Bletchley Park

When we drove down south last week for our first time away from home since Covid appeared our first day was entirely taken up by a visit to Bletchley Park, the World War 2 codebreaking centre, it’s close to the new town of Milton Keynes. There was a lot to see. Below is a stitched photo of the country house the building of which began in 1883, originally owned by a financier and politician, by the time he died in the 1930s nobody in his family wanted the house and it was eventually acquired by the government and so became a centre for secret war work. The location was ideal as it has great transport links for London and there was plenty of space in the sprawling estate to accommodate the 8 or 9,000 people who ended up working there. The workers were mainly farmed out to any local people who had a spare bedroom – whether they wanted a lodger or not. The stars of the show though were given estate cottages to live in. At one point there was a queue of people at the right hand door, waiting to go in for their afternoon tea, sadly that had to be booked so we couldn’t partake. We made do with soup and bread from the cafe.

Bletchley Mansion Stitch

There are still lovely trees and a lake on the estate although obviously lots of the land was built on.

Bletchley  Park Lake

There are ‘huts’ and buildings all over the place, but there are loads more waiting to be refurbished. That’s not going to be cheap going by the amount of ‘danger asbestos’ signs we saw!

Bletchley Park Building

Inside the huts are spartan, I don’t think they would have been very comfortable to work in, I felt quite claustrophobic just walking through them for a short time.

Bletchley Park Hut Corridor, WW2 codebreaking

Bletchley Park Hut Poster , WW2, codebreaking

Of course they not only had to break codes but also had to translate them from numerous languages such as Japanese as well as German.

Index Cards Japanese, Bletchley Park, codebreaking ,WW2

They managed to do that using the enigma machines such as the one below, it’s smaller than an old typewriter, there are lots of machines on display.

enigma machine, WW2, Bletchley Park, codebreaking

enigma machines, Bletchley Park, WW2 ,codebreaking

We took lots of photos but I’ll keep those for future posts. Almost more amazing than the work that went on in this area is the fact that the Germans never had an inkling of its existence which is incredible when you think of the thousands of people who worked here and all the people who lived nearby. It was all ‘hush hush’ and it stayed that way until someone wrote a book about it in 1974. There must have been no spies at the local electricity plant as the amount of power used here to work all the machinery must have been enormous. I can’t imagine people keeping ‘mum’ in that way nowadays.

10 thoughts on “Bletchley Park

  1. We went here a few years ago when we were in London on vacation and it was a highlight of the trip. It was so interesting. I would love to go back and see all the things we missed but who knows if that is ever going to happen. I do miss living in a world that allowed us to plan trips!

    • Jennifer,
      I live in hope of life going back to the way it was at some point in the nearish future. This was the year we intended to stay in the UK but never expected our days to be quite so local! I hope you do get back to Bletchley at some point.

  2. I love this place and it fascinates me, I so want to go back. As I know it will have changed since I visited.

    There is so much we don’t know about what went on in there, I wonder if we will ever know.

    You are so right, we could not keep a place like that secret now.

    • Jo,
      I got the impression that they intended to expand it, there are plenty of derelict buildings waiting to be transformed, when they can afford it I suppose.

  3. So interesting! Those huts do look rather confining. Perhaps everyone was so focused on their work they did not pay much attention to their surroundings? It truly is incredible that with all the thousands of people working there, it stayed a secret for so long.

    • Stefanie,
      The rooms seem so dark too. I couldn’t help thinking that as people were only allowed one bath a week with hardly any water – they must have been a bit whiffy too!

  4. My mother didn’t work at Bletchley itself but she was in a “listening post” that intercepted the German signals and passed them on to the codebreakers. She always told us she was in “signals” during the war, and I never discovered what that really meant until she was very old and the whole Bletchley thing had become well known. She said she’d had to sign the Official Secrets Act vowing never to reveal her wartime activities, and that people took that seriously back then. Astonishing, isn’t it?

    • FictionFan,
      It is astonishing. I’ve found that the people who yacked a lot about their wartime experiences seem to be the ones who didn’t really do much. Those who were in the thick of it didn’t like talking about it. My dad was in the Merchant Navy on the Atlantic convoys and was torpedoed several times, but he didn’t mention how awful his time had been until he was dying. He only ever spoke about his great six months stay in New York before the US entered the war, his captain decided the ship needed a re-fit, I think they just wanted a bit of a rest from dodging Nazis – and who could blame them!

  5. There is lots of interesting information here, not only in the post but in the comments. I have heard and read some about Bletchley Park (mostly in fiction and movies). I should read some nonfiction accounts.

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