Categories
Courses Operation Bletchley Society of Genealogists

What have I learned in August?

Pharos Intermediate Certificate

I passed the final courses for the certificate, Military Records with a pass at 73% and Victorian Crime and Punishment with a distinction at 82%. I now actually have a qualification in genealogy and feel a little less of a fraud.

Strathclyde’s Post Graduate Certificate in Genealogy, Heraldry and Palaeography

I am on a break from this course over the summer.

Heraldic terms

Through playing Heralde, (a game like the popular Wordle, but the answers are all heraldry terms) I have learned some new words.

  • Piety – Used only for pelicans, the attitude or position meaning a female pelican surrounded by chicks piercing her breast to feed them. Piety is also symbolised by blue.
  • Gyron – A triangular shape.
  • Rowel – A mullet or star like shape with 5 or 6 points, pierced in the centre
  • Label – A line across the top of a coat of arms with pendants, usually rectangular or dovetails, hanging down
  • Formy – A cross with arms that narrow towards the centre.
  • Flory – A line with a series of fleurs de lys
  • Croix – Cross
  • Torse – A torse or wreath is a twisted roll of fabric laid about the top of the helmet and at the base of the crest.

Reading

I read A Comedy of Errors, Act 2 by Michael Whitfield Foster, all about the marriage records at the GRO.

Podcasts

I am working through back catalogue of Ask AGRA: Family History Question Time, and keeping up with other podcasts.

PodcastSpeakersSubject
Ask AGRA: Family History Question Time
Series 2 Episode 4
Ian Waller, Catherine Ryan, Sue Adams, Helen ToveyManorial and Estate Records
Journeys into Genealogy Cemeteries and GraveyardsCelia HeritageGraveyard, cemeteries, churches, the history and evolution of the churchyard, headstones, burial locations inside and outside the church, burial records inc non-conformist, consecration, the Magnificent 7 and more with author and speaker Celia Heritage. Plus tips on where to find genealogical records
Ask AGRA: Family History Question Time
Series 2 Episode 5
Grace Tabern, Sharon Grant, Rachel Rick, Nick SerpellResearching Liverpool ancestors
Ask AGRA: Family History Question Time
Series 2 Episode 6
Vicki Manners, Simon Fowler, Clive Reedman, Judy Lester, Sarah WilliamsPoor Law, settlement records and workhouses
Journeys into Genealogy House Histories and GenealogyMelanie Backe-HansenWhen researching your family history you are likely to want to find out more about where your ancestors lived. Expert house historian Melanie Backe-Hansen shares her experiences and gives tips for getting started, where to look including local sources (which vary from county to county), church and manorial lands, rentals and house ownership and where to find other clues such as house names. 

Meetings, Webinars, Courses

6 August
Tracing Your Female Ancestors 1: Tracing women ancestors – their voices and lives
Else ChurchillSociety of GenealogistsAs ever from Else this was a fascinating talk about how to find out the lives of women. Many of whom appear in the records merely as wives, daughters and mothers. They had lives of their own.
20 August
Tracing Your Female Ancestors 3: Milkmaids, Munitions Workers, Milliners and Match Girls: women at work
Janet FewSociety of Genealogists Janet guided us through the various jobs available to women in time gone by. I didn’t know that there had been evening classes in milking and cheese making during WW1. Sadly few records survive.
27 August
Tracing Your Female Ancestors 4: Criminal Women 1850-1920
Barry GodfreySociety of GenealogistsThis was really interesting. Women were thought to be doubly guilty because they offended against femininity as well as the crime itself. Women generally suffer more by going to prison, though this can be the suffering of their children.

A much quieter month meant that I was able to get on with some client work, tracing a family history in London which has taken me into Devon, Jersey, prison records and patent registrations. I am also working through many years of research for another client to create a coffee table book.

On 30th July we welcomed Jenga to the family. She is now 10 months old, an incredibly friendly, confident rescue cat who sleeps in some very odd positions. The orange paw is the result of playing with a wet bath bomb…

I am still dealing with menopausal symptoms though hopefully a drug will work soon. Trial and error isn’t ideal!

Categories
Courses Operation Bletchley Society of Genealogists

What have I learned in July?

Pharos Intermediate Certificate

I passed the one of the two final courses for the certificate, Military Records with a pass at 73% and I’m now just wating for my marks for Victorian Crime and Punishment.

Strathclyde’s Post Graduate Certificate in Genealogy, Heraldry and Palaeography

I intend to spend some of the summer catching up on the course reading lists.

