As a bit of an armchair historian, one place that’s always been on my ‘to visit’ list is Bletchley Park, famous for being the home of some of the World War II’s best cryptographers.
So when Patrick and I had to go to a family wedding in Essex a few months back, we decided to set off a day earlier so we could visit one of the UK’s most secret of stately homes.
The village of Bletchley, just outside Milton Keynes, was home to the UK’s code breaking activities and is regarded as the birthplace of computing. Kept secret during and for many years after the war, the efforts of the men and woman of Bletchley saved thousands of lives and shaved years off the length of hostilities.
Perhaps the most iconic items from the collections at Bletchley are the Enigma machines. These were used by the German armed forces to scramble their messages. The three-rotor machines could be set to any of 159,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible combinations and the settings were changed every day.
When the number of code-breakers at the site outgrew the main mansion, a number of huts and blocks were built to accommodate the extra people. Some of these have now been restored and a fantastic mix of real and replica props and multimedia installations give a real, atmospheric sense of how they would have looked at the time.
We only had half a day for our visit and although we managed to see most of site during that time, there were a few areas that we unfortunately didn’t get to. Luckily, tickets (which cost £16.75 for standard adult admission) last a year – and we’ve another family wedding in the same place next month, so I’ll hopefully get to check out the parts I missed first time around!