Bletchley Park

codebreakers

Have you ever had awesome skills that you could never brag about and that allowed you to work at a place you could never confirm existed? Sigh. Me neither. That’s not to say I don’t have awesome skills. I can split a fly in half mid-flight with a fly swatter, but I doubt that’s anything worth calling the paper about.

Flashback to 1938. England is on the brink of war with Germany and a group of men trekked to the Buckinghamshire countryside for a weekend of shooting. Only they didn’t shoot anything. As members of MI6, Government Code and Cypher School, and a few scholars turned codebreakers they were scouting a secret location for wartime intelligence activity. Luckily, Bletchley Park fit the bill for their needs. Originally built as a mansion for rich people, the estate changed many hands over the years until the British government purchased it for the use of  cracking Nazi codes and ciphers in September 1939.

Enigma was the most famous cipher to be broken at Bletchley Park, and probably anywhere else in the world at the time. Breaking this incredible code helped to shorten the war by two to four years, at least. Thanks to their awesome skills, the British confused Hitler over where the Allies were planning to land for D-Day. Like the sucker he was, Hitler shuffled the bulk of his troops far from Normandy to allow the good guys a successful landing.

Come 8 May 1945, or VE Day, and the codebreakers weren’t needed much anymore as the war came to a halt after six long years. A few

Turing Bombe that cracked Enigma

Turing Bombe that cracked Enigma

went on to serve in government positions of deciphering, but most returned to their quiet lives without a hint of the amazing work they had done to ensure freedom from tyranny. Unfortunately, not all could keep their secrets so silent. In 1974 a man named who had worked on Ultra published a book “The Ultra Secret”, a long and sometimes inaccurate telling of the work and accomplishments of the codebreakers. Britain’s Best Kept Secret was no more. Over the years, more and more details would come out, and in 1987 Bletchley Park was decommissioned.

In 1991 Bletchley Park was set to be demolished, but was saved by veterans and a committee desperate to preserve the incredible acts of heroism that played out there years before. With lots of love, time, and money, the Park now stands as a testament of what can happen when incredible minds come together. Its doors and grounds are open for visitors as a museum with many of the original huts and buildings restored to their former glory and housing the original cryptic machines, desks, and listening devices as if the workers had only stepped out for a moment.

13 January 1942, The Telegraph newspaper printed a crossword puzzle to see who could solve it in under twelve minutes. What set this particular puzzle apart from all the others? The war office was watching because they needed minds that could think quick and turn over complex information. Only a handful of people succeeded and they were quickly enlisted for Bletchley. Think you’ve got what it takes to crack a code? Try your hand at this and see if you could have worked on Enigma.

4 Comments

  1. Tom Threadgill

    Coincidentally, we just watched “The Imitation Game” yesterday. Pretty good movie, especially the parts that focused on the war effort. Thanks for sharing, J’nell!

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Hi Tom! Good to see you again. Ha! I say that like I can see you through the screen. I enjoyed the movie too. It’s not a topic that most people know about outside of computer nerds (my husband being one). I think it’s a shame because those incredible people helped end the war early just by using their intellect.

      Reply
  2. Lisa Betz

    I always enjoy reading your cool historical nuggets. I too recently enjoyed the Imitation Game. And I’ve always been fascinated by codes. Great stuff.

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      I try to keep them interesting! Did you try the crossword? I attempted and got maybe three. Sigh. Codes apparently aren’t for me.

      Reply

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