I recently had to go to the UK for a few days on business. I always enjoy going to London ; a lovely city with much to see and do. Of course, I don’t usually have much time for sightseeing.
However, as regular readers of my blog will know, I try to see some sights, even if on a restricted schedule.
So last Saturday I did just that. I went a bit off the beaten path to a place I have wanted to go for a few years now. Its related to WWII and to Cryptography – and was incredibly interesting. In fact, I had planned on a 2-3h visit and after over 5h I am sure did not see all there was to see.
So, where did I go? To Bletchley Park which is a 45 minute train ride north of London. What’s that you ask! It’s where the British, in WWII, cracked the German Enigma machine codes. If you saw the 2014 movie “The Imitation Game” or are a history buff you know all about this. If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it.
Here is “The Mansion” seen in many pictures of Bletchley Park and where some movie scenes were shot.
In the museum, they have quite a few Enigma machines. If you thought your odd of winning the lottery are slim, consider this. The possible combinations generated by this machine are of 158 Trillion – or 158 Million Millon! So defeating it was not a simple task, especially with 1940’s technology.
The man who was instrumental to this endeavor was Alan Turing, a mathematician. Here is a statue of him made entirely of 500,000 small pieces of slate. Amazing!
Turing’s genius was the design of the “Bombe”. No, its not a “bomb”. The bombe was nickname for the device seen below that was used to ultimately defeat and crack the German Enigma codes. The machine works (i’m over simplifying this …) with a series of rotors which are able to “find” the Enigma settings (which was the key to decrypting the German messages) much faster than any human can. The Bombe is recognized as being the first modern computer. The Bombe seen below is a working recreation which took 13 years to make, since all of the ones built during the war were destroyed by the Government at the conclusion of WWII.
In one of the “huts”, essentially very rudimentary office buildings, was Alan Turing’s office.
My friend David and I in Turing’s office. David is a former work colleague in Cayman. I met up with him at the train station in London and spent a lovely day visiting the exhibits with him. It was great to spend a bit of time in Turing’s office – rich in history. It’s widely accepted by historians that Turing’s accomplishments (and others on his team) shortened the war by approximately 2-years and saved over 14M lives.
As a final picture. If you have seen the movie, this is the bar which can be seen in a few scenes, notably in the “eureka” moment – the best part of the movie.
If you want to know more, below are some some links for additional reading and a link to the museum should you wish to visit the next time you are in London. I highly recommend visiting Bletchley Park – plan to spend the day; there is much to see and learn.