Trip to Bletchley Park
On Tuesday 13 March, over 60 Year 8 - 13 students headed out to Bletchley Park, made famous by the recent film the ‘Imitation Game’ to discover some of the amazing secrets uncovered by the site during the Second World War. This cross-curricular trip was aimed at budding computer scientists, mathematicians and historians. The day was filled with spies' secrets and lies. The students received a fully guided tour of the camp from a deeply knowledgeable guide who brought the site back to life with his vivid tales of intrigue and patriotism. They were able to not only see a working Enigma machine used in the war, but actually got their hands on it and tried it out. Some of the students were also lucky enough to have a demonstration of the bombe machine, which was designed by the famous mathematician Alan Turing.
There was a learning session on encryption with some fun activities as well as a detailed demonstration of how the Enigma machine worked and the techniques used to decipher the messages created by it. The students discovered that the code itself was unbreakable as long as protocol was followed, but human beings, it turns out, are not very good at following strict instructions and this was how the code was eventually broken due to a person’s propensity to be predictable when not following protocol.
Finally there was an opportunity for all students to spend some time exploring the site for themselves, investigating places such as the huts where the Bletchley park workers spent their working time, the Mansion house and the museum.
Here are some of their comments:
“Bletchley Park was Britain’s number one code-breaking centre and had a considerable impact on the duration of the Second World War. Despite this, it was not well equipped for the task with a very basic environment - one of the centre’s chiefs even worked in a children’s nursery, Peter Rabbit wallpaper included! The house wasn’t even large enough to accommodate all the workers, with many huts dotted around it for some specialisations… “
At Bletchley Park I learnt how the ‘Enigma’ code was meant to be unbreakable, but because of our codebreakers and the Germans being lazy we managed to break the code and win the war. I also liked how they managed to keep the park a secret from the world for years, even after the war, and the Germans never knew that we had broken their codes until years after the war had been won. I was amazed that there were 9,000 people working there and they had to live in farm houses around Bletchley Park…”
“My favourite part of Bletchley Park was the secrecy of the entire operation. The park was bought using Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair’s personal money. This meant that if there were any German spies in the government they couldn’t know about Bletchley Park. This also meant that for a while the government didn’t know they owned the place.”
“Everything at the park was really interesting! It was so fascinating learning about how it stayed secret for over 30 years and no one knew about it. It also cracked the German code twice even after they changed it halfway through the war.”
Subject Leader ICT/Computer Science