‘Bright Chaps for Hush-Hush Jobs’: Masculinity, Class and Civilians in Uniform at Bletchley Park
During the Second World War the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), headquartered at the now famous Bletchley Park, was tasked with collecting, deciphering and reading Axis wireless communications traffic. Agency recruitment and management strategies were heavily coloured by internal, dominant notions of masculinity, which revolved around class- and gender-based assumptions within wider British society. Many men were drawn from Britain’s ancient universities in the inter-war period, and masculinity in the agency was of a decidedly civilian character by 1939. However, a rapid wartime influx of military men posed a significant challenge to this internal masculine culture. The result was that GC&CS developed its own peculiar wartime hierarchy of masculinity, a hybrid of the competing notions derived from its primary sources of recruitment.