Bletchley Park – Bucks UK – Photos

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

My visit to Bletchley Park was absolutely fascinating – but it also destroyed some of my illusions.  As I’m sure you know, Bletchley Park was the home of our code breaking efforts during the war.  It has now been preserved as a heritage site and is well worth a visit.  The whole site is well set out with plenty of information, loads of stewards to answer questions and some fun activities for children – and me!

This view of the country house set beside a lake with fountains fitted well with my somewhat romantic image of the place.  Inside the mansion you can visit the rooms that were used as offices by the senior codebreakers.




The workshops

The workshops

The Workshops

It was in the other sections of the operation that my illusions were somewhat tarnished.  Obviously there must have been many other buildings to accommodate the offices and workshops of all the people working on breaking codes – thousands of them.  These long low buildings were filled with people – mostly young women – listening in to messages and decoding them before they were passed on for distribution.  Now working at Bletchley had always sounded quite glamorous to me – working on top secret codes and messages to help the war effort.

The reality was somewhat different – these buildings had no heating or cooling so they were too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.  The floors were of unsealed concrete which made the rooms dusty.  The girls sometimes worked 30 to 40 hour shifts if required.  Wow!

Code breakers

Code breakers

The Machinery

Everyone has heard of the Enigma code and the machines that broke this code.  In fact they were surprisingly ordinary looking.  They looked like souped up manual typewriteres, but of course they performed a much more complex operation than simply typing.

Not your ordinary typewriter

Not your ordinary typewriter

The enemy messages were intercepted at various radio listening stations in many places.  They were then delivered by courier to Bletchley Park.  Here they were not just decoded but also interpreted.  They had to be categorised so that they could be linked to other messages and then sent to the sections of government or the armed forces that needed to see them.  This again was done by courier – how different the world was without computers.

The Cottages

The Cottages

Computers

Alan Turing, considered to be the father of computer science, worked at Bletchley Park.  A lot of his work on computers and other groundbreaking ideas took place here in the Cottages.  He developed many techniques to speed up the breaking of codes.  The cottages are used for admin now so aren’t open to the public, but it was fascinating to imagine how they must have felt during the war.

Swans

Swans

The swans

I have always been taught to be wary of swans because they are so strong and can be fiercely territorial.  So it was quite a surprise to see these swans in the picnic area going right up to people at the tables.  It left me with a far more tranquil view of Bletchley that took me back to my romanticised vision of the place.