RAF Digby Ops Room Museum Gets Hold Of Rare Enigma Machine

By Caroline Lewis | 20 January 2005

The museum at RAF Digby, Lincolnshire, is celebrating the arrival of a German Enigma machine.

The machine – one of only a number that remain in the UK – was sought out by curator Sergeant Yvonne Gray after she heard that GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) had some locked away.

“It was word of mouth,” she said. “Someone mentioned to me that GCHQ had some Enigma Machines in storage, so I approached the curator there and managed to negotiate having one on loan.”

“It’s one of only about eight or twelve there – there really aren’t that many in existence.”

The Enigma encrypting and code-breaking devices were used by the Nazis in the Second World War to direct ships, submarines and armies. Allied forces, however, together with Polish mathematicians, were able to crack the code.

It is believed that the cracking of Enigma codes may have shortened World War II by several years.

Sgt Gray explained that RAF Digby was a crucial supporter of the Y service decoders based down the road at Bracebridge Heath.

The airbase was alone in being a fighter command station in the middle of what was known as Bomber County, referring to Lincolnshire’s numerous bomber airbases.

“We looked after 12 Group, protecting shipping down the Humber Estuary, and our squadrons were involved in France, Norway and Orkney,” explained Sgt Gray.

Because of Digby’s strong connection to Bracebridge and decoding operations, it is a pertinent place for the Enigma machine.

The Museum is located in the original Lima Sector Operations Room, and is set out as it would have been during WWII. The plotting table forms a centrepiece, joined by photographs, uniforms, radio equipment, RAF roundels, aviation engines and paraphernalia. It’s open on Sundays throughout the summer for tours (11am) and on Saturday August 4 during the Digby Party in the Park celebrations.

The machine will be at RAF Digby Museum for three years.

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