Reading

I read Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s The Suffragette’ Secret, The Lie by Heather Dawn Gray and Are You My Grandmother by Steve Reynolds.

I have been reading “Journeys in family history : exploring your past, finding your ancestors” by Hey, David and have now moved onto “A Comedy of Errors, Act 2” by Michael Whitfield Foster, all about the marriage records at the GRO.

I also read On Chapel Sands which is the Society of Genealogists book club choice for July.

Podcasts

I am working through back catalogue of Ask AGRA: Family History Question Time, and keeping up with other podcasts.

PodcastSpeakersSubject
Journeys into Genealogy
Columnist, family history blogger and writer
Emma Cox and Paul ChiddicksPaul Chiddicks is the face behind “Dear Paul” in Family Tree Magazine and a moderator on Twitter’s #AncestryHour. He shares family history stories with research tips, discusses heirlooms and The Old Palace School Bombing in WWII.
Ask AGRA: Family History Question Time
Series 1 Episode 6
Carol Kerry Green, Sue Adams, Cathy Soughton, Grace TabernUsing land records such as maps and tithe maps to further research
Ask AGRA: Family History Question Time
Series 2 Episode 1
Simon Martin Mike Trenchard, Mike Sharpe, Carol Kerry Green, Nick Serpell Commissioning effective research
Ask AGRA: Family History Question Time
Series 2 Episode 2
Susan Moore, Sarah Pettyfer, Lorraine Whale, Nick SerpellLegal & chancery records
Journeys into Genealogy The Beresford Family and Bedgebury ParkEmma Cox and Neville GallagherNeville Gallagher talks about the Beresford family of Bedgebury Park in Kent including philanthropist Alexander Beresford Hope who funded local schools and many churches in England and Ireland and was interested in the American Civil War. Plus the history of the house and estate and sources for local history and hints for getting started with researching an estate. 
Ask AGRA: Family History Question Time
Series 2 Episode 3
Eilir Daniels, Emma Jolly, Gill Thomas, John Colclough, Antony MarrResearching Welsh ancestors
Ask AGRA: Family History Question Time
Series 2 Episode 4
Ian Waller, Catherine Ryan, Sue Adams, Helen ToveyManorial and Estate Records

Meetings, Webinars, Courses

2 July
Society of Genealogists AGM and “Jones Brothers Holloway Road – the life and death of a department store”
Audrey CollinsSociety of GenealogistsI only saw the building for the first time on 1 July but it was fascinating to hear about the history of the former department store, and a connection to North Wales. I hadn’t realised that shop assistants often “lived in”.
6 July
What to Do With Your Family History: Bonus Class – Organising your Family History
Nicola WaddingtonSociety of GenealogistsA very useful session about finding better systems than endless piles of paper. Nicola had some great suggestions, though of course the final answer was that there is no right, or wrong, way to organise genealogy paperwork.
9 July
The Victorian Cook – Queen of the Kitchen and Victorian Culinary Delights
Dr Judith HillSociety of Genealogists Victorian cooks certainly worked hard! Their roles varied depending on the size of the household but it was very interesting to learn about their day and the kind of things they would have cooked.
11 July
On Chapel Sands by Laura Cummings
DiscussionSociety of GenealogistsAnother very lively discussion. This book polarised opinion more than any other so far.
14 July
Stage 2 Evening Skills Course Class 9 – Mapping Your Ancestors
Alec TrittonSociety of GenealogistsA whistle-stop tour through many maps through the years which can help with family history. Including Ordnance Survey maps, valuation maps, tithe maps, Booth’s poverty maps and many more.

This month seemed to be all about wrapping things up. I have finished the Pharos Intermediate Certificate. Term has ended at Strathclyde University, and the first two long courses I had organised for Society of Genealogists have ended. I also enjoyed a week on the Grand Union Canal.

Braunston tunnel

I once again joined in Operation Bletchley. My walking progress was somewhat hampered by a couple of migraines and hurting my back. The migraines may be symptoms of menopause, or may be side effects of the drug I have tried to deal with the symptoms of menopause. We are yet to find out!

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

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
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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.

What have I learned in August?

Pharos Intermediate Certificate I passed the final courses for the certificate, Military Records with a pass at 73% and Victorian Crime and Punishment with a distinction at 82%. I now actually have a qualification in genealogy and feel a little less of a fraud. Strathclyde’s Post Graduate Certificate in Genealogy, Heraldry and Palaeography I am […]

What have I learned in July?

