Bletchley Park is home of the ‘Codebreakers’, a secret team who worked tirelessly during the Second World War to crack Nazi code and were believed to reduce the war by up to two years. Today, the huts have been opened up into a museum which celebrates the unsung heroes of the time and gives visitors an insight into what life was like working in total secrecy. We popped down as part of our regular feature ‘A day at’ to find out more.
In World War Two, the Nazi’s thought their military communications were totally secure, through the use of ‘Enigma’ machines, which enciphered messages so that if intercepted, the Allied forces wouldn’t have been able to decipher them. In fact, Enigma was so complex that it could encipher messages in 159 million million million different ways. It was therefore essential that a team of code breakers was set up to crack the Nazi codes in order to gain vital intelligence of their activity and plans – which in turn could save thousands of lives.
The British had Typex machines which were used to decipher the Enigma codes, however they were useless unless they knew what settings the Nazi’s were using on that particular day. So even if it had be cracked one day, they’d have to start from scratch the next. As a result, Alan Turing – one of the most well known of the code breakers – worked tirelessly to create the logic behind the ‘Turing Bombe’, a machine not only able to decipher the enigma codes, but do so quick enough to save lives before the settings changed again. (There is a working replica of Turing’s Bombe at Bletchley with regular talks). This fascinating story was also brought to the world stage through the film: ‘The Imitation Game’, which focused on Turing’s key role at Bletchley Park.
To truly appreciate what it was like to live and work at Bletchley Park, a visit is essential. There is a fantastic, self-led audio tour which takes you on a journey through time to explore the grounds, mansion and code breaking huts – discussing key figures, events and aspects of the site and how they all linked into the combined war effort. For those not so keen on listening to the whole audio tour, you can select the areas you are most interested in, in any order. There are also complimentary guide led walking tours each day, perfect if you’ve got any questions to ask (and you probably will).
The exhibits themselves are interactive and informative – great for adults and children alike – really allowing visitors to immerse themselves and understand how everything worked. It’s worth noting that children under the age of 12 get free admission – but that doesn’t mean there’s not exhibits that younger children won’t enjoy.
If you get peckish, there are hot and cold meals served in Hut 4 next to the Mansion, plus there’s also a coffee shop in the Visitor Centre. You can also pick up a souvenir in the well-stocked gift shop. There is ample (and free) parking, although in peak season you may should be prepared to walk a little way from the overflow car park. The site is also just a few minutes walk from Bletchley train station. All tickets can be upgraded to season passes free of charge – and we’d recommend visiting again, as there is too much to see in one day, plus there are often events running during the summer.
So, if you’re looking for something to do this February, head on over to Bletchley Park – to celebrate the patriotism, commitment and excellence of the people who worked there.
Info and tickets: bletchleypark.org.uk