After watching The Imitation Game a couple of years ago, I became fascinated with the story of Alan Turing and the World War II codebreakers at Bletchley Park. Bletchley Park is located in Buckinghamshire, only a short drive from Milton Keynes and during the Second World War it was home to codebreakers, mathematicians and translators who were trying to decrypt messages which were sent via German communication systems. The work that was carried out at Bletchley Park was top secret and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the employees at Bletchley got the public recognition they deserved. Today, you can visit the original research site and tour some of the huts where the secret war heroes worked. We bought Virgin Experience Days tickets for Bletchley Park a little while ago and visited in mid May.
We arrived at Bletchley when it opened, which turned out to be a good idea as the park gets very busy on Saturdays. We picked up our tickets and walked straight through to the introductory exhibition, which provided you with some background knowledge about the facility and startling statistics about the number of people that worked tirelessly at Bletchley to help the war effort. There were lots of interactive screens and activities which you could mess about with, in order to gain a better understanding of how the code breaking process worked and how difficult Enigma (the communication encryption process that the Germans used) was to break.
Once we’d covered this section of the museum, it was time to head out the back and actually follow in the footsteps of the codebreakers. Bletchley Park feels very much like a University campus, with lots of different buildings, a lake and sports facilities. Translation, problem solving and being able to work with numbers were some of the skills required at Bletchley Park. Employees were distributed across the huts and buildings depending on their skill set. We were able to walk into most of the buildings and learn about the specific work that was carried out.
Alan Turing was the team leader in Hut 8 and when you visit Bletchley you can walk into the hut and see his office, which has been restored to how it was during wartime. I found this absolutely fascinating as Alan Turing was responsible for creating technology which would break Enigma and also building the first computer. In addition to seeing his office, we also learnt about his life at a special dedicated Turing exhibition in Block B.
The Bombe Breakthrough in Hut 11A
Turing created the ‘Bombe’ machine which would loop through different sequences and iterations to find out the ciphers which were used to encrypt Enigma each day. There is now a specific exhibition about the Bombe in Hut 11A and we learnt so much about this machine after reading the information boards and watching the video about how the different elements of the machine work together.
This was the grandest building that we visited at Bletchley and it’s where you can find the Head of the Government Code and Cypher School’s office. The office was at the front of The Mansion, with a big window that provides a clear view of the park. You could definitely tell that this had been the office of an important government official, as it was in such a prime location.
We also visited the Library inside The Mansion, which has been restored to its WWII state.
After visiting the Mansion, we wandered around the grounds, which were very green. There were deck chairs by the lake which would be ideal seats for a picnic lunch whilst you’re taking in the sites of the park.
The gift shop
Before we left the park around lunchtime we stopped at the gift shop, which had some fab war-themed souvenirs. I picked up a couple of postcards for my scrapbook.
We spent 3 and a half hours at Bletchley and this was an ample amount of time to see the park’s important historic sights. When you buy Bletchley Park tickets, they are valid for re-entry over the next 12 months, so I’m definitely hoping to make the most of this in the near future. Our tickets were discounted as it is because there was a Virgin Experience Days voucher code available when we booked them, and if we could go back again within the next year we’d definitely have got our money’s worth! Bletchley Park is a fantastic day out that I’d recommend to anyone who is interested in WWII history.
Have you ever been to Bletchley Park?
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx