Throughout World War II, Bletchley Park was the site of Britain’s main decryption establishment, and it was here that Dilly Knox, John Jeffries and Alan Turing did their historic code breaking work. Turing and his fellow codebreakers developed the Bombe, an electromechanical device designed to discover the daily Enigma Machine settings that the German Navy used to encrypt their top secret communications. Colossus, the world’s first programmable digital electronic computer, designed and built by Tommy Flowers, was delivered to Bletchley in 1943 and set to the task of breaking the more complex Lorenz cypher, codenamed ‘Tunny’. At the time, Bletchley Park was named Station X after the secret radio intercept station it was also home to. Bletchley was one of Britain’s best kept secrets and the high level intelligence that was produced here was codenamed Ultra.
Such was the level of secrecy at Bletchley that much of the groundbreaking work performed here was unknown for years. Never has the term ‘unsung heroes’ been more appropriate than it was to the 8,000 strong task force that worked here daily during the war, most of whom never spoke of what they did at Bletchley and took their experiences (and kudos) to the grave. It has been revealed at the Science Museum’s Alan Turing: Code Breaker exhibition, which opened this week, that some of the papers Turing worked on during his time at Bletchley were so sensitive and relevant to national security that they were only made public this year.
Today Bletchley is open to the public where its secrets have been laid bare. Home to the National Codes Centre and the National Museum of Computing, it is a fascinating place of historic interest. Ticket holders get a year long pass where you can see where Alan Turing lived & worked, as well as fully operational rebuilds of Turing’s Bombe and Flowers’ remarkable Colossus. There are many exhibits here that will be of interest to hard-core war historians, Ian Fleming fans, pigeon fanciers, car enthusiasts, antique collectors, Churchill admirers, maritime & model rail enthusiasts and those of us who want to pay tribute to, and gain a little insight into the great mind of, Alan Turing.
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