Bletchley Park with Adam Broome
Its finally here – the chance to visit Bletchley Park – somewhere I have never been and always wanted to go. Obviously I love mathematics but I’m also half-polish and Poland played a really important role in helping to ‘break’ Enigma.
Will it be worth it? I’m travelling from Cornwall, an epic journey there and back, 10 hours driving between Friday night and Saturday night. And even after 22 years together my partner bought me some Pringles (I forgot – more on these later) and filled the car up with petrol.
Tom, our Education host, gave us a very informative hour and half on code breaking, how to use it with different age children and let us loose with our Pringle Tube Enigma machines. They work – they decrypt and encrypt and were delicious – marvellous! And Michael, the tour-guide, gave a fantastically evocative tour of the grounds and how life changed during the war for the growing numbers of people who were cracking the codes. And his pronunciation of the polish names by the polish memorial (which I was very touched to see) was awesome.
After a day at Bletchley Park it was clearly an amazingly successful enterprise in breaking German codes. Real cutting edge mathematical thinking, developing a computer technology where none existed combined with brilliant linguists and sophisticated systems of operation. But I think I knew that!
What was really brought to life for me, over and above all that, was how successful Bletchley Park was in creating a team, a highly motivated group of brilliant people chosen for their skills, regardless of their gender, sexuality, religion…A significant majority of the people who worked at Bletchley Park and its two satellite stations were women. It was and is an extraordinary advert for the power of diversity.
How everyone worked so well together and how their well-being was cared for. Of course people worked unbelievably hard but the morale of the people was taken extremely seriously. Groups and societies were encouraged. People could have ultra violet rays treatment if they weren’t seeing enough daylight. People played tennis, skated on the lake, formed romantic attachments.…I could go on…
Bletchley Park is therefore still highly relevant today and I’m planning to use it with my students, current and future. The possibilities of combining History, Modern Foreign Languages, Mathematics, Computing into a learning experience for students are huge and I’m really confident students will be highly engaged. I’ll need to combine my intuition with a bit of ingenuity to overcome the geographical distance between Berkshire and Cornwall – maybe that’s another subject link!? Which links nicely with a finishing quote from Alan Turing –
‘Mathematical reasoning may be regarded rather schematically as the exercise of a combination of two facilities, which we may call intuition and ingenuity.’ – which I will be using a lot from now on!
Thanks to the Maths Scholarship Team for organising such a great day!