Books · Witterings

Secrets, Codes and Geese

What I am about to tell you , you must read, digest and then destroy! To be honest I am not going to tell you anything you probably did not know about, or could not find out about online. This is going to be my take on it.

Last Saturday I went on an organised trip to Bletchley Park. A lovely looking country house which housed for the duration of the Second World War many secrets. Secrets which were not made known to the public until after 1975 when the 30 year rule applies.  I have always been fascinated by Bletchley, because of reading Enigma by Robert Harris and watching the film starring Kate Winslet and Dougray Scott and wanted to get more close to the place itself and all its history. History is one of my passions, having got my degree in the subject, sadly I do not work in the area so I like to absorb myself in it in my spare time.

So once there, we were given Tea and Coffee with biccies in the mansion’s library. Oh what a wonderful room to start in. Full of books of all descriptions – works of Charles Dickens sit on shelves next to Public Health Act books.

There we were given some background on Bletchley Park:

In 1883, it became home to the Leon family, whose patriarch was a wealthy City of London financier. Herbert Samuel Leon bought over 300 acres of land beside the London and North-Western Railway line that passed through Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, developing sixty of those acres into his country estate. At the heart of the estate, he built a mansion in a curious mixture of architectural styles. One of Bletchley’s greatest benefactors, he was much-loved by the local people. He was awarded a baronetcy in 1911.

Following the deaths of Sir Herbert and Lady Fanny Leon, the Park fell into the hands of property developer Captain Hubert Faulkner, who intended to demolish the buildings and sell the land as a housing site.

But the Government was about to intervene.

So with that background we then set about a walk around the park and visited the ‘Huts’ where much of the codebreaking was done. Some of these huts need so much care and attention that it was sad to see – what they need is money. Progress is slow but it is slowly going to turn into a fantastic place to visit. Some huts we could only see from the outside and be told what went on in them. Hut 4 used for Naval Intelligence. Hut 8 where the Enigma code was broken. Hut 11 were the first Bombe was built and used. Hut 1 (pictured below) the first to be built.


This now holds wireless telegraphy both British and foreign, the hut smelt of everything old, all oily and cold but was wonderfully fascinating.

To go back to the bombe. There is a working replica in the museum which was used in the film Enigma.  A close up of all the workings below

I got to see this running and although we were not breaking any codes (well I do not think we were) but the end result gave you a small insight into the work that was done. I do not deny that some of it was very difficult to understand and at that point I would like to go back and see and listen to some of it again so some more if could make sense. I like logic problems, numbers and letters and part of me knows I would have liked the challenge of breaking a code. My work ethic now, is I will not give up until I can get a satisfying result, and when numbers are concerned I have to make sure it is right and I can check it and it still works.

There is so much to see at Bletchley Park as well as the National Codes centre, which relates to the Bombe, Enigma, Code breaking in the Second World War and also a working model of Colossus the earliest computer known. And a British invention at that!

I should be grateful that I have my laptop back working when I compare it to the picture of Colossus above.

O|ther things war related is The Churchill Collection – a whole room dedicated to Winston Churchill and held a collection of memorabilia of all things Churchill as well as some of his own personal stuff. There was plenty of related items as well and I got the chance to read the Order of Services for the funerals for recent deceased Royals. Lord Mountbatten, Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mother as well as Churchill.

Churchill made some fabulous quotes in his lifetime but ‘The geese that laid the golden eggs – but never cackled’ was the quote made about those who worked at Bletchley Park. This is what fascinates me so much, that no one knew for 30 years other than the people involved. I really do not think it would happen today – the media would not let it go. Not that I am cynical.

Other collections which are only open at certain times during the week. A garage full of vintage vehicles, cars and ambulances. Collection of model ships, model railway, a wonderful toy museum and not a computer game in sight and also the role pigeons played during the war to name a few. I did not get round them all in the day, and it is certainly worth another visit to experience some more.

The gift shop was the last visit, before the tea and muffins to send us on are way (after the Leek & Potato Soup at Lunchtime). I bought a bookmark, a tradition which I have had for more years than I care to mention now currently in my current book. And speaking of books I could not go without buying a book, there was quite a lot to choose from in Bletchley Park related books. The one I decided to go with was this one

I had not thought about reviewing it but I may well do when I finish it. I got the ‘guide’ book as well. Mum bought Enigma by Robert Harris, and I think I might do a re-read on that as well. I am truly fascinated about this subject, and I will certainly look out for more books.

Well that was my day out – a real thrill and no matter what books were involved! And as for the film Enigma – well although they used the Enigma machine and the Bombe from Bletchley in the film. The mansion itself was not Bletchley – no wonder I could not relate the film to the actual place when I went there on Saturday.