A digital history project run by the University of Oxford is preserving untold stories and family heirlooms from World War Two (Picture: via Their Finest Hour/PA)
A window has been opened into the lives of Allied personnel engaged in top secret work against the Nazis during World War Two.
The photographs and stories include milestones in the off-duty life of a worker at Bletchley Park and a photograph of a Royal Navy officer involved in capturing a German Enigma machine from a stricken U-boat.
The pictures have been donated by relatives to a national digital history initiative entitled Their Finest Hour, a University of Oxford project which is bringing together memories and artefacts from the Nazi era.
On Remembrance weekend, some of the contributions from families all over the country to the online archive can be seen for the first time.
They offer a glimpse into Bletchley worker Albert William Gorman’s family life, from a set including his engagement and wedding.
Gorman worked in Block C of the codebreaking station’s German Section as a temporary senior administrative officer.
Albert Gorman worked at top secret Bletchley Park but found time for lighthearted moments (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
Albert in a cherished moment that has been passed down the generations and has now been digitised (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
He found time to relax with friends and family despite the top secret nature of his work in Milton Keynes, Cambridgeshire.
One of the black-and-white photographs from moments away from his role in the section which cracked the German Enigma code shows him grinning as a chimpanzee places a hand on his shoulder.
Albert’s granddaughter donated the pictures to the project because she feels that he did not receive the recognition he deserved and that it is important to preserve stories from the war.
Another image shows Petty Officer Norman Rose, who was involved in the capture of an intact Enigma machine from a stricken German U-boat while he was serving on the HMS Bulldog.
Pictures showing milestones in the life of Albert Gorman have been released to Oxford’s digital history project (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
Wrens in Hut 6 at Bletchley where they deciphered German messages in a major contribution to the Allied war effort (Picture: SSPL/Getty Images)
The encryption device was found complete with the cipher keys and code books valid for the next three months.
Rose had been on the Royal Navy destroyer as it escorted merchant shipping across the Atlantic, and it was on one of these convoys where his first ship attacked and disabled U-boat U110.
The rare capture and boarding of one of the submarines took place south of Iceland on May 9, 1941.
The machine and code books were taken to Scotland by the Bulldog, before being transferred to Bletchley Park and Hut 8, where the codebreakers included Alan Turing.
Many merchant ships and lives were saved in the following months as the codebreakers were able to decipher coded messages thanks to the capture of the machine.
The crew was told never to speak of what became known as Operation Primrose, and the contributor’s grandfather spoke little about the war and even less about the day in 1941.
The 2000 film U-571 was loosely based on the capture of U-110, which would come to be regarded as one of the most important events in the six-year Battle of the Atlantic.
Royal Navy Petty Officer Norman Rose took part in the capture of a German Enigma machine (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
The images have been made available by the families to the National Lottery Heritage Fund project, which is collecting fast-receding stories and items from the war so they are preserved for future generations.
Diaries, letters and journals are also being recorded, digitised and uploaded to an online archive, which will be free to use from June 2024.
Among the other images which have been donated by relatives is one of John Parrish, a Canadian soldier who was taken prisoner during the disastrous Operation Jubilee in August 1942.
He spent 971 days as a prisoner of war after being captured by the Germans on a beach in Dieppe, Normandy.
The mission involving Canadian amphibious troops was intended as a ‘pinch raid’ to steal the German code books which would unlock the Enigma codes, according to history author David O’Keefe.
Parrish, whose story was contributed by his granddaughter, made a daring escape before being recaptured and seeing out the rest of his captivity in a prisoner of war camp.
An original Enigma code machine at a screening of the Imitation Game at the Science Museum in London (Picture: PA Wire)
Project leader Dr Stuart Lee said: ‘We’re delighted to be able to create an archive of memories of the Second World War era.
‘We know from previous projects that people have so many objects, photos and anecdotes which have been passed down from family members which are at risk of getting lost or being forgotten.
‘Our aim is to empower people to digitally preserve these stories and objects before they are lost to posterity.’
Canadian soldier John Parrish was captured by the Nazis after landing on a beach in Normandy in the Dieppe Raid (Picture: via Their Finest Hour)
As commemorations take place to remember all who served, the project is working to create a lasting collection of items and memories.
Dr Lee said: ‘Remembrance Weekend is especially poignant this year because not only does November 11 fall on a Saturday, so the two-minute silence immediately precedes the ceremonies at the Cenotaph, but we are mid-way through the 80th anniversary of World War Two when in 1943 the tide turned against the Axis powers.
‘With Their Finest Hour we are asking members of the public to share stories, memories and objects about not only those who served but also those across the Commonwealth who supported Britain’s war effort by working, keeping a home going, or the children who lived through it.’
Visit Their Finest Hour here
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Bletchley worker Albert Gorman is among those whose untold stories are seeing the light of day.