Pharos Intermediate Certificate I passed the one of the two final courses for the certificate, Military Records with a pass at 73% and I’m now just wating for my marks for Victorian Crime and Punishment. Strathclyde’s Post Graduate Certificate in Genealogy, Heraldry and Palaeography I intend to spend some of the summer catching up on […]

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. […]

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
1SolvedSolvedSolved
2SolvedSolvedMum got it!
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8SolvedI have the answer but don’t understand how!Solved
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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 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 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
1SolvedSolvedSolved
2SolvedSolvedMum got it!
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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 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 […]

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 […]

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!

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 […]

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 […]

Categories
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 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 […]

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 […]

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!

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 […]

Categories
Operation Bletchley

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 is not too late to join me. Sign up here: https://events.soldierscharity.org/operation-bletchley

If the challenge is not for you, then 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

8 miles – Ruins of the Reichstag

Earlier today, we received intelligence about a package concealed in the ruins of the Reichstag – and it was my mission to find it. The building is on the fringes of the Soviet zone, so the FSS dropped me at the Victory Column in the Tiergarten and let me cover the last few miles on foot.

The area is heavily patrolled by Soviet troops, so I had to pick my way carefully through the rubbish and smashed vodka bottles that littered the streets. Despite my best efforts, I was spotted by a member of the MGB lurking beneath the Brandenburg Gate, so I picked up the pace, recovered the package and got out of there.

The package was full of camera film, so I went back to base straight away to get it developed. The photographs showed a build-up of troops in Soviet barracks, along with a number of classified documents. By monitoring the barracks and tracking troop and equipment numbers, HQ will now be able to predict any Soviet attempt to invade the Western Zones.

After handing over the photographs to my superiors, I was given another message to decode.

Day 55th January 20221.78 miles walked
Day 66th January 20221.66 miles walked
Day 77th January 20221.76 miles walked
Day 88th January 20221.22 miles walked

12.74 miles walked 27.26 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
1SolvedSolvedSolved
2SolvedSolveddrawing lots of lines
3expected 9 Janexpected 9 Janexpected 9 Jan
4not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
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

16 miles – Blow the Bridge

Tito’s liaison officer treated me to breakfast, then I packed up my supplies and left Jajce behind. The road to Vilišća was direct, which meant it was also heavily trafficked. So I used my map to plot a safer, if slightly more gruelling, route through the mountains.

Arriving in Vilišća, a hamlet South West of Ljoljići, I found a small band of Tito’s partisans. They have plans to sabotage a guarded railway bridge on the north side of the hamlet, and my package of explosives and detonators are the key ingredient.

I wandered through Vilišća, bracing myself for my first taste of combat, when I was suddenly met by British signaller, Sergeant Peretz ‘Rose’ Rosenberg. He handed me an envelope with coded intel from Bletchley Park: reports of Nazi troops moving through the area. I must leave immediately to get the message to my contact near Javorovac. The bridge will have to be left to Tito’s band.

Slipping the documents back into the envelope, I found another coded message to solve.

24 miles – The Climb

I left Vilišća in the late afternoon. Flurries of snow drifted in off the surrounding mountains, snuffing out the light as I passed through the ruinous village of Močioci. I was met by more of Tito’s partisans who warned of Serb Chetniks closing in on the area, so I searched your map for an alternate route to your rendezvous near Javorovac.

I made your way across a vast, snow-covered plain of abandoned farmland to steer clear of the enemy. The elements, however, were a different matter. Bitter winds howled through my hood and pierced my gloves, but I pulled your scarf closer and trudged on. At the far end of the farm, I found a steep trail into the mountains and began my ascent.

The alpine canopy offered some respite from the wind, but the snow was deeper here. Every step was more trying than the last, my boots gripped by fingers of snow. My vision blurred as sweat poured from my body, but I trudged on. And then I saw it. At first nothing more than a shadow, perhaps only a mirage. But as I moved closer, a shepherd’s mountain shelter painted itself into the snow-flecked darkness. I burst through the door and hunkered down in the draughty shelter. Sleep took me almost immediately.

I was shaken back to life by a partisan courier. As I handed over the intel from Sergeant Peretz ‘Rose’ Rosenberg, the courier directed me to Glavica to make contact with a VIP from England. He also gave me another code to crack. .

