are all courtesy of Operation Bletchley and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, not my own work.

Berlin : 40 Miles

28 miles – Cut Off

Today’s mission took meto the Villa Schöningen, close to the Glienicke Brücke. It’s being used as a hospital for Soviet soldiers, so I had to paddle by boat across the Tiefer See once more to infiltrate the Soviet zone. Spotting a patrol up ahead, I diverted down the river Havel to avoid detection and moored up in the shadows of the riverbank.

After travelling the last few miles to the villa on foot, I bribed the guards with a bottle of vodka and made my way to the rendezvous. I found my contact in the laundry room, her small child in a cot beside her. She was the British widow of a Luftwaffe officer who died in North Africa in 1942. She’s desperate to get back to England, but the blockade has cut her off from British troops.

Knowing I’m her only hope, I waited until nightfall before rowing her to the Western zone. Back at HQ, she explained details of an outbreak of disease among the Soviets. The Western allies will need to keep it at bay if they’re to successfully get supplies to Germans in the East.

As I parted ways with the refugee, I was given an important coded message from one of the 903 FSS’s agents.

Day 1717th January 20221.54 miles walked
Day 1818th January 20222.17 miles walked
Day 1919th January 20221.5 miles walked
Day 2020th January 20221.42 miles walked

33.11 miles walked 6.89 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
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The Balkans : 80 Miles

64 miles – Soviet Inteference

I set off in a hurry the next morning, refreshed after a good night’s sleep. It was another clear day, so I kept my head down to avoid Girbergsjager troops who had been reported enroute in Kupres.

When I arrived in Šemenovci, I was met by the local partisan leader. His group is on the Nazis’ elite troops’ line of attack. Our initial discussions are cold at best. It transpires that a Soviet military mission has become chummy with the group, and the partisan’s political commissar is aggressively anti-British.

Luckily, I had an ace in the hole: the British radio recovered from Todorići. So I quickly organized a drop of arms and ammunition from the British base on the island of Bari – a promise the Soviet’s couldn’t match.

I explained the hostile atmosphere in Šemenovci to my contact on the radio. They offered directions to a friendly hamlet nearby. On arrival, I had lunch with a fellow SOE agent who shared similar experiences of Šemenovci. He directed me to a British Major in Pribeja, codenamed Fungus. He also handed me a coded message to solve.

72 Miles – Devastation

My day got off to a shaky start. As I set off from the hamlet near Šemenovci, I was buzzed by a Nazi Fieseler Fi 156 Storch reconnaissance aircraft. Luckily, I had my weapon and radio out of sight. And since I was dressed as a peasant and walking among a small goat herd, the aircraft didn’t bother passing for a third look.

It was a harrowing walk to Pribeja. I passed through a razed village where every building was burnt or blown to smithereens. The winter sun gave the spine-tingling horrors nowhere to hide. I hurried on to Pribeja, where I was met by a British Major, codenamed Fungus, of the Inter Service Liaison Department. He had been providing intel about bomb raid targets until his radio was destroyed in an air raid. So I handed over that radio I recovered from the SOE agent in Todorići.

After sharing his intel on the radio, Fungus handed me a large package. It contained his full, coded report and a reel of photographic film that I need to take to the UK for processing. He said the airstrip near Opačić is my best bet, but the journey won’t be easy.

When I opened the package to take a closer look at the report, you found a coded message to solve.

Day 1717th January 20224.44 miles walked
Day 1818th January 20223.73 miles walked
Day 1919th January 20224.47 miles walked
Day 2020th January 20223.26 miles walked

75.47 miles walked 4.53 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
1SolvedSolvedSolved
2SolvedSolvedMum got it!
3SolvedSolvedSolved
4SolvedSolvedSolved
5SolvedSolvedSolved
6SolvedSolvedSolved
7SolvedSolvedReceived
8SolvedReceivedReceived
9SolvedReceivedReceived
10not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received

The end is in sight with the walking, I hadn’t realised that over half of my steps come from “incidental” walking rather than my daily walk and Pokemon Go playing. Those Balkans Cypher Expert codes are really difficult this time. Apparently there is a Super-Cypher at the end too!

