Bletchley Park

Monday, June 19

We took the tube to Euston and had a short walk to the Euston rail station to catch our train for Bletchley. Since it wasn’t a direct train, it took about 50 minutes. The first car we were in was BOILING hot, so we moved to a different car with moderate a/c. It was the hottest day on record in London for the last 20 years! In a country where air con is a luxury, this means I was hot and cranky, and so was pretty much everyone else.

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Bletchley Park was made famous by the Benedict Cumberbatch film “The Imitation Game”, and it’s where English codebreakers decoded Nazi transmissions in WWII. It was also used in WWI, as I learned in my favorite exhibition. Because wireless technology was all the rage during WWI, the English were able to use radio waves to intercept telegrams and the like, and the first order of business when the war broke out for real was cutting all German wired transmitters to force them to use wireless. The types of people employed included historians, classicists, linguists, scholars and injured soldiers, so the facility wasn’t entirely military during either war.

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In the 90’s the National Trust acquired Bletchley Park and restored it as a site for visitors. Some of the huts and buildings are original, others are facsimiles. On the grounds there is a beautiful mansion as well as a lake and a series of military style buildings that were erected during WWII. Housing was a problem, and was the subject of another display. 3/4 of the workforce was women, and they were housed in local residences because there wasn’t enough room in the Park itself. There were lots of extra curricular activities for the employees, one classmate likened it to Google, and the services and quality of life they provide for their employees. A happy employee is a productive employee.

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The Park also houses a remake of the Colossus, which is the first computer ever made. It was developed during the war in an effort to decode the Enigma code faster. I didn’t make it over to see it, but I hear it was turned off because of the extreme (and I do mean extreme) heat. Because of course Bletchley doesn’t have air conditioning.

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To be frank, this visit wasn’t really my cup of (iced) tea. It was hard to process lots of the technical and mathematical facts that were thrown around, and it’s just really not my thing anyway. I did appreciate most of their multi-media design, it was brilliantly put together. It was also very cool to just look at the machines and replica machines and read about the life they lead while sequestered at Bletchley.

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Ellen and I sweated it out together. Also my face sunburn has turned into a tan(ish) while the rest of my burn has turned to molting snake skin. Cute.

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