On what was a chilly Monday morning this week, Year 8 set off on their visit to Bletchley Park. Although the site seems relatively unassuming on first inspection, our students learned that this was one of the most important and secretive sites in the UK during the Second World War. This was because it was a place where no fewer than 10,000 operatives worked around the clock for the duration of the war to decrypt messages sent between the Axis forces.
During the day, students were taken on a guided tour of the site, including the original 19th century mansion, 1930s/40s prefabricated codebreaking huts and took part in a codebreaking workshop (in the relative warmth of the visitors’ centre!). One particular highlight was getting to see, and try out, an original Enigma machine – one of only 200 estimated to survive worldwide. It was fascinating to see the different letters light up and movement of the wheels when each key was pressed, and we were all surprised by the huge number of different possible ways the machine could be configured: approximately 503 sextillion! This really helped to underline to us all the huge task that the workers of Bletchley Park faced during the war, and how impressive it is that they were able to break the cipher on a daily basis, since the settings changed on a daily basis.
Overall we had a very enjoyable day; here are a few words from the students to tell you more:
“I enjoyed seeing the replica Bombe machine and typing on the Enigma.” – Isaac
“We cracked the codes to uncover the spy’s name.” – Katie
“If I had worked at Bletchley Park during World War II, I would have felt claustrophobic with the cramped huts, excited, stressed, frustrated and proud.” – Leonie
“It must’ve been hard to keep secret all the work that was going on there.” – Ben
“I was surprised that most of the people who worked at Bletchley Park were women.” – Liv