Bletchley Park

Academic scholars had a day of code breaking last Friday as they journeyed up to Bletchley Park.

Bletchley remained top secret until long after the war had ended - it was the publication of a book in 1974 that lifted the lid on its secrets.

On arrival. our students were split into groups and took turns to explore the site, engage with the exhibitions on display, take part in a code-breaking exercise and, of course, see an Enigma machine!

The Enigma machine contained a series of interchangeable rotors, which rotated every time a key was pressed to keep the cipher changing continuously. This was combined with a plug board on the front of the machine where pairs of letters were transposed; these two systems combined offered 103 sextillion possible settings to choose from, which the Germans believed made Enigma unbreakable.

Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman designed the Bombe machine, a set of three vertical drums that represented the three rotors in one Enigma machine, that eventually helped to decode the intercepted German messages.

The impact of the work done at Bletchley was enormous - Winston Churchill described the codebreakers, and their success at keeping their work secret, as 'The geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled.'

In the week that Turing was named the winner of the BBC series, 'Icons: The Greatest Person of the 20th Century,' it was a fitting time to visit Bletchley Park and marvel at the extraordinary accomplishments of Turing and his team.

Our thanks to Mrs Stotesbury for organising this trip.