Pensioners comes forward with vital information

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 20th July 2000, 1:00 am

THE top secret Banbury factory which helped crack an infamous Nazi code and win World War Two may have been identified.

Historians have been trying to unearth details of the factory since the role it played in deciphering the Enigma Code was revealed in Government documents declassified in December.

The documents told how a factory in the town made special sheets which were so instrumental in breaking the code that they were dubbed Banbury Sheets.

Now a pensioner has stepped forward with vital information after reading how Banbury helped win the war in the Banbury Guardian.

Walter McCanna, 85, believes the factory in question may have been printing firm Henry Stone and Sons Ltd, which was based in Swan Close during the war and now operates from Wildmere Road.

Mr McCanna worked in the furniture making section of the factory during the war, producing parts for Wellington bombers and other military aircraft.

But he remembers the tight security surrounding the firm s printing plant and how packages from the plant were hand delivered to secret locations.

And he believes the mystery packages were destined for Bletchley Park where Alan Turing and his team of elite scientists worked to break the Enigma code.

Mr McCanna, who now lives in Portsmouth, said: We knew they did some special printing for the Governmentwhich had to be delivered by hand to wherever it had to go.

Because it was the war there was very tight security around the whole factory and no-one was supposed to know what anyone else was doing.

But we were on fire watch with one of the printers and he told us a bit about what they did.

He didn t go into a lot of detail about their work, but I don t think he knew.

I don t think anyone but the people at the very top knew.

When I read the story about the Enigma code in the Banbury Guardian I thought it just had to be Henry Stones. All the work done at the printing plant was high grade stuff.

It would not surprise me if they did a lot of high security work because Mr Milne, who was director and chairman, moved in some very high circles.

He knew royalty and would have been able to win contracts like that.

Simon Hunt, the present managing director at Henry Stone and Sons, said he did not know whether the firm had printed the Banbury Sheets, but added that it would not surprise him if they had.

He is now looking for the firm s wartime records for vital clues as to the business s secret operations.

Mr Hunt said: When we moved from Swan Close to Wildmere Road some years ago a lot of journals were uncovered that the Stone family, who ran the business at that time had kept.

It was like a daily log of the business that the family used to keep. There were also all sorts of other things like the minutes of board meetings during the war.

They detail how the board discussed ways of protecting their business and their staff during the war and how they moved the firm s money about in case of invasion.

I would not be surprised in the slightest if this was the firm that made the sheets.