My Path Through Research

The Trials and Triumphs of Doing a PhD

Visiting Bletchley Park

Every since I heard a talk by Captain Jerry Roberts – a WWII TUNNY code-breaker – at UCL over a year and a half ago, a visit to Bletchley park has been very much on my to-do list. It wasn’t until Saturday that I finally got there.

Bletchley park is the estate in which the British code-breakers of WWII worked. They worked there to break codes, decipher Axis communication, and also built the first computer – Colossus (partly shown below) – to speed up the work they were doing there. Unfortunately, the nature of the work the computer was doing meant that it wasn’t until decades later that this achievement was uncovered.

An excellent way of seeing the site is by taking the 1.5hr tour of the site by one of the volunteers. This gives you a very good overview of how the site progressed, what went on where, and the significance of all of it. We had the privilege to be led around by Ray Goff. Besides the history of the place, we also got the opportunity to see replicas of the Bombe code-breaking machines (below), and even a working replica of Colossus!

The tour however is more about the way the estate changed, and the general activities going on. The estate is divided into a number of huts and blocks, and a mansion. Many of these buildings now house exhibits or museums, from a museum of computing, to code-breaking exhibits, to a toy museum and a post office (below)!

There is a lot to see and do on the site (too much maybe), and a problem with the site is that, similar to the ad hoc way the buildings were put up during the war to accommodate growing people numbers, it seems like the exhibits have been put up in a similar fashion, as money was made available to build them, or organisations/individuals came along and asked(?) for space on the site.

In the three  hours I spent there I felt like I barely scratched the surface of all the gems the place provides! This is definitely good, you probably think. And I agree with you – to a point! I feel maybe a more coherent organisation of the place would be better.

However, to carry out such a reorganisation requires money, which the trust most probably does not have. So I urge you – go and visit, experience the place, hopefully you will fall in love with it, and in the process help the valuable work the Trust is carrying out in saving this oft-forgotten aspect of WWII.

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