On Wednesday we followed up with a short train trip to Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. There we visited Bletchley Park which was Britain’s main centre for codebreaking …making an enormous contribution to the intelligence services to during World War Two. Some of the best graduates in mathematics and linguists from nearby Oxford and Cambridge were recruited for this vital work. They were supported by Wrens, many of whom lived in requisitioned country houses nearby. Their achievements remained secret for more than a quarter of a century. More recently we have come to know of it through the movie “The Imitation Game” featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly.
At first the codebreakers were hampered by the War Office’s unwillingness to resource but they found a champion in Churchill who directed that they had everything they wanted. By the mid 1940s almost 10 000 people worked there around the clock on decrypting communications from around the globe Their goal was to decode vital daily German operational messages which had been generated by the German Enigma and Lorenz machines. This intelligence was used to help win the war, for example, in tracking the German U boats in the Atlantic thereby supporting the safe passage of Allied shipping
The process of breaking Enigma was aided considerably by a complex electro-mechanical device, designed by Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman. The Bombe, as it was called, ran through all the possible Enigma wheel configurations in order to reduce the possible number of settings in use to a manageable number for further hand testing. The Bombes were operated by the Wrens whose work in speeding up the codebreaking process was indispensable.
In celebrating their success, Churchill claimed Bletchley Park was “the goose the golden egg, but never cackled”
Together our visits to Churchill’s War Rooms and Bletchley Park have provide us with a fuller understanding of World War 2 and the stoicism and sacrifices the British people were prepared to make, to help them win the war. We have much to be thankful for.