Bletchley Park, Codebreaker HQ

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Date of Publication: 30 October 2017

Labelled the ‘Home of the Codebreakers’, Bletchley Park tells the story of the top secret mission to crack Nazi encryptions during World War Two. Not only was this crucial to the war effort, the endeavour paved the way to early computers and the building blocks of our modern world.

Originally Bletchley Park had been a Victorian estate, and the students loved exploring the 18th-century mansion. The huts which homed tens of thousands of codebreakers during the war provided a stark contrast to this; showing what conditions were like while also revealing key stories about the war. One of the rooms educated students on the importance of carrier pigeons, even during the 20th century. We were shocked to discover they can fly at up to 60mph and were dropped into warzones with their very own parachutes! Bletchley Park was also highly interactive, challenging students to make their own codes and break others’. We had the opportunity to puzzle over the enigma codes ourselves, baffling even the hardiest staff member.

A highlight was the live demonstration of the Bombe – used to break enigma codes and the very first computer! Although Bletchley Park celebrates everyone who worked there, no matter how big their contribution, some parts were dedicated to certain outstanding individuals. Our students learnt all about the amazing work and mistreatment of Alan Turing, with the 2009 public apology for his mistreatment enshrined in the Bletchley museum. His office in Hut 8 was a time capsule that emphasised how amazing their work was given the conditions, working with pieces of paper by candlelight in a race against the clock. As a testament to the amazing historical experience Bletchley provides, students departed the gift shop with assorted souvenirs and puzzle books to try codebreaking for themselves. It was a truly fantastic day – in the fading sun, we all walked away amazed by the intricacies of codebreaking and the history of the people who dedicated themselves to it.

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