In part one of our feature, we look at how the Polish started to break the German Enigma code before passing the research onto the British.
Nestled in an old town swallowed up by the new town of Milton Keynes, sits an old mansion house that’s suffering from years of neglect and a lack of funds. In many ways, it’s similar to the hundreds of other places that occupy the British landscape, but this particular place isn’t just another crumbling country estate of the once rich and famous, it’s a site that’s valuable on a world scale.
We are, of course, talking about Bletchley Park. This was home to Station X, where the Government Code and Cypher School was moved for safety during World War II. It’s here that an incredible collection of mathematicians broke the Germans’ Enigma and Lorenz ciphers, giving the Allies incredibly detailed intelligence that helped plan and shape the war effort and ultimately end the war. In fact, the work at Bletchley is credited with cutting short the war by two years and saving millions of lives in the process.
So important was the work done that Winston Churchill referred to the Bletchley Park staff when the war had ended as, “My geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled.”
Beyond the incredible work of breaking the Germans’ ciphers, the staff at Bletchley managed to invent the world’s first computer and create a staggering technological leap forward that continues to propel our society today.
After the war Bletchley Park was classified a secret until the 1970s. It wasn’t until 1992, after the site had passed through several hands, neglected at each turn, and the buildings were at risk of demolition, that Milton Keynes Borough Council declared the park a conservation area and saved it. Since then the park has been run by the Bletchley Park Trust whose goal has been to repair the buildings and improve the museum so that the world can see and understand the importance of the code breakers. We took a trip to the site to find out all about its history, what needs to be done and how we can all play a part in its survival.