Bletchley Park. Photo: Pål Stagnes

Bletchley Park – where they broke the Enigma code

During the World War II Bletchley Park were the base for the British Secret Service code breakers.

If you visit London, it may be well worth putting yourself on the train and travel the approximately 80 km north to Bletchley.

From Euston station the journey takes about an hour. From the train station in Bletchley it is walking distance to Bletchley Park which today is a museum.

The story of Bletchley Park began as a mansion back to the time of the Norman invasion in 1066. The earliest known reference is from 1308. The property was at an undisclosed time crown land. Property’s main building was built between 1883 and 1926, is built in an eclectic style with mix of Victorian Gothic, Tudor and Dutch Baroque.

Photo: Pål Stagnes

In 1939 the intelligence codebreaking service located at Bletchley.

During the war Bletchley Park played an importion ant role in the Allied planning. The information collected here went under the code name «Ultra». It was kept strictly secret how the information were collected. One of the most important work was the analysis of codes of the German code machines Enigma and Lorenz. The secrecy was so successful that the German counter-espionage, Abwehr, never understood that the codes had been broken.

Photo: Pål Stagnes

Information provided by Bletchley Park proved crucial for Britain and its allies on several key points, including the Battle of Britain, The Blitz, the Battle of Cape Matapan, Crete, North Africa, the Battle of the Atlantic and D-Day. It is estimated that this work helped to shorten the war by at least two years, which saved many lives on both sides.

The existence of Bletchely Park and everything they made was not widely known until 1976, after the 30 year deadline for secrecy had expired.

After the war, much of the equipment and drawings were destroyed and those who worked there were also imposed strict confidentiality. Many of them struggled for years after the war with the family and friends thought they had made a decent effort during the war, especially those who were young men when they started at Bletchley. After the secret became known, they have received recognition for their work, which has been known to a large audience through several films.

After the facilities had begun to decline sharply, and there were talks of tearing it down, the Bletchley Park Trust founded to preserve and renovate the buildings. A museum was set up which shows the activity at the plant, where you can see code machines and reconstructions of the first computers that were in use.

Photo: Pål Stagnes

Bletchley Park grew rapidly in size and importance as the war progressed. What began with just a handful of experts become a codebreaking hub on industrial scale, employing around 9000 people on site. Total secrecy remaind essential.

Information supplied by Bletchley Park proved crucial to Britain and its allies at several key points, including the Battle of Britain, The Blitz, the Battle of Cape Matapan, Crete, North Africa, the Battle of the Atlantic and D-Day. It is estimted that the Codebreaker’s work helped shorten the war with at least two years, saving many lives on both sides.

The Bletchley Park Trust is a charity organization, whose mission is to preserve and enhance Bletchley Park, to attract, engage and educate visitors from around the world. They want to mark codebreaking achievements during World War II, and its role as the birthplace of computing and its importance for understanding the past and relevance for the future.

Morten Tyldum’s movie The Imitation Game from 2014 shows mathematician Alan Turing’s (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) attempts to crack the Eingma codes with the help of other mathematicians.