Bletchley Park huts to tell tales of whooping codebreakers who became World War II heroes

By Shane Tyas | 10 March 2014

As the £8 million restoration of Bletchley Park nears completion, the fragile wooden codebreaking huts are preparing to tell their stories

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To most people, the extraordinary events of the Second World War are read in history books at school or visited in museums when you fancy an educational day trip. It’s quite hard to believe that World War II happened not even a century ago, but the impact it still has on the present day is still huge.

Take Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes: not just an ordinary museum, it is known as the home of the codebreakers during the conflict, providing assistance to the allied war effort. Now, nearing the completion of an £8 million Heritage Lottery Funded restoration of its wooden huts where more than 550 codebreakers once worked tirelessly for the benefit of their country, the buildings' stories will start to unravel themselves.

Visitors will finally be able to step inside Huts 3 and 6, which will be sympathetically restored and fitted with subtle interpretation, but will still give the public the experience of entering the shoes of seemingly ordinary men and women with amazing skills, such as decrypting intercepted Enigma messages sent by the German Army and Air Force.

“It is not at all easy now to recapture the atmosphere of those days,” wrote Stuart Milner-Barry, discussing the early 1940s in his History of Hut 6.

“The main sensation of the bewildered newcomer was that he was participating in a miracle which he was entirely incapable of comprehending. No amount of success staled the thrill of a break.”

As difficult and complicated as their jobs must have seemed, what is most interesting is that their critical contribution and intelligence during the war initiated the birth of computing and electronic security that we use today. It has even been said that the work carried out by the codebreakers during the war helped shorten it by two years.

Peter Wescombe, a historian and founding member of the Bletchley Park Trust, believes most people think the codebreakers were “mathematically-minded automatons.”

“They weren’t,” he insists. “They were human beings. When they achieved something, they stood on a chair and whooped.”

Bletchley Park was almost in danger of being lost to development, meaning that years of valuable history could have been poured down the sink as quickly as a week out-of-date bottle of milk, until being rescued back in 1992 by the newly formed Trust, who have since preserved it as an important public museum.

Iain Standen, of the Trust, called the project an “exciting and unparalleled milestone” in the 22-year history of the Trust, allowing the group to “preserve this site for future generations.”

In addition to the restoration of the huts, a vibrant new visitor centre will be built for the enjoyment of visitors, furthering the transformation of this once-derelict building into a fascinating historical site for people of all ages.

The new features will open to the public in June 2014.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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An amazing time in history, and for my money the real dawn of the modern world rose from that small plot of land. The Colossus was just a monumental achievement in technology where computing power was used to literally save the free world! I wear my
Bletchley Park shirt every chance I get: http://thehistoryleague.com/design/colossus/
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