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Chingford Foundation School

Code-breaking visit

Y12 Computer Science students visit Bletchley Park. 

Please see below an account written by one of the students, James, about the visit and the history of Bletchley Park. 

Today we visited Bletchley Park, WW2 Britain’s solution to decrypting enemy messages. At this top secret British intelligence facility over 9000 employees worked to decipher messages in order to predict and prevent enemy attacks.

We started the day a the large manor house which held British intelligence MI5 and Admiral Hugh Sinclair who led the operation. We were then given a guided tour around the park where we learned about how secretive the operation really was. Bletchley Park was branded as a radio factory to disguise the facility, it remained a government secret until 1974 when it was leaked. Workers were forced to sign the National Secrets Act and were prevented from telling their family of friends about their work. Shifts would last 12 hours in dark conditions with tedious and stressful work.

After the tour we visited an exhibition explaining the development of the Enigma Machine and the incredible German engineering behind it. The machine was developed by a German company to encrypt messages for financing. It was then bought by the German military who improved it. The machine has 77 bit encryption and is incredibly hard to crack. 

We then attended a cybersecurity workshop where we were given the opportunity to use an original 1930’s Enigma machine. This is a very rare item only about 200 exist world wide (over 80,00 were made). We took part in a variety of code breaking tasks using different technology and encryption methods. 

Bletchley Park has high historical importance, the work done there was predicted to have shortened the war by at least 2 years, saving over 20 million lives. It also has led advancements in modern computing technology. Churchill who saw the potential in Bletchley, invested lots of money into the facilities which allowed the operation to be as successful as it was. Churchill later described Bletchley Park as the “goose which laid the golden egg but never cackled”.