9 February 2015

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking and Alan Turing

Bletchley Park has been on my 'must do list' for far too long. The crazily designed mansion house, the World War Two secrets, code cracking and Alan Turing connection - just all of it. I must have said to myself a hundred times 'right, this weekend we go' before being overwelmed with a hundred excuses - other tasty offers, causes for procrastinating about chores or simply a dismal grey rainy day.

Why oh why didn't we venture out sooner?

 Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking and Alan Turing

Around an hour from London Euston on the train, the subject of The Imitation Game (starring the enigmatic BAFTA nominated Benedict Cumberbatch) sits unassumingly between Cambridge and Oxford. 


Contained within this little world, were some of the greatest (and craziest) minds to assist the war effort - literally saving thousands of lives by intercepting enemy code and translating it into important information for Allied troops - and shortening the war by at least 2-4 years.

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking and Alan Turing
Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing

When we arrived, a frozen from our winter journey, we gathered our thoughts and a few maps with a steaming cup of char. We actually laughed at the map suggesting a whole day timetable to explore the grounds (we only had around 3 hours due to rising pretty late, whoops) thinking that there couldn't be that much to see. Oh boy were we wrong.

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing
Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing

Acquired derelict by the government (somehow, there are many tales), we discovered the ornately odd Mansion House to have a mottled history - plans to pull it down, an adventuring designer who poured new architectural styles into it as he discovered them, then being left to wrack and ruin before a now infamous tenancy.
  Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing

The arrival of ‘Captain Ridley's Shooting Party’ at a mansion house in the Buckinghamshire countryside in late August 1938 was to set the scene for one of the most remarkable stories of World War Two. The small group of people who turned up at Bletchley Park were far from relaxed. They were members of MI6, and the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), a secret team of individuals including a number of scholars turned Codebreakers. Their job; to see whether Bletchley Park would work as a wartime location, well away from London, for intelligence activity by GC&CS as well as elements of MI6

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing
 
The motley collection of roof gables and outbuildings were slowly but surely set up to host up to 8,000+ staff working 24 hour shifts - a cross-selection of Oxford and Cambridge boffins, civilian  and staff who could complete cryptic crosswords in a matter of minutes (one of the alleged recruitment requirements) all bound to the Official Secrets Act, keeping their clandestine contributions to World War Two secret for many years, some for their lifetimes.

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing
Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing

The GC&CS mission was to crack the Nazi codes and ciphers. The most famous of the cipher systems to be broken at Bletchley Park was the Enigma. There were also a large number of lower-level German systems to break as well as those of Hitler's allies. At the start of the war in September 1939 the codebreakers returned to Bletchey Park to begin their war-winning work in earnest.  


Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing


Each door seemed to open to another story - recollections of ordinary people living extraordinary lifetimes under the most extreme secrecy and tedium.

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing

The tales in this collection of buildings couldn't have been made up, they were simply too fantastical.

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing

The majority of staff worked in specially erected huts, arriving by bicycle, coach and train, but the exhibits even in the manor house are such that you can imagine what life must have been like in this strange bubble.

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing
Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing


Lucky enough to hop onto a free guided walking tour, we put our video guides down and perked our ears towards our lovely guide. Full of more stories, soundscaped paths and interesting insights to the daily workings of such a fascinating facts, we wandered the windswept paths.

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing
Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing

What a place of cloak and dagger secrets.

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing
Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing


and then we discovered the real secret heart of Bletchley Park...
Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan TuringBletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing

{{Pin me for later}}

Bletchley Park: World War Two, secrets, code cracking, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing






24 comments :

  1. This sounds and looks like such an interesting place to visit! I've added it to my 'must do list'.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This looks so cool! I can't wait to see it for myself! xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. So cool! I've been wanting to go there so bad since the movie came out. Looks as awesome as I thought it would be, thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  4. That bar looks amazing! I would love it, I am sure. Have you ever seen 'Bletchley Circle'? It is really good too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow this place looks so interesting! Thanks for sharing. I have to add it to my list of places to go:)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have been wanting to go here for ages too! Definitely need to make an effort to get up there soon :) x

    Jasmin Charlotte | UK Lifestyle Blog

    ReplyDelete
  7. Awesome post - I absolutely loved Bletchley Park. My dad took me there as a treat for my birthday and I can't wait to go back again and see the stuff we didn't have time for! I still can't get my head around how the bombe works, even though the lady looking after it explained it very well!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have always wanted to go to Bletchley. Will remember, I need a whole day. I saw an Enigma Machine with my kids at the Spies exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. Unfortunately that's closed now. To be replaced with'Fashion on the Ration', which I can't wait to see.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Definitely go, and plan for a whole day - taking a picnic in summer would be absolutely perfect! 'Fashion on the Ration' sounds intriguing...!

    ReplyDelete
  10. We were very much the same - it felt like there was so much fascinating information that we couldn't possible take enough in!

    ReplyDelete
  11. It's an absolutely fascinating place to go - all of the interactive exhibits are fab as well.

    ReplyDelete
  12. It's totally worth it - there are great deals via National Rail if you travel by train as well!

    ReplyDelete
  13. The problem is the list never ends - even when you live here!

    ReplyDelete
  14. No, it is a british tv series about four ladies who worked at Bletchley after the war and all have super brains and then they go back to the mundanities of life - being housewives etc, but they get bored and start solving murders. It is really good.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It really is cool Bailie - and the huts the (mostly) girls worked in is even more so!

    ReplyDelete
  16. It's well worth it - and only an short hop from Euston!

    ReplyDelete

So, what do you think? Comments are blogging mana; short, sweet, long, loquacious, deep and meaningful...