Bletchley Park - Britain's Best Kept Secret

By Richard Moss
Shows a black and white photo of men and women working at a long desk.

Left: Hut 3, 1943 - it took hundreds of codebreakers to laboriously decipher the signal traffic from German Enigma machines. Picture Courtesy: Bletchley Park.

It's hard to believe that until the 1980s, the existence of Bletchley Park was still classified information. It was indeed, 'Britain's best kept secret'. Today the country house that was the nerve centre, or Station X, of allied encryption and code breaking during World War II is a well-known national institution and a museum. The story of what went on there is now the subject of books, TV documentaries and movies.

Between 1939 and 1945, the most advanced and creative forms of mathematical and technological knowledge were combined to master German communications. Bletchley Park was the focus of all this research and knowledge.

shows a black and white picture of a colossus machine - a large framework of wires and valves taller than a person

Right: the Colossus MkII - just one of the computers used at Bletchley to decipher German codes that paved the way for the modern computer. Picture courtesy Bletchley Park.

It is no exaggeration to claim that British cryptanalysts, most notably Alan Turing, changed the course of the Second World War and along the way created the foundation for the modern computer.

In 1991 Bletchley Park was saved from destruction by a consortium of former workers led by Tony Sale. They transformed the crumbling country house into a museum devoted to the recognition and reconstruction of this secret site. They are preserving for future generations a place that could quietly claim to have changed the course of world history.

Apart from the permanent exhibitions that tell the story of wartime encryption, Bletchley Park is also home to a variety of private collections and re-enactment groups who appear at the park throughout the year.

Right: the Enigma Machine: this German cipher machine was the first example to fall into allied hands after the dramatic capture of U-Boat U110. Picture courtesy - Bletchley Park.

Return to the trail: SOE against the Third Reich

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