A Trip to Bletchley Park Near Milton Keynes -26th May 2015.

We  enjoyed a most suc­cess­ful outing to Bletchley Park where the Nazi and Japanese ciphers were broken during World War II.  Visiting coaches must park off site.  Setting down and pick up times have to be booked weeks in advance.  Our drop off time was 11am requir­ing a 7.30 am depar­ture from Sheffield but as the day brought wall to wall sun­shine our spir­its were high.

Whilst Chamberlin’s appease­ment ruled, Alastair Denniston planned for the coming war.  He was head of the Government Code and Cypher School and acquired Bletchley Park in 1938.  The ini­tial team of less than 10 experts and math­em­aticians where known to Denniston per­son­ally and moved into the main build­ing in 1939.  By the end of the War over 9,000 people were based at Bletchley Park.  Many of the build­ings sur­round­ing the ori­ginal house have been restored to their war­time state and vis­it­ors wander through these “huts” to view exhib­i­tions and hands on dis­plays that explain the oper­a­tions under taken by each “hut”.

Most asso­ci­ate the Park with crack­ing the Enigma machine used by the Germans for its enciphered army, air force and intel­li­gence mes­sages and for cre­at­ing the first modern com­puter to assist this work.  In the second half of 1940 an even more com­plex enci­pher­ing machine called the Lorenz was used and the Bletchley team also cracked this.

The ori­ginal three rotor Enigma machine was cap­able of 156,000,000,000,000,000,000 pos­sible com­bin­a­tions.  It was mar­keted to the bank­ing industry and had been “cracked” by a few bril­liant Polish math­em­aticians.  The German mil­it­ary adap­ted this machine and made it more com­plex.  The Polish res­ist­ance obtained one of these mil­it­ary enigma machines that was given to the French and then to the British together with their know­ledge.  At Bletchley Park the Enigma was cracked and an organ­isa­tion was developed to try to inter­pret the de-ciphered mes­sages.  The machine set­tings were changed at mid­night each day and the Bletchley team had to crack the “codes” anew.

The vis­itor is taken through all the above and it is enlivened by sound record­ings as well as pho­to­graphs and objects of the time.  There is a res­taur­ant as well as coffee shops, a museum with work­ing models, a book­shop and of course toi­lets dotted around the site.  It came as a bit of a sur­prise to some of the mem­bers’ wives just how inter­est­ing the Park was to them.  The added bonus is that each entry ticket can be reused for entry during the next 12 months.