A day out at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England

In Buckinghamshire, Counties, Days Out, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Codebreaking in the English countryside

We finally made it. I was so looking forward to visiting Bletchley Park.  Come on, who doesn’t love the thought of spying, espionage and secrets?

The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

The Mansion, Bletchley Park

The incredible work that was undertaken by the women and men at Bletchley Park, during World War II, was invaluable to our future.

It was so secretive at Bletchley that even the families of the people that worked there were unaware of what was unfolding behind the closed doors.

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Who would expect back in the late 1930’s that a charming Mansion set within the English countryside would hold so many secrets?

Secret Spindles, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Secret Spindles




Secrets revealed

So, armed with our annual ticket, we enter the world of codebreakers. First, you stroll through the visitor’s centre where there’s an introduction to Bletchley Park and all its goings-on. Here you can test your own codebreaking skills and interact with the exhibits. 

The Importance of Bletchley Park, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

The Importance of Bletchley Park

This is not just for the little kids amongst us!

Cross-referencing in multiple languages, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Cross-referencing in multiple languages

Everything documented, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Everything documented

We grabbed our audio guide, which is included in the price of the ticket, and went to uncover the hidden enigmas for ourselves.

Good to know

That if you are an English Heritage member, then you are entitled to 20% off the ticket price.

Their lips are sealed

It’s hard to imagine in the times we live now, how this whole operation was kept such a secret. At its height, nearly 10,000 people working here, most of which were women. The codebreaking factory ran day and night, the staff worked 6-days a week, across three shift patterns.

Very hush hush, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Very hush hush

All level of skills were required to keep this well-oiled machine running.  A large number of employees were Oxbridge educated and were sought after if they spoke different languages.  Particularly the Italian, German, Japanese and French speakers.

Making it lighthearted, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Making it lighthearted




Head to Block B

There’s no set route at Bletchley Park, you are free to wander around as you wish. We headed to Block B first, which now houses the main museum, the world’s largest public display of Enigma machines and an exhibition to Alan Turing.

Bomb-proofed Block B, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Bomb-proofed Block B

Block B was built along with Block A in 1941/2 and was bomb-proofed. These blocks were created due to how quick the codebreaking factory was expanding at Bletchley Park. They had outgrown the Mansion and The Huts. 

Cipher machine, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Cipher machine

You’ll need to allow quite a bit of time here as there’s a considerable amount of interesting information to absorb in the museum, we were pleased we headed there first. 

Listening station, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Listening station

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Plan ahead

Why not buy your tickets directly online, to guarantee your entry and you’ll jump the queues.

Pricing; From 1 March 2019 (Your tickets are valid for a year)

Adult £20.00, Concessions £17.50, Children (12 – 17) £12.00, Children (Under 12) Free & Family Ticket £52.00




Alan Turing

There’s detailed information on how the incredible mathematician Alan Turing, and his colleagues, broke the codes on the Enigma and Lorenz machines, along with other ciphers. Fascinating stories into people’s lives as double agents and spies.

Statue of Alan Turing made from Welsh slate by Stephen Kettle, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Statue of Alan Turing 

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Enigma I cipher machine

Did you know?

That Bletchley Park has hit the Silver Screen on a few occasions. In 2014 The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch (as Alan Turing) and Kiera Knightley (as Joan Clarke) was filmed here.

Enjoy the outdoors

After our self-guided lesson into codebreaking, we headed towards the Mansion and strolled around the picturesque lake. Bletchley Park has catering facilities, however, bringing your own picnic and enjoying the surroundings is another way to go.

The Mansion & relax in the shade, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

The Mansion & relax in the shade

Grab yourself a bench or a deckchair and sit back and immerse yourself in all the whisperings and secrets, that would have been circling around during World War II.

Bletchley Park lake and Mansion, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Bletchley Park lake and Mansion

What is fun to listen out for as you wander around Bletchley Park are the different sounds being played out. You can hear planes flying overhead, steam trains running by and balls being hit on the tennis court. They sound like they are happening right next to you.




Where it started

The Mansion dates from 19th-century.  This is where the codebreaking began, on the ground floor of the beautiful manor house.

Office in Bletchley Park Mansion, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Office in Bletchley Park Mansion

Along with Commander Denniston’s office, you can wander through the rooms reading some of the intriguing personal stories, of the men and women who worked at Bletchley Park. It really is fascinating the lives that they lead and the secrets they kept.

The Personal Stories, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

The Personal Stories

Something to make your travels easier?

Research your past

If you have any relatives that worked at Bletchley Park during WWII, you can search their “Roll of Honour” in the Mansion, to find out a little more about them.

Day & night

We then headed onto the Stableyard and cottages, where the groundbreaking discoveries were made by Alan Turing and his colleagues, of the daily changes on the German Enigma. 

The Stableyard, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

The Stableyard

Dispatch riders would also arrive at the Stableyard gate to deliver hundreds and hundreds of messages, day and night.

The Polish Memorial, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

The Polish Memorial

There’s a lovely Memorial here to commemorate three Polish mathematicians, who also worked on the Enigma code in 1933 and who handed over their findings to the British in 1939.

Deciphering in The Huts

In huts around the park during WWII the magic was taking place. Specific huts would be responsible for deciphering information from particular forces. For example, Hut 6 was used for decrypting the Enigma messages from the German Army and Air Force.

Codebreaking, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Codebreaking


Deciphering within the huts, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Deciphering within the huts

Hut 8’s responsibilities were for the Navy; these huts would then have additional staff working with them to translate and analyze the information. Hut 3 worked in conjunction with 6 for Army and Air Forces and Hut 4 operated along with 8 for Navy translations. A chute was built between the two so that they could send messages to each other. Quite crude in construction, but hey, it worked.

Don’t Help the Enemy, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Don’t Help the Enemy

Manual, repetitive tasks, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Manual, repetitive tasks




Bombe Machines

Huts 11 and 11a were built to house the Bombe machines developed by Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman and Hugh Alexander. These machines were continually maintained throughout each day by the Wrens codebreakers. Repeatedly changing settings and running each drum through its 17,576 positions. 

Replica of the Bombe machine, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Replica of the Bombe machine

The ciphers that the codebreakers produced could only be useful for decoding messages that had been received within the 24-hour window. As the Enigma machines settings would be changed by the Germans at midnight every day.

Bombes operated by Wrens, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Bombes operated by Wrens

This whole process was continually challenging, and we owe a great deal to the codebreakers at Bletchley Park. I could easily return here again as there was so much to digest, and it was incredibly interesting.

How to get there

You can catch a train from London Euston direct to Bletchley, which takes 40mins, then it’s just a 5-minute walk.

Alternatively, if you are travelling by car, there is an onsite car-park, which is free of charge.

Tip; if you’re using Sat-Nav, enter Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, MK3 6DS. It was so well hidden we drove straight past.

Something for the Traveller

Inspired to visit Bletchley Park?

Why not pack a picnic and come along and enjoy the fun?

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Oregon Girl Around the World
About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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