I knew a little of the story of Bletchley Park and its role in assisting the Allies win World War II but I’d had never been inspired to visit until I saw the recent film The Imitation Game about Alan Turing and Bletchley Park.
In the film Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing the brilliant mathematician who, along with his colleagues Dilly Knox; John Jefferies & Peter Twinn, builds the machine that assist break the ‘unbreakable’ code from the Nazi Enigma machines. The film is great but the full real life story is better!
A visit to Bletchley really gives you an insight into the massive achievements that were made here in those few short years. The recreated Bombe (the machine they built to assist with the de-coding of Enigma), shown in the main image at the top of this article, is brilliant. All of the original machines where broken up after the war as they were so secret and so some enthusiastic retired computer boffins rebuild one for Bletchley.
The Nazi’s changed the Enigma machine’s settings daily – so every morning the code-breakers at Bletchley had to re-crack the code using the Bombe so as to be able to decipher the Nazi radio messages. There work created the foundation upon which computing was built.
The whole story is told in the place it happen at Bletchley Park – so if you can go and visit – if you can’t then try their website as a full description is there. If you are really stuck… watch the film….
Two interesting facts I picked up from the visit were:
(1) The Polish mathematicians that design the early code breaking machines (before Turin’s) called it a Bombe after the polish ice cream desert. I like that fact.
(2) Churchill referred to the Bletchley staff as
“the geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled”
Such a great Churchill quote. To the point and memorable all at the same time.