Day 55th January 20224.33 miles walked
Day 66thJanuary 20223.56 miles walked
Day 77th January 20223.48 miles walked
Day 88th January 20223.64 miles walked

30.89 miles walked 49.11 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
1SolvedSolvedBaffled so far
2SolvedSolvedNeed a lightbulb moment!
3SolvedStuckSolved
4not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
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

I’m annoyed with myself that yesterday’s walk wasn’t far enough to get another clue on the Berlin challenge today. I have a couple of sedentary days next week, but also some days where I should be able to fit in a slightly longer walk. I am very pleased that I finally cracked a Cypher Expert code on the Balkans challenge. Huge thanks to Mum for her help in code cracking!

Categories
Operation Bletchley

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 is not too late to join me. Sign up here: https://events.soldierscharity.org/operation-bletchley

If the challenge is not for you, then 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

I had an important briefing with the Intelligence Corps’ 903 Field Security Section (FSS). They are working around the clock to beat the Soviet blockade in the East.

They needed me to kick off this year by braving the cold in East Germany. My mission began at British HQ Fehrbelliner Platz, Wilmersdorf. I arrived just in time to help serve dinner to the local children. The smell of hot turkey, gravy and crispy roast potatoes filled the air, giving me comfort for the perilous journey ahead. I met with the Section Sergeant Major of the Field Security Section. He arranged for an Army jeep to drop me north of the airfield at Royal Air Force (RAF) Gatow in the British zone, but I had to cover the last four miles on foot.

The Black Market

It was a frosty walk to my checkpoint at RAF Gatow in the British zone, but the sight of sweets drifting down to the local children certainly helped to warm my heart. They were dropped by a Handley Page Hastings and drifted down on little handkerchief parachutes.

I made contact with a 16-year-old boy at the airbase. I couldn’t talk for long, but he managed to share some vital intelligence about the black market activity in the Soviet zone.

It appears that supplies from the West are being smuggled to East Berlin where Soviet troops are selling them on. With the intelligence from my informant the smuggling routes can be blocked. Just before he left, the boy handed me a coded message from his relative in the Mitte district of the Soviet zone.

Day 11st January 20221.71 miles walked
Day 22nd January 20221.48 miles walked
Day 33rd January 20221.75 miles walked
Day 44th January 20221.39 miles walked

6.32 miles walked 33.68 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
1SolvedSolvedSolved
2not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
3not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
4not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
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

I received a briefing from Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean. It appears the civil war in Yugoslavia is at boiling point. War crimes are being committed by every faction, with daily executions of civilians and ethnic cleansing throughout the nation.

The British Secret Intelligence Service has smuggled explosives and ammunition into the country to aid Tito’s partisans, but the supplies were lost in the anarchy. So my mission will be two-fold: support Tito’s troops in their fight against the Nazis, and report any intelligence back to Bletchley Park along the way.

Churchill plans to make his support for Tito public when he briefs parliament on the Yugoslav campaign. But he needs to be sure about his strategic ambitions first. Until then, this is all top secret stuff. So I stayed off the roads, took the path less trodden and tried to keep myself two steps ahead.

A Frosty Reception

I boarded a Douglas C-47 in the small hours and rumbled through the night sky towards Yugoslavia. As the aircraft lined up over the drop zone on the outskirts of Jajce, I glimpsed signs of civilization twinkling across the town like shooting stars. The hatch opened, sending a rush of cold air up my spine. And suddenly there was nothing left to do but jump.

Plummeting towards earth, the deafening roar of the C-47 was replaced with another, more sinister sound. As I fell, the distant ding and pop of gunfire rose to meet me. Not shooting stars, after all…

I touched down undetected, gathered up my chute and picked a path through the trees to stay out of sight. I arrived at Brigadier Maclean’s old base just after dawn and was met by Tito’s liaison officer. He explained that Tito was visiting his commanders in the mountains.

The LO introduced my to my colleagues from the Special Operations Executive (SOE). They shared news of a major Nazi offensive in the works and sent me off towards Velisca with supplies to aid the cause. Peeking into the package, I found a slip of paper sticking out between the explosives. It was a coded message from my SOE colleagues.

Day 11st January 20224.22 miles walked
Day 22nd January 20223.84 miles walked
Day 33rd January 20224.36 miles walked
Day 44th January 20223.56 miles walked

15.98 miles walked 64.02 miles to go

CodeJuniorCodebreakerCypher Expert
1SolvedSolvedBaffled so far
2not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
3not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
4not yet receivednot yet receivednot yet received
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

I had better get out for another walk!