Biddulph

Bletchley Park Visit.

Biddulph U3A Visit Bletchley Park

A party of around 25 members of Biddulph U3A recently enjoyed a fascinating and informative trip to the centre for British code breaking during World War 2. This is situated at Bletchley Park, on the out-skirts of Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

Bletchley Park was set up in the spring of 1939 as Britain's main decryption establishment and housed the Government's code and cipher school. Here the ciphers and codes of several Axis countries were decrypted including, most importantly,those generated by the German Enigma and Lorenz machines..It has been suggested that the intelligence gained here,named the 'Ultra Secret' shortened the war by two to four years and without it the outcome of the war wold have been uncertain.

The members learned that Bletchley Park had been chosen to house the code and cipher school because, although situated out-side London , it was near a railway station on both the west coast and east coast lines There was, therefore, good communication not only to London but also to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge where many of the highly intelligent code breakers were based. It was also, at that time ,fairly isolated which would been difficult for German bombers to target and also to realize it's significance. With large and extensive ground the mansion at Bletchley provided ample space for the buildings required to hold the operatives and their large electronic equipment to be constructed

There was a selection of guided talks on offer and also a wide range of interactive exhibits which allowed the members to get a feel of what it was like to be part of this groundbreaking establishment. Members were also able, by means of these interactive exhibits, to try their own hands at decoding messages using different techniques.

Perhaps one of the most famous of all the personnel based at Bletchley Park during the war was the .mathematician and computer science genius, Alan Turing. A professor at Cambridge University Turing was recruited to Bletchley at the beginning of the war and with a colleague, Gordon Welchman, invented the 'bombe' machine. This was an electro-mechanical device which broke the daily settings of the 'enigma 'code. Turing can be considered as one of the 'gfathers' of early computers and, when leaving Bletchley Park in 195, he went on to develop computers and computing at Manchester University. The U3A members were very impressed by the large slate statue of Alan Truing recently erected in the part of the museum dedicated to his work and memory.

One talk that the members enjoyed was the history and a demonstration on a recently reconstructed 'bombe ' machines.This was mainly operated by the personnel of the Woman's Royal Naval Service and maintained by RAF technicians This talk and demonstration was of particular interest to one of the U3A members as her father had been an RAF 'bombe' technician , based at Bletchley Park, from 1942 until 9145.

During their visit the members were informed that even though around 10,000 personnel had worked at Bletchley Park, whilst it was in operation, the details of it's great importance did not really become public knowledge until the late 1970's.Having been made aware of the official secrets act it's personnel keep the secrets of Bletchley Park almost to the end of their lives and never even discussed what went on there with their spouses, partners, children or near relatives.In a famous quote Winston Churchill described the people who worked at Bletchley Park during World War 2 as the 'geese who laid the golden eggs'.

Also helped by the warm, sunny weather all of the U3A members, on this trip, commented what an enjoyable and very interesting day out it had been. Thanks were given to Biddulph U3A committee member and trip organizer, Trish Brookes.

Ann Bailey