@MarDixon Passionate about culture internationally. Run remixing events, workshops, create solutions, and an international speaker. Over sharer and Mom who loses arguments to a teen. Projects created: @CultureThemes @lovetheatreday @AskaCurator @MuseumSelfieDay @TeensInMuseums @52museums
  • Bletchley Park – Home of the Codebreakers and So. Much. More. @BletchleyPark

    0
    scissors
    April 28th, 2019mardixonCulture


    For years, I have supported Bletchley Park on social media and felt I knew enough about the place without ever visiting.  I was a moron. 

    They recently launched a new film D-Day: Interception, Intelligence, Invasion film which received a lot of press and spurred my interest to make a visit which I finally did this week. 

    The visit started with a train ride to Bletchley – which is very easy to get to from London and New Street (Birmingham) so the excuse that it’s not easy to get to was taken away.  The train station is literally 2-minute walk to Bletchley Park.  The ticket to Bletchley Park is a season pass as even though we stayed 5 hours, we still didn’t get to see everything.

    When we arrived at Block C which is the entrance, shop, exhibition and café area, we were met by Rosie Burke (Media Manager) who introduced us to David Kenyon (Research Historian) who took us on a guided tour.  David is one of these people who has the perfect position and personality for his knowledge. 

    Background

    The first thing to know is that Bletchley Park was originally a mansion which dates back to 1870s with stables, lake, and a lot of land and owned by Sir Herbert Leon.  During World War II it was used as the headquarters for code breakers mainly on the main floor before the huts were created. 

    David explained while we were walking from Block C to the Mansion how in the late 1980s the buildings were almost demolished.  It’s important to remember that everyone who worked there signed the secrecy act so there wasn’t a lot of knowledge on the history of the importance of the work that was done there so it was understandable that property developers thought building houses would make more sense.  However, luckily for us there was a reunion of people who used to work there around 1992 which helped saved Bletchley Park to becoming an estate!

    For 15 years it was kept alive by volunteers until they were able to form a trust.  In 2014 they received Heritage Lottery Funding to renovate Block C and make it into the main entrance. What I loved is that they were able to keep the original floor and some of the ceiling tiles during the renovation.

    The Mansion – Main Building

    In the Mansion they have also sympathetically renovated and dressed rooms to be how it would have been when an active site.  Throughout the whole visit, each hut and Block was recreated to make you feel as if you were arriving to work. 

    Stableyard – Part of Original Estate

    You would think the stableyard wouldn’t be that important but actually during World War II Codebreakers Alan Turing and Dilly Knox worked there from September 1939 and the first breaks with the German Enigma were made here and even kept secret at Bletchley Park!

    Audio Guide

    The estate is very large with the huts and buildings doted about.  There is no right or wrong way to visit them either.  You can take an audio guide which is available in several languages (and produced by ATS) which are free and everyone had them AND was using them (often you see people with them but by the third room the earphones are off).

    Education

    On our visit there was also several school groups. David explained that they also have a strong educational program that have 27,000 pupils per year using their program (and that they are fully booked!).  I asked about schools that can’t visit and was told they have an outreach program that goes the breadth of UK and the educational officer travels with enigma and other artefacts (so not just a slide and presentation but actual artefacts).  Additionally, they have a scholarship for schools in low income and I would encourage all teachers to contact them to see if they can arrange a visit.

    D-Day Exhibition

    The main reason I was there was to see the new 12 minute film on D-Day Interception Intelligence Invasion which was created to coincide with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  The film reflected on the importance of Bletchley Park intelligence and how it shifted the outcome of Operation Overlord. 

    The film is shown in the newly restored hut Teleprinter Building – where operators received tens of thousands of enemy messages. Again, you walk into the building with an incredible exhibition with so much storytelling.  This is poignant as you get the idea behind the film (if like me you went in with no knowledge). 

    Huts

    Each of the Huts have numbers.  I didn’t get to all of them (again, I can not stress how many interesting stories there are to hear and see).  The highlights were:

    Huts 11-11A

    Hut 11 was created to hold the Bombe machine that Turing and Gordon Welchman created to expedite the ciphering of the Enigma.  Bombers are the large computers that kids will look at today not believing it’s computer. 

    The Newmanry was first established in 1943 by Max Newman which also vital to the highly secure environment. 

    Hut 11A was built in March 1942 and in addition to hosting Bombes it became a training centre for WRNS – Women’s Royal Naval Service who ‘operated the machines and nicknames this hot and nosy hut the ‘Hell Hole.’

    Hut 8

    Hut 8 was built in January 1940 for deciphering of raw communications sent by German navy.  The head of Hut 8 was Alan Turing and then Huge Alexander and huge force in developing the deciphering process.

    The highlight was being able to enter Alan Turing’s Office. 

    People

    I can NOT emphasise how incredible it was to keep hearing over and over how THE PEOPLE’S STORIES mattered.  From the staff who worked there when it was operational to the staff and volunteers that are involved now – each person brings their own piece of the incredibly large puzzle.  To find out more:

    http://bletchleypark.org.uk/our-story/bletchley-park-people

    To end with, I highly recommend:

    Bletchley Park Website:

    Podcast: https://audioboom.com/channels/451365?utm_campaign=channelpage&utm_content=card&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

    ATS Multimedia Guide

    Tags: , , ,

Leave a reply