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bletchley park

On our trip to England we would like to visit Bletchley Park...home of the Enigma machine used during WW2. Has anyone been there??? What is there to see??? Thanks, ml

Posted by
449 posts

Hi Marylou: I am a member of one of largest meetup groups in the world - the London Culture Seekers - even though I live in Seattle. This group recently visited Bletchley Park which I plan to do when I visit London next year. Here is a link to their web site where photographs and comments from that trip are posted: http://www.meetup.com/museum-58/events/127948082/

Posted by
8799 posts

Thanks to all of you for sparking an interest in somewhere I would never have thought of on my own. Checking to see hours of operation in Oct-Nov when I shall be in the UK.

Posted by
457 posts

I went there with the London Walks day trip about 18 months ago. Walks.com. I'm not a WW2 buff but did find it interesting. Its easy to get to from Euston. There are lots of original huts where the work was done and lots of information and displays, also the main house. There is also a WW2-style café/restaurant. I think if they do tours it would be good to time a visit so you can take one - for me it was good to have the London Walks guide give some direction. I think whether its worth it or not depends on your interests, some of the people on my trip were fascinated by the old computers, WW2 history etc, me not so much.

Posted by
15640 posts

I went to Bletchley Park for a day when I was in London about 3 years ago. It's about an hour from London by train, but quite easy to get to. There are guided tours for parts of it. My guide (all are volunteers, I believe) had worked on some of the secret stuff, though quite awhile after WWII. It was a fascinating day, with lots of exhibits about daily life in England during the war years. I took the first off-peak train and I had plenty of time to enjoy the various exhibits and even have a light lunch in the cafeteria. You would probably also enjoy a visit to the Churchill War Rooms in London, if you haven't been before - though not on the same day. There's a bit more info on trains at this thread:
http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/topic/51478 There's also information at the official website.

Posted by
1840 posts

The Enigma machine was German. One was captured by Poles and transported to Bletchley Park where it was dissected and studied.

Posted by
909 posts

I went in April. It is, indeed, very easy to get to by train (and cheap after 9:00ish), and there's a short, uncomplicated walk from the station at Bletchley to the Park. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Get there on the early side and you may have a docent to yourself who will explain how the bombe worked, as well as the Enigma machine and the TypeX machine. Be sure to get on one of the guided tours to enhance your understanding of the Park. Don't miss the National Museum of Computing (on the edge of the Park), where you can see Colossus. There is a small extra entry fee for the NMC. Hut 8 is also very interesting, with Alan Turing's office and the charming wee museum dedicated to the pigeons who "fought" in WWII. There is also a decent cafe, as well as a cute little post office for sending home a postcard with a Bletchley Park postmark. Overall, I expected to spend around two hours at Bletchley, but I was there for closer to five!

Posted by
2028 posts

If interested, check out Bletchley Circle, a murder mystery series recently on PBS centering on 4 women who worked as code breakers at BP.

Posted by
993 posts

Denny!! I was just going to say that!!! There is also a 2nd show in the making I understand.?..
Bletchly Park has been on my "go see" list for a while now...

Posted by
1446 posts

We have also visited Bletchley Park and loved it! Would never have gone there but after our tour of the Normandy Beaches my interest was totally sparked with things having to do with the war. We had a rental car and drove there - easy place to get to. Took the tour and ate in the cafeteria. The entire visit was a very pleasant experience. They have a nice gift shop, and many books of interest. I bought one about the women who worked there during the war - quite interesting.

Posted by
32239 posts

Marylou, Just to clarify, Germany was the "home" of the Enigma machines, however Bletchley Park was the location where the Enigma codes were broken, with the help of captured Enigma machines. Bletchley Park is also on my list of place to visit as I'm very interested in WW-II history. I'm going to try and work it into my Itinerary next year, but not sure if that will be possible. You might find it interesting to have a look at their website, which details some of the changes that are coming in 2014. The facility seems to be undergoing a lot of renovations at the moment. Happy travels!

Posted by
5632 posts

I was just there in May and found it pretty fascinating. I wrote up a "trip report", but never got around to posting it on this site. I thought I'd share this now: When I was a senior in college, I struggled through a class required for my major called "Finite Automata and the Theory of Computation". In that class, we studied computational theory and Turing machines, but we learned absolutely nothing about Alan Turing - the man who invented the Turing machine and was a pioneer in the field of Computer Science. Alan Turing worked at Bletchley Park during WWII and designed the "Bombe" – the machine used to decrypt the messages encoded by the "Enigma". At Bletchley Park, you can see a replica of the Bombe and learn all about the code breakers during WWII. I took the train from Euston Station to Bletchley. An off-peak day return ticket bought at the station was 14.50 GBP. The train ride was only about 45 minutes. Admission was 15 GBP. I took an excellent tour of the site conducted by a volunteer. They also have a very good museum where you can see the Bombe replica, learn how the enigma worked, and learn about the work done at Bletchley; it is really quite interesting and you don't need to be a techie to learn a lot here. They say that the work done by the code breakers shortened the war by at least two years. Alan Turing was surely one of the heroes of WWII, but unfortunately his life had a very sad ending. He was a homosexual and in the 1950s he was convicted of gross indecency as homosexual acts were a criminal offense. His punishment was chemical castration and his security clearance was revoked. He committed suicide (eating a cyanide-poisoned apple) in 1954 at the age of 41.

Posted by
521 posts

I haven't seen the TV series that was mentioned, but I understand it was set after the war. Bletchley and the Enigma code-breaking story hasn't been particularly well served by the film industry - there was a 2001 feature called 'Enigma', starring Kate Winslett and Dougray Scott which I liked a lot, not least as a period piece that seemed to capture wartime life here pretty well. However, it received quite a lot of criticism for its portrayal of the Polish codebreakers, who worked there along side British mathematicians. However, that's nothing compared with the film 'U-571', which was a fictional story of the capture of an Enigma machine from a German submarine. Presumably the accountants of Hollywood thought that box office takings would be improved if they ignored the fact that the Royal Navy was responsible for the real life action in May 1941 (HMS Bulldog and U-110, for what it's worth) and substituted a US Navy ship in 1942. The matter was raised in Parliament, and Tony Blair described it as an affront to British sailors. The factual version of events is here: http://worldwar2daybyday.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/day-617-may-9-1941.html

Posted by
4060 posts

Alan Turing possessed one of the most intriguing minds of the 20th Century. As well as his work on the famous code-breaking machines that laid some of the foundations for modern computing, he pioneered theorizing in a field now called mathematical biology which is about as easy to understand as black holes (don't ask me about either of them.) Sadly, even tragically, he was prosecuted as a homosexual and died in the mid-'50s, probably through suicide, just as the great scientific breakthroughs of the second half of the 20th Century were taking shape. The English government has inched its way towards a formal pardon.
A biographer maintains a website with more than the beginner needs to know http://www.turing.org.uk/index.html Wikipedia is good too. The play Breaking the Code won awards in both England and New York and was the basis for the TV production mentioned above. The invaluable actor Derek Jacobi was much lauded for portraying the enigmas of the scientist-philosopher.

Posted by
56 posts

yes I have been there recently what would you like to know?