What have I learned in July?

Term finished at Strathclyde at the end of June but I continued studying with Pharos. I have been learning about employment records and have been surprised at just how much there is out there. I will definitely be spending more time learning about my ancestors occupations in the future. I am now working on the […]

12 Days of Christmas, Day 12

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I set myself 3 challenges. 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife. Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which […]

12 Days of Christmas, day 11

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress. 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife. Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity […]

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My family

52 Ancestors: Week 47 – Thankful

I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. I should have completed all 52 prompts by now, but I will do so as soon as possible.

When I saw this prompt I immediately thought of harvest festivals. I clearly remember as a child both school and church celebrations where I made up small hampers of food which were given to those in need. I now realise that in the affluent village in which I grew up, where as the vicar’s kids we were definitely the least well off, I have absolutely no idea where that food ended up.

I remember the flower arranging ladies going to town for harvest festival services, filling the church with displays of fruit and vegetables. It was a farming community and we often celebrated later than other churches, as the farmers would not celebrate until the harvest was all gathered in. You can see some pictures of the church here: https://www.stcatherinebirtles.org.uk/gallery.htm

This is just how I remember it, fruit and vegetables everywhere. Photograph reproduced with kind permission of Reverend Jon Hale, the Rector of the Benefice of Alderley & Birtles.


Images: Photograph. Harvest festival. (c. 2000-2020) St. Catherines, Birtles, Over Alderley, Cheshire. Photographer unknown. https://www.stcatherinebirtles.org.uk/gallery.htm : accessed 12 January 2022.

Harvest festivals have been celebrated for centuries and so it was not surprising to find that the Stewardson family living in Tansley in 1904 would have witnessed a harvest festival.

Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal Friday 30 September 1904 page 6f https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001084/19040930/149/0006 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Robert Stewardson and Maria Batterley had married in Tansley Parish Church in 1896 and their eldest daughter was baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel the following year. I think it is a safe assumption that they would have attended at least one of the numerous harvest festivals in the district and witnessed the great abundance of fruit and flowers.

It is lovely to know that they experienced an Indian Summer that September.

Other posts about this family


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Operation Bletchley

Operation Bletchley: Day 16 Sitrep

Halfway through. It has been cold and wet, but we have finally had a couple of nice days where walking hasn’t felt like a chore.

The Fundraising

Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of the British Army and you can make a real difference. Established amongst the planning for D-Day in 1944, the charity was created to ensure that every soldier, veteran and family member in need receives the help they require.

You can contribute by sponsoring me: https://events.soldierscharity.org/fundraisers/RuthWillmore/operation-bletchley-balkans

Stories below are all courtesy of Operation Bletchley and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, not my own work.

Berlin : 40 Miles

20 miles – Escaping The East

Today’s rendezvous was at the bombed-out Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Brandenburg, just a quick two-mile walk from the British HQ.

My contact was the former German military pastor who returned with the prisoner of war. He explained that he’s been helping refugees escape from the Soviet zone. He then handed over some documents and a stack of Soviet propaganda encouraging Berliners in the West to move East. Thankfully, the leaflets hadn’t proved very effective, but it’s a valuable insight into the way the Soviets think.

After searching through the pastor’s documents, I discovered another coded message. I need to cover the two miles back to HQ before deciphering. 

24 Miles Double Agent

The pastor’s information sent me to the Rykestrasse Synagogue to meet my next contact. Used by the German armed forces since its theft by the Nazis, the synagogue is now back in the care of a very small Jewish community that survived the war.

It’s in the Soviet zone, so you donned civilian clothes and hid within a small military convoy to slip beyond the blockade. After infiltrating the Pankow district, I rolled out the back of the truck and covered the last two miles to the rendezvous on foot.

