Secret Lives is the second, standalone, novel in the Ripples Through Time series. Following a visit to Bletchley Park in the UK, home of WW2 codebreakers, I embarked on a journey of discovery which led me to the story of the young women of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry who were recruited by the Special Operations Executive - Winston Churchill's 'Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare'. These young women kept their role as radio operators and cryptanalysts secret for their whole lives. What would happen if the secrets were revealed?
From the back cover
Can you keep a secret?
Alice Stallard, encouraged by her two friends, submits her entry to the Daily Telegraph prize crossword – a crossword she solves in record time. She thinks nothing more about it until called into the study of her Cambridge University professor where she’s invited to an interview at the mysterious Bletchley Park near Bedford.
Once at Bletchley Park, Alice is confronted with the Official Secrets Act and months of training for a job no one will talk about. After being moved from one training centre to another, her final posting is to Station 53a of the Special Operations Executive – Winston Churchill’s ‘Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’.
But what of when the War is over? Will Alice keep her promise of silence?
A-levels loom on the horizon for 18-year old Rosie Mason. She had expected her favourite subject to be History but instead is finding it dull and lifeless. Perhaps the drama and romance she was hoping for can be found elsewhere – in her grandmother’s memories. But Gran is reluctant to share any war stories, changing the subject at every one of Rosie’s questions.
Determined to conquer Gran’s reticence, Rosie decides to spend her long post-exam holiday with her grandparents. After days of trying, Gran agrees to show Rosie a few photos -- and the first edition copy of C S Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.
Only when Rosie stumbles on a handwritten note tucked between the pages of Screwtape does the silence of decades threaten to unravel.
Did you ever watch the British comedy show 'Allo 'Allo? If you did, you'll have seen the SOE and the FANY girls in operation - sort of! Although the show is a spoof, the concept of sending and receiving secret messages between London and Allied agents in the field was very real - and not very funny.
Listen as I read an extract from the first few pages of Secret Lives
I was delighted to spend a couple of hours with James, the curator of the Grendon Underwood village archive. We browsed the collection of slides and photos; interestingly, there were only a few taken during the period when the SOE was in residence. Too secret, perhaps?
James was also able to tell me a few snippets of interest which feature in Secret Lives - a 'fake' airfield being just one of them.
Check out the online archive on Facebook
Several of these photos are from various online archives rather than ones I took myself. I did try to take a picture of Station 53a, the hall at Grendon Underwood where the FANY cryptanalysts were based. However, it is now a prison - and I nearly got arrested for trying to take a quick pic!!