Well attended visit to Bletchley Park on 6th November 2015
On a blustery day interspersed with heavy showers, 20 or so members assembled in the café at Bletchley Park. Not the best of weather for a predominantly outdoor tour.
After refreshments, a number elected to follow the self-guided tour while others joined the guided one. The guided tour began in the Chauffeurs hut where our guide gave us an introduction to what went on there and what we would be seeing during the next hour or so. We then moved outside to visit the original gates through which the 10,000 workers came and went to and from their accommodation. This must have been quite a sight with three shift changes every day, day and night, seven days a week.
Then, in no particular order, we visited the garages, stable yard, Polish Memorial and then on to view several huts, now restored, where messages were received and transmitted and where the codebreakers worked.
Hut 6 was where the German Army and Airforce Enigma messages were deciphered before being passed, via a makeshift hatch, to Hut 3 for translation & analysis. The restored huts have been set out as they would have been in wartime with furniture, equipment and posters plus many personal items and belongings of the people who worked there. Some rooms had projected and animated images of workers which helped to depict the atmosphere.
Throughout the tour the guide impressed upon us the fact that, despite its large size and importance, Bletchley Park was the best kept secret of the war. Nobody talked about it or what went on there and, more importantly, the Germans never got wind of it.
Winston Churchill described the workers as ‘the geese that laid the golden eggs - but never cackled’.
Another quote by Churchill was that Alan Turing made ‘the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany and its Axis partners’. It is thought that without Turing we would have lost the war!
After the formal tour we were left to visit some of the other buildings including the Main House and Block B which houses the museum including Enigma Machines and a reconstructed Turing-Welshman Bombe – the first computer.
One thought that has come to my mind is ‘if the Germans had such sophisticated encryption, did we have something similar? If so how come the Germans didn’t crack our message system?’
Maybe that’s still secret!
Many thanks to Philip Mitchell for yet another exceptional and rewarding trip.