There were a handful of worshippers in attendance for the Shabbat service. Amongst them was my contact: a young woman in the uniform of a junior Red Army officer. As it transpired, she was actually a Polish agent fluent in Russian – she was only using the uniform to gather information from the Soviets. Her father was murdered at Katyn and she lost a brother who fought for the Polish home army in Warsaw, so it’s safe to say she has no love for the Soviets.

She handed over a micro-film revealing important documents about the Soviets – it appears they’ve been sabotaging fuel supplies to the West. She also gave me a coded message from a refugee family in the East. I need to get these back to HQ – better dash to cover the two miles back. 

Day 1313th January 20221.64 + 0.74 miles walked
Day 1414th January 20221.96 miles walked
Day 1515th January 20222.16 miles walked
Day 1616th January 20221.22 miles walked

26.48 miles walked 13.52 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
1SolvedSolvedSolved
2SolvedSolvedSolved
3SolvedSolvedSolved
4SolvedSolvedSolved
5SolvedSolvedSolved
6SolvedSolvedSolved
7not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
8not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
9not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
10not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received

The Balkans : 80 Miles

48 miles – Wet to the Bone

I left the forester’s hut behind and ventured out into the snow once more. The storm was subsiding, leaving me exposed to Chetniks and Bosnians in the region. Tensions were high after recent clashes, and I knew they wouldn’t hesitate to shoot if they suspected me for a spy. Olga had suggested a long, circuitous route to Vitoroga to help me avoid detection. But as the skies cleared, I had a clear view of armed soldiers making their rounds in the distance. So I had to dive into the deep snow a few times to avoid their sight lines.

By the time I reached Vitoroga, my clothes were soaked through, my fingers numb to the bone. Luckily, I was met by Colonel William Deakin who led me into the warm, where I quickly changed into dry clothes. He also sent one of his couriers to fetch me a much-needed cup of tea.

Colonel Deakin had fresh intel about a railway bridge that was destroyed near Velisca. The Nazis are moving in to protect their road and rail lines. But they’re spread thin with allies advancing on separate fronts through Italy and the Soviet Union. This would be valuable to my colleagues at Bletchley Park, so you called it in straight away.

As I finished off the last of my tea, Colonel Deakin briefed me on a reconnaissance mission in Todorići. I need to check if the partisans are capable of stopping Nazi road movements. Just before you set off, he also gave me a coded message to solve.

56 Miles – Under Fire

Iset off towards Todorići to assess the strength of partisan forces in the area. The road through Todorići is part of a vital route to Šipovo, so it’s essential that our friends can stop the Nazis in their tracks. Accompanied by half a dozen partisans on a supply mission, I took the opportunity to learn a little more about their dynamic leader, Tito. But just when things were starting to get interesting, my group came under fire in a small hamlet west of Vagan. Bullets ricocheted off the gravel, sending partisan fighters diving for cover left and right.

I set off down the flank, using the wall as cover, and continued on with my mission while the partisans took care of the stragglers. I was met in Todorići by the partisan leader. He’s confident of holding retreating forces for two or three days. But with more fighters and explosives, he could wreak havoc and stop a far larger enemy force.

I called in reinforcements and supplies on a British radio left by an SOE agent. My contact directed me to Šemenovci, where there are reports of a Soviet mission near the partisan base. I decided to spend the night in Todorići, so I helped the partisans build improvised anti-tank mines before getting my head down. Just as I was setting off the next morning, the partisan leader gave you another code to crack.

Day 1313th January 20223.97 miles walked
Day 1414th January 20223.69 miles walked
Day 1515th January 20223.54 miles walked
Day 1616th January 20222.58 miles walked

59.57 miles walked 20.43 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
1SolvedSolvedBaffled so far
2SolvedSolvedNeed a lightbulb moment!
3SolvedSolvedSolved
4SolvedSolvedSolved
5SolvedSolvedSolved
6SolvedSolvedSolved
7SolvedSolvedReceived
8not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
9not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
10not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received

Over half way through the walking now, it has been lovely to see some signs of spring. I’ve had some feline assistance (hindrance?) with code breaking, though I think Mum was more useful!

