Blue plaque recognises MP Roy Jenkins' time lodging in Bedford when he worked at Bletchley Park

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Before becoming an MP, he was in the intelligence corps

A blue plaque has been unveiled in Bedford honouring Lord Jenkins who worked as a codebreaker during the Second World War.

Famously known the great social reformer of the swinging sixties, he liberalised the law on homosexuality, abortion, and jury trials and ended theatre censorship.

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But, before all that, at the age of 23, he was billeted on the owners of 8 Cornwall Road, Bedford.

From left, Stephen Lill, Cllr Henry Vann, Charlotte Cornwall (owner of No 8) and other residentsFrom left, Stephen Lill, Cllr Henry Vann, Charlotte Cornwall (owner of No 8) and other residents
From left, Stephen Lill, Cllr Henry Vann, Charlotte Cornwall (owner of No 8) and other residents

He had been selected to join the intelligence corps and was sent to Bedford for three months training in enemy code deciphering, before going on to work at Bletchley Park.

Unbeknown to most Bedfordians at the time, the town was a centre for training in German and Japanese codebreaking, beginning with language training.

Dozens of the brightest Oxbridge students, especially linguists, ended up in Bedford and were trained in great secrecy in houses on De Pary's Avenue, St Andrew's Road and above a

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gas showroom on the corner of Dame Alice Street and the Broadway.

The blue plaque at 8 Cornwall Road,BedfordThe blue plaque at 8 Cornwall Road,Bedford
The blue plaque at 8 Cornwall Road,Bedford

Jenkins was not a linguist but had spent up to five hours a day teaching himself German before arriving in Bedford.

Stephen Lill, who lives opposite, had believed for many years that Roy Jenkins had stayed on Cornwall Road but was at a loss as to how to prove it.

He said: “One day I wrote to Lord Jenkins, and he replied confirming that he had indeed stayed at number 8. Since then I’ve felt that a blue plaque should be put up to mark the fact, and I’m very pleased that it’s finally happened.”

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Councillor Henry Vann who, with fellow De Parys councillor David Sawyer, helped get the plaque become a reality, said: "It is great to be able to mark this significant local and indeed UK history."

Lord Jenkins told his biographer decoding was the most frustrating mental experience of his life. He said: "Particularly as the act of trying almost physically hurt one's brain, which became distinctly raw if it was not relieved by the catharsis of achievement."

And sometimes there were successes. He was part of the team whose decoding efforts enabled Allied commanders to read the movements of German forces in France before D-

Day.

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