The Road to Station X by Sarah Baring

‘When I was seventeen my parents sent me to Munich in Germany for further education and to learn the language.’

Little did Sarah Baring then know how important her knowledge of German would become.  Sarah Kathleen Elinor Baring (20 January 1920 – 4 February 2013) was an English socialite who worked for three years as a linguist at Bletchley Park, the principal centre of Allied code-breaking during the Second World War.  In 1938, she was enjoying her life as a debutante.  But when war broke out in 1939, she wanted to do her bit for the war effort.  First, after leaving a position with Vogue, she worked as a telephonist at an Air Raid Precautions Centre, then she worked in a factory and helped build airplanes.  But then, because Intelligence were seeking German-speaking staff, Sarah, and her friend Osla were tested and then selected for employment at Bletchley Park.

‘You are to report to Station X at Bletchley Park.’

In this book, Sarah Baring provides a firsthand account of life in the UK during World War II.  While I was most interested in her account of working at Bletchley Park, the book is made more interesting by the context she provides. Food rationing and accommodation shortages presented challenges, but Ms Baring mentions this as a matter of fact and as something that applied to all.

I have been reading a lot about World War II recently, and Ms Baring’s firsthand account provided a different and interesting perspective.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a well-written personal account of life in the UK during World War II.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Sapere Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith