Numbers, coding, GCHQ, combinations, World War II, Marconi, languages…they all have one thing in common – Bletchley Park!
What a day! I arrived to the front of the complex to be met by the team and promptly booked onto the Lorenz talk for 1pm. This was my third visit, and I was still excited!! Next stop was the tour bookings with a quick perusal of the book shop on the way past to eye up a GCHQ problem solving book for different questions to put onto my Weekly Challenge task in my classroom. Tour booking and audio headset acquired, now to head toward some one of the magnificent displays.
Bletchley Park is a fascinating place, and rather than tell everything about it, thus rendering any desire to see the park null and void, I will mention some of the highlights I gained. Around 10000 people worked here during the war. It was kept completely secret, such that no one knew what was even done in the hut next door. Even the locals kept the daily comings and goings of the 50-60 despatch riders secret. To this day the secrets are still held by ex-workers of Bletchley Park, so much so that the tour guide told us the following true story. He was demonstrating how the Bombe worked to a small group that included an elderly gentleman who was pushing his wife in a wheelchair. The guide noticed a small commotion between the pair at which point he noticed that the wife was in quite a huff. She finally blurted out, “Well that’s not how I did it! I didn’t do it like that and I worked on it!” To which the husband replied, “I didn’t know you worked here. I worked here too!” They were married for many years and likely would have taken their secrets to the grave if not for this.
To put it mildly, the work done at Bletchley including the mathematicians and linguists down to the normal civilians was paramount to ending the war and with it, the salvation of a significant number of lives of the soldiers who so valiantly fought for our freedom. These men and women worked tirelessly under some horrific conditions using mental warfare rather than physical warfare which proved invaluable in breaking the Enigma code used by the Germans during the war. Without Bletchley Park, it is safe to say that the outcome of the war could have been very different.
By Lisa Smith