Bletchley Park was the site of a secret British military intelligence operation during and just before WWII. It was built as additions to a stately home, many so 'temporary' in nature that they were referred to as huts. The site is now a museum. It is in the town of Bletchley, near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, England, about 50 miles (80 km) north of London.
During World War II, Bletchley Park was the site of the United Kingdom's efforts to break cyphers, particularly the Enigma and Lorenz cyphers used by Nazi Germany. The estate was conveniently located midway between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which supplied many of the codebreakers.
Bletchley Park has been credited variously with shortening the war by two years (possible due its contributions during the Battle of the Atlantic, but distinctly controversial), with ending the bombing of Pearl Harbor (impossible) by sending information of the location of Yamamoto the head of the Japanese Combined Fleet (quite a dubious claim as the information which led to his death came from breaks into JN-25 largely by USN cryptanalysts and happened long after 7.12.41). Montgomery would often talk of how the code-breaking efforts of Bletchley Park enabled him to 'know what the Jerries [Germans] are having for breakfast'.
The Government Code and Cypher School (GC & CS), the intelligence bureau responsible for interception and decryption of foreign transmissions amongst other things, moved into the main house in 1939. Until he broke down, the Sinclair's private chef made early service at BP something to remember fondly. The radio station that was constructed in the park for its use was given the codename "Station X", a term sometimes erroneously applied to the code-breaking efforts at Bletchley as a whole. Station X itself was soon moved south to Whaddon Hall, to divert attention from the Bletchley Park site. Additional listening stations such as the ones at Chicksands and Beaumanor Hall, the War Office "Y" Group HQ, also gathered raw signals for processing at Bletchley. To further the disguise of Bletchley Park, it was built to appear as a hospital from above to deter bombing by German planes. However, a bomb was dropped next to the despatch riders' entrance, shifting the whole of Hut 4 (the Naval Intelligence hut) two metres on its base. The bomb was thought to have been intended for Bletchley railway station.
The first Government visitors to Bletchley Park somewhat clumsily (and suspiciously) described themselves as members of Captain Ridley's shooting party. The intelligence produced from decrypts at Bletchley was eventually code-named "ULTRA".
Among the famous mathematicians and cryptanalystss working there, perhaps the most influential and certainly the best-known in later years was Alan Turing. In 1943, the Colossus, the world's first programmable digital electronic computer, was designed at Bletchley Park by Max Newman and his team. The computer was designed and built to help break the Fish Cyphers, in particular the Lorenz cipher. Tommy Flowers of the British Post Office, whose crew actually built the computer(s) at its Dollis Hill facility, is said to have been the biggest influence on the building of an electronic computer, as he introduced the electronic valve - a device considered too unreliable until its use in the Colossus.
It is thought that at the height of the codebreaking efforts during the war, more than 10,000 people worked at Bletchley Park. They were selected for various intellectual achievements, whether they were chess champions, crossword experts, polyglots or great mathematicians. Some of them are said to have completed a five-year course in Japanese in just six months.
The codebreakers would enter the park by coach or train, and it is rumoured that there was a series of inter-connecting tunnels and chambers below Bletchley Park that allowed workers to get in secretly. It is also rumoured that one tunnel, which started in the Park grounds and emerged in the local pub, was for the use of Winston Churchill. It is also said that Eisenhower and Churchill had a meeting in one of the rumoured chambers.
The Bletchley Park effort was comparable in influence to other WW II-era technological efforts, such as the crytographic work at Arlington Hall, the Naval Communications Annex (both in Washington, DC, and both in commandeered private girls' schools), the development of sophisticated microwave radar at MIT's Radiation Lab, and the Manhattan Project's development of nuclear weapons.
At the end of the war, much of the equipment used and its blueprints were destroyed by order, it is said, of Churchill. Though thousands of people were involved in the decoding efforts, the participants remained silent for decades about what they had done during the war, and it was only in the 1970s that the work at Bletchley Park was revealed to the general public. After the war, the site belonged to several owners, including British Telecom and the Civil Aviation Authority .
The Bletchley Park Trust has been founded to further the maintenance of the site as a museum devoted to the codebreakers. The Trust is volunteer-based and relies on public support to continue its efforts.
|Table of contents|
2 See also
3 External links
Before Station X
The Bletchley Park estate had been a manor since the Norman invasion. The earliest known reference is in 1308 , when it was owned by the de Grey family. It is also known that Browne Willis was lord of the manor in the early 18th century, some of his buildings (now lost) dating from 1711. The manor was at some time appropriated by the Crown. The present mansion was built between 1883 and 1926 by Herbert Samuel Leon (1850-1926), a financier and Liberal MP, who extended the red brick farmhouse of 1860 . Its style is a mixture of Victorian Gothic, Tudor and Dutch Baroque and was the subject of much bemused comment from those who worked there, or visited, during WWII. Leon's estate covered 581 acres (2.4 km²), of which Bletchley Park occupied about 55 acres (0.2 km²). Leon's wife died in 1937 , and in 1938 the site was sold to a builder, who was about to demolish the mansion and build a housing estate when the War began, and the Government Property Agency  requisitioned the site.
Hugh Sebag-Montifiore, author of the recent book "Enigma", is Leon's grandson. His book contains several photographs of the manor, before, during, and after WWII.