Station X In The Series

As soon as I read about the amazing manuscript MS 408, I knew I needed a team of people capable of working together to crack its code.

Bletchley Park: ‘Government Code and Cypher School’

‘It’s true I’m making a move to Bletchley Park …

…but I won’t only be working at the museum there.’ He held his hand up to stop her interrupting. ‘Bletchley Park Mansion was a hugely important code-cracking centre in the Second World War and the museum does a great job of telling people what went on. But I plan to do something else with my time there.’
‘Like what?’
‘I intend to set up a secret Code and Cipher School for modern-day code-crackers. I want to choose a team of successful candidates to work with me, covertly, in a secret section of the Black Chamber, on a particularly tricky manuscript.’ Tandi drew her hands up to her face and pressed them tight against her mouth.
‘You’re going to work on MS 408 again?’ she spluttered.

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book One ‘The Power of Three.’) Show the full extract

This map shows how the Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park was reinstated in my imagination

Wartime Bletchley Park: Government Code & Cypher School

I was interested to see that many people, over the hundred years since the manuscript’s discovery, had tried to break the MS408 code.

For me the most interesting group was a team made up of several code-crackers from wartime Bletchley Park. This was perfect for the series I wanted to write!

A mansion in the middle of the English countryside with sprawling grounds and huts to work in which once went by the name of a ‘Government Code and Cypher School’ and was referred to as Station X…it was the perfect setting for an adventure story and I knew I had to base my story characters there!

Vacuum Pump ‘Internal Mail’ System

I imagined that children of the original study group who had worked on MS 408 became called together once new information about MS 408 came to light. I imagined they joined together in secret in the mansion to work on the code. It was easy to see the mansion as a code cracking school and I was able to draw into my series, stories about things that really happened there and people who really worked at Bletchley.

For example, the vacuum pump ‘internal mail’ system so vital to the plot of Book One, really exists. I had great fun thinking about how the huts would be used and the map shows how once the Code and Cypher School was reinstated in my imagination, the grounds were organised by the team for working in.

The following book extracts give extra details about Station X and how it was used.

Arrival at Station X

‘So, what d’you reckon?’ the driver asked as the car climbed up a hill towards a large gateway.…

…Brodie was too busy trying to take everything in to answer.
At the end of the drive was a sprawling, red-brick mansion. There was a mixture of designs; some window frames painted white, others black and edged with stone. There were sections of pitched roofs, some turrets and green-topped domes.
In places there were thick black beams criss-crossed along the plaster, but some walls were covered in a creamy pebbledash. There were high chimneys and jagged archways, wooden doors and glazed ones, and in front of the main entrance a gravelled forecourt with a circular lawn.
It looked to Brodie as if no one builder had ever quite taken control. It looked unfinished, as if things here still needed completing. The car slowed to a halt. Brodie stared at the front door of the mansion.
In the story she told herself in her head, it looked like an opening to a new world. She was scared. Unsure again, if she wanted to go inside. Two stone statues stood like guards either side of the door and above their heads hung a single lantern. A candle burned inside, the light of the flame bouncing against something small and shiny.
Brodie bit her lip as the driver of the car unloaded her cases from the boot. She thanked him, checked the time on both her watches and the car pulled slowly back down the drive.

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book One ‘The Power of Three.’) Show the full extract

Arrangements for the Code and Cypher School

‘You’ll be in Hut 8,’ Miss Tandari explained, as Brodie began her private tour.…

…‘You’ll be in Hut 8,’ Miss Tandari explained, as Brodie began her private tour.
‘Smithies lives off site in the village but you can always find me as I’m based in the mansion. Here’s a map to refer to and I’ll help you get your bearings.’
Starting beside Block B, Brodie could see a series of huts of different sizes and ages. Some were newly painted, but some were rather shabby. On the outside of each one was a number marked on the centre of a thick black name-plate.
‘These huts were the heart of Bletchley,’ Miss Tandari explained. ‘In the war codebreakers were allocated to one particular hut. You worked there all the time. Each hut was responsible for different types of code-breaking.’ Brodie nodded.
‘They’re all different. They’ve all got their own histories. Huts 3, 4, 6 and 8 are the most famous ones,’ she continued. ‘Your grandfather worked in Hut 3. The work which happened there changed the course of the whole war.’
It was a simple scheme. Smithies explained normal lessons would be taught in the morning, in order to cover the home-schooled requirement of the plan, and in the afternoon there’d be sessions on code-cracking.
Most of the lessons would take place in the mansion. Some sessions would be held in the huts. There was only one rule. Whatever happened, don’t engage in conversation with the general public. Most visitors to the museum would see only what they expected to see and as long as the children were in their Pembroke uniform, they’d pass for a group on a school trip.
It was, Smithies explained, the very best form of secrecy. The right-under-their nose sort, which was rarely questioned and it was, he added, what made the process so exciting. Miss Tandari taught them ordinary subjects, and for the most part did a very good job of it.
She tried desperately to make the necessary work on primary factors and function machines seem interesting, and every now and then, when she felt the group was flagging, she bought them mini chocolate bars to boost their sugar levels, something Hunter was particularly grateful for but which Tusia refused in favour of yogurt-covered raisins.
Smithies and Ingham split the sessions on codecracking while doubling as curators at the museum. Brodie couldn’t believe there was so much to learn. They covered hidden messages written in lemon juice and revealed by heat; substitution ciphers and some crazy thing called the pigpen cipher.
They even talked about ‘disinformation’ which could be added to codes to confuse those trying to crack them. Everything confused Brodie to begin with. And everything, it seemed, could be used to hide a secret message just as long as you knew where to look.

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book One ‘The Power of Three.’) Show the full extract