An external picture of the late 19th century Bletchley Manor in a mix of Victorian Gothic, Tudor, and Dutch Baroque styles

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?
An external picture of the late 19th century Bletchley Manor in a mix of Victorian Gothic, Tudor, and Dutch Baroque styles
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.

Quick Links

Who would expect back in the late 1930’s that a charming Mansion set within the English countryside would hold so many secrets?
Three of the encryptions wheels, isolated from an Enigma machine, mounted on a perspex display stand in a display cabinet at Bletchley Park
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. 
A stand-alone information board as you enter the Bletchley Park Museum detailing the 'Importance of Bletchley Park' against a backdrop of battle scenes.
The Importance of Bletchley Park
This is not just for the little kids amongst us!
Another stand-alone wartime information board, step 5, called 'Have we seen anything like this before?'

Cross-referencing in multiple languages

A set of small wooden filing drawers from the operational days of Bletchley Park
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.
A wooden information board explaining that Bletchley Park's people came from all walks of life, civilian and military, with a cartoon character, from the era, of a loud military figure.
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.
A selection of framed cartoon motivational images from Bletchley Park
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.
A notice board outside Block-B with an ariel view of the site during the war
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. 
A captured cypher machine with its out case take off in a display cabinet at Bletchley Park
A cypher 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. 
A mock-up of a listing post designated a "Y" station in the Block-B Museum at Bletchley Park
A mock-up of a listening station

Tip Box

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

Pricing; From 1 March 2021 (Your tickets are valid for a year)

Adult £21.00, Concessions £18.50, Children (12 – 17) £12.50, Children (Under 12) Free & Family Ticket £33.60 - £54.60 T&C See here

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 cyphers. Fascinating stories into people’s lives as double agents and spies.
slate statue of a seated Alan Turing working on an Enigma machine, in front of a black & white image of the working interior of Block-B during the war.
Statue of Alan Turing made from Welsh slate by Stephen Kettle
A boxed original Enigma 1 cypher machine in a display cabinet at Bletchley Park

Enigma I cypher 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, in part, 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 at Bletchley Park, with deck chairs placed in the shade in the foreground.
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.
A view of the lake with its fountain and the manor in the background at Bletchley Park
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.
The panelled wood office in the mansion at Bletchley Park, laid out as it would have been whilst it was operational
The 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.
A modern storyboard, consisting of 15 individual images, of personnel that worked at Bletchley Park. Each one can be rotated to reveal their story.

The Personal Stories

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 gatehouse to the stableyard at Bletchley Park
Gatehouse to the stableyard
Dispatch riders would also arrive at the Stableyard gate to deliver hundreds and hundreds of messages, day and night.
An open book stone memorial at Bletchley Park to the three Polish mathematicians who handed over their work on the Enigma code at the start of the war.
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.
Inside a hut at Bletchley Park, with a holographic wartime codebreaker working on a code on a blackboard.
Codebreaking at Bletchley Park
A mocked-up meeting table of foldout wooden tables and chairs in a stark room in hut 6 in Bletchley Park
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.
An official government blue sign with white writing stating 'Don't help the enemy'; careless talk may give away vital secrets.
Don’t Help the Enemy
A sign for the Machine Room, a deciphering room within hut 6 at Bletchley Park.
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. 
A vast array of dials on a replica Bombe Machine housed at Bletchley Park
Replica of the Bombe machine
The cyphers 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.
A display board showing the cabling at the back of a Bombe Machine at Bletchley Park
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.

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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.

Inspired to visit Bletchley Park?

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  1. My husband and I are both really interested in visiting Bletchley Park! I actually think it’s not far from my family, so I think next time we’re there, perhaps we can squeeze it in! The work they did here was truly fascinating! #FarawayFiles

    1. It really is worth it, it’s an incredible part of our history and amazing that all this went on and very few people knew.

  2. We recently watched The Imitation Game and it would be so fun to see where it all happened. What a beautiful place to be holed up breaking code and such! There is actually an ENIGMA machine here in Copenhagen as our local post office/museum. Love the connection. Thanks for sharing, cheers from here. #FarawayFiles

    1. Thanks Erin, a lot of the Imitation Game was filmed there, majority of the huts they worked in you can wander around. We really enjoyed it, although there’s a lot to take in. It’s amazing how many of the ENIGMA’s are still around.

  3. Such a fascinating and important part of history. I saw the movie with Benedict Cumberbatch and while I was amazed at the story, I was also so sad at how poorly Alan Turing was treated. #farawayfiles

    1. I know it was unbelievable, such a waste of an incredible life. I believe there was so much more he had to share.Bletchley is really fascinating, you could easily spend a day visiting, There was so much going on that no-one knew about.

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