Friday, October 9, 2015

Uncovering a History of Secrets

There's a small estate in the Buckinghamshire countryside where extraordinary things happened. 

The history of Bletchley Park is so intricately complex that I'm just going to give an overview of what happened here:

It started in 1938 when a small group of people from MI6 and the Government Code and Cypher School came to a mansion on an abandoned plot of land. These people were government officials, academics and mathematicians who created a team of Codebreakers with a mission to crack the Nazi codes and ciphers.

The most famous cipher system cracked at Bletchley Park was the Enigma, but they also broke lower-level German and Japanese code systems. The ingenuity of Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman to create complex electro-mechanical devices, the Bombe, facilitated the Codebreakers by narrowing down the million, million, million possible Enigma wheel configurations to a manageable number for further hand-testing. It was reported by veterans at Bletchley Park who were interviewed for the audio guide that the work accomplished at the Park may have shortened World War II by two years. Winston Churchill, as Prime Minister, visited the Park in 1941 to show his support. When resources were needed, the heads of the Codebreakers appealed to Churchill, to which he responded with,"Make sure they have all the want extreme priority and report to me that this has been done." 

What is most amazing about Bletchley Park is the pivotal role women played, many of whom were between 18 and 24. Women worked in all roles at Bletchley Park - intercepting enemy codes, deciphering, translating, and analyzing the codes, couriering information, administrative and clerical work, operating codebreaking machines (such as Bombe and Colossus.) Members of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) were assigned to operate the Bombe machines. Women across classes worked together and were treated as equals within the Park, recognized and promoted based on their accomplishments and merits. 

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