12 Days of Christmas, day 10

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress. 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife. Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity […]

12 Days of Christmas, day 9

Over the 12 Days of Christmas, as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021 I have 3 challenges in progress. 12 Days Wild, to complete a daily “random act of wildness” exploring the winter wildlife. Operation Bletchley: Christmas in Berlin 24 MILES: 12 CODES: 12 DAYS. A fundraising challenge for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity […]

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My family

52 Ancestors: Week 46 – Birthdays

I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. I should have completed all 52 prompts by now, but I will do so as soon as possible.

On 2nd September 2006 my Grandmother Bessie Tomlinson turned 90 years old. To celebrate the occasion her daughter and four grandchildren visited. We arrived the evening before and had booked a visit to a professional photographer that morning. We dressed up to please Grandma.

At the time I was too broke to afford to buy prints. One hung on Grandma’s wall from then onwards though.

We returned to Grandma’s house for lunch, prepared by our partners. Grandma was a little disappointed that we hadn’t taken her out to lunch, but we explained that we didn’t know how long we would be at the photographers.

As we finished eating the doorbell rang, and Grandma was pleased to have some surprise visitors on her birthday. Now pleased that we hadn’t gone out to lunch she settled in for a chat with her visitors. But the doorbell rang again, and some other friends had arrived, and then again and some more distant relatives arrived.

While she was delighted that so many people had thought to visit her on birthday, as the consummate hostess Grandma started to get worried and started asking one or more of us to slip out to the shops to get something for tea.

More and more friends and family arrived, and Grandma was getting very worried about feeding everyone. She was very confused as we started bringing cold bags out of our cars and setting out a buffet.

Eventually we had to let on that we had invited everyone.

Grandma was delighted by her surprise birthday party.

A friend of Mum’s had made a beautiful cake.

Other posts about this family


Categories
Operation Bletchley

Operation Bletchley: Day 12 Sitrep

Over one third of the way through. It has been cold and wet, but we have finally had a couple of nice days where walking hasn’t felt like a chore.

The Fundraising

Operation Bletchley is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the National Charity of the British Army and you can make a real difference. Established amongst the planning for D-Day in 1944, the charity was created to ensure that every soldier, veteran and family member in need receives the help they require.

You can contribute by sponsoring me: https://events.soldierscharity.org/fundraisers/RuthWillmore/operation-bletchley-balkans

Stories below are all courtesy of Operation Bletchley and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, not my own work.

Berlin : 40 Miles

12 miles – Fair Trade

The latest intelligence led me to the former Pioneer training school of the German Army. It was the same site that the Germans signed their surrender in 1945, but now it’s being used for the Headquarters of the Soviet Military Administration. I was dropped by the Rummelsburg railway sidings dressed in a workman’s disguise, then I walked the remaining two miles on foot through the Soviet zone.

I met my contact while delivering a sack of potatoes to the kitchens. They handed me a package containing more film and coded papers, then they were gone. On my way out of the Soviet HQ, I spotted an MGB officer checking the workers’ papers. Luckily, a civilian lorry was there to help me get away. The driver took me nearly all the way back to HQ, I just had to cover the final two miles on foot. 
Back at the British HQ, I handed over the kitchen worker’s intelligence. I learned that the Ulbricht Group of East German Communists are controlling aid being sent over the Berlin Air Corridor. I also found out that journalist, Markus Wolf, has been distributing anti-western propaganda to the workforce. By stopping their activity, the Western allies can restore the fair distribution of food throughout Berlin.

At the bottom of the package, I discovered a coded message from the kitchen worker.

16 miles – Hungry Traveller

My latest journey took you to a beach near the Wannsee Villa – where the Nazi’s planned the Final Solution. The rendezvous is in the American zone, so I was able to travel in a FSS jeep without too much trouble. At least, that was the plan. The jeep broke down on a bridge over the Kleiner Wannsee, leaving me to travel the last couple of miles on foot.

I arrived safely at the beach to meet my contact. He cut a gaunt, fragile figure, and I soon realised why. He was a German prisoner of war trying to get back to the British zone after being captured by the Soviets. I rummaged through my bag to find him a corned beef sandwich. He took it gratefully and began to share his story.

The prisoner had travelled through Czechoslovakia just weeks after the coup d’etat that installed a pro-Moscow regime. On my journey back to HQ, he shares more details of his journey, but none of it proves very useful in the fight against the Soviet blockade.

Then, just when I think all hope is lost, he hands me a coded document he received from a fellow prisoner.

Day 99th January 20221.25 miles walked
Day 1010th January 20221.54 miles walked
Day 1111th January 20221.63 miles walked
Day 1212th January 20221.29 miles walked

18.45 miles walked 21.55 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
1SolvedSolvedSolved
2SolvedSolveddrawing lots of lines
3SolvedSolvedSolved
4SolvedReceivedReceived
5not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
6not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
7not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
8not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
9not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
10not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received

The Balkans : 80 Miles

32 miles – Friends in High Places

I left the shepherd’s hut behind and set off for Glavica, grateful for the growing warmth of the rising sun. Checking my map, I made my way through the dense woodland south of the plain. Trees flicked snow from their branches like dogs shaking off the rain. The snowstorm was over, at least for now.

I reached Glavica in good spirits. There was no sign of the courier’s VIP, so I struck up a friendly conversation with a local farmer who offered me a seat outside and meal of warming, hearty soup.

As I soaked up the scraps with a hunk of bread, a young and enthusiastic partisan leader arrived. He had vital information about a sabotage operation on the railway that needs extra support from allied forces. I called it in to Bletchley Park, who plan to arrange a supply drop by the RAF. Then the partisan leader led me along the road to another set of farm buildings to meet with the VIP. It was none other than the Prime Minister’s son and fellow SOE agent, Randolph Churchill.

Churchill shares details of Tito’s forces in the area and urges me to commit them to memory. I can’t afford to be caught with this information written down. He then introduces youme to one of Tito’s personal staff officers, Olga Humo, who will guide me to your next rendezvous. Just before Churchill leaves, he hands you another coded message to solve

40 Miles – Shelter From The Storm

I spent the night in Glavica to resting my legs and was woken by a howling blizzard whistling through the windows. As I sat up, rubbing the sleep from my weary eyes, there was a sharp knock at the door. It was Olga Humo, ready to lead me to my rendezvous. So I packed up your things, pulled my hat down tight and stepped out into the cold.

The storm was a welcome camouflage to protect me from Bulgarian military forces in the area. But it was also a curse – stinging and unrelenting. Along the way, I learned that Olga joined the partisans after escaping from a Ustashi prison. She was pregnant at the time. But reluctant to make her shout her story over the searing wind, I decided to leave the conversation there. I arrived in Vasici to find little more than heavy vehicle tracks and discarded rations, quickly being covered with snow. The blizzard was intensifying, so Olga led you on towards a forester’s hut in Paljevine, where you could get some respite.

Olga shared valuable information about Tito and warned me of tensions between Chetniks and Bosnians in the area. Then it was time to part ways. But before setting off for her partisan headquarters, she gave me directions to Vitoroga, where I’ll find my next contact. She also gave me a coded message to solve.

Day 99th January 20222.74 miles walked
Day 1010th January 20224.31 miles walked
Day 1111th January 20224.25 miles walked
Day 1212th January 20223.5 miles walked

45.79 miles walked 34.21 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
1SolvedSolvedBaffled so far
2SolvedSolvedNeed a lightbulb moment!
3SolvedSolvedSolved
4SolvedI thought I couldSolved
5SolvedReceivedReceived
6not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
7not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
8not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
9not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
10not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received

Over half way through the Balkans, but not quite halfway to Berlin. I had better do some longer walks!