In 1938 the British Government quietly bought a Victorian mansion built in 1883 complete with 58 acres of grounds. The best mathematicians came here and most notably Alan Turing. Initially there were only 200 workers but these numbers steadily increased following All Turing's plea directly to Winston Churchill in 1941. Churchill immediately asked that they get all the resources they needed. As well as better equipment, many outbuildings called Huts were added to the grounds to accommodate increasing staff and operations.
The workers were primarily women and included those with excellent chess and crossword puzzle skills. The staff worked around the clock. For the most part they did not know what the purpose of their work was. However they were all sworn to secrecy to such an extent that a couple, who both received an invitation to a reunion at Bletchley Park about 50 years later, had not told each other that they had worked there until after receiving the invitation. All information was classified until the 1970's. It was only after Frederick William Winterbotham received permission to publish his memoir 'The Ultra Secret' that the public finally knew what went on there.
During the war, when employees increased to 9000 in 1944, the local residents must have wondered what their work was. They knew it was for the war effort. There wasn't room at Bletchley Park to house everyone and many lived in neighbouring properties. The employees did go to church and to dances in the area on days off. One woman's remembrances was of changing from her work clothes into 'glad rags' in a barn between Bletchley Park and the hall where the dance was.
Work at Bletchley Park was monotonous for many and some became exhausted and/or depressed. One former employee spoke of becoming ill and being put to bed where she slept for days. She had wanted to quit but that gave her a boost. It was cold in the winter and too hot in the summer in the huts. Nearly everyone smoked during the war and the smoke hung in the air, particularly in winter, making some employees ill.
The administration knew that the work was having a negative affect on some employees' mental health and met to make a plan of how to improve things. A social committee of sorts was formed and the employees became involved making their own fun including putting on plays. The brochures for the theatrical events can be seen at Bletchley Park today.
What was going on was decrypting of German codes so thus their intelligence. The codebreaking operations led to the building of code breaking machines called Bombes. An early electronic computer, Colussus, was constructed in 1944. Alan Turing was in Hut 8 when he and his associates solved Enigma. British intelligence has said that the work at Bletchley Park shortened the war by 2-4 years.
The decoders worked on patterns to decipher the German intelligence. Initially this was done with pencil on paper. EVERY DAY there was a new code. The staff were helped in this by knowing, for example, that each piece of intelligence ended with Heil Hitler. At one point the decoding method changed and Bletchley Park staff were unable to figure out the decoding. Luckily, within a short time period, a German in their armed forces happened to be caught who had information on his person which showed the staff what the new pattern was.
The staff also decoded Japanese. The Japanese were allies with the Germans. Some staff knew some Japanese and others studied it. A letter was intercepted that had been written by a prominent Japanese man who had met with Hitler. This letter outlined the plans of the Third Reich and this letter was decoded In full. This was prior to the planned D-Day landings and this letter confirmed what the allies thought - that Hitler believed that they would land much further north than where they were planning to. The D- Day landings set the course for the downfall of Hitler and the Third Reich and the end of World War Two.
The Post Office took over Bletchley Park after the war and it was used as a management school. By 1990 the huts were being considered for demolition but a Bletchley Park Trust was formed in 1991.
Bletchley Park is open to the public now. There has been a renaissance in recent years - possibly since the movie about Alan Turing featuring Bletchley Park (The Imitation Game) that came out in 2014 featuring Benjamin Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly. The huts have been restored and you can see how they decoded and you can have a go yourself. Bletchley House features different exhibits which follow the history of Bletchley Park, the operations and the people who worked there.
Bletchley Park has family events over school holidays and other special days such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. In 2020, the 1st May Bank holiday has been moved back one week to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Bletchley Park will be celebrating with a special themed weekend.
And there are afternoon teas at Bletchley Park some Friday-Mondays and there is always an open cafe.
Getting there by public transport is easy. The train station is just across the street.
If you have hot been to Bletchley Park, consider going. It is a very interesting day out for the whole family. Go to their website for information about all of their programs and entrance fees. One thing that I don't see on their website is that there is a reduced entrance fee when coming on the train. Consider not buying a ticket on line if going on the train as you will save on the entrance fee at the door.
The website is bletchleypark.org.uk. There you will find interesting podcasts as well. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter