We were lucky enough to get the chance to visit Bletchley Park – the centre of British code-breaking during World War Two. We were amazed by the amount of time and effort put into deciphering German codes by the people working here and the amount of lives saved by this work. It was fascinating for us to discover that the Enigma machine could be put on roughly sextillion different settings; it would take you three quadrillion years to calculate them all, which is 240,000 times the lifespan of the universe! The Germans thought that their system of coding was unbreakable, but after a major breakthrough in 1941 at Bletchley Park, they were proved wrong. It is believed that their work shortened the war by three years! We learned that the majority of code breakers here were women – which was very inspiring – and we are so happy that we got the chance to visit such an amazing place.
Yet women weren’t just code breakers. Somebody had to make sure that the decoded secret messages were safely delivered to the right hands. Young women, some with no previous experience with motorbikes, had to ride through the dead of night during blackouts to do just this. This was extremely dangerous and the women driving the motorcycles not only knew how to fix them but they were armed, in case they encountered trouble along the way. It was both exciting and perilous! We also gained a huge respect for the radio operators (again, mostly young women) who had to receive rapid Morse code messages and then decipher them. All of us, as well as our teachers and expert guide, Bob, could not decipher one word of the messages we heard! We all thought that the radio interpreters must have been very skilled to manage it at such speeds.
Although today we all know about the amazing work towards the war effort that was done at Bletchley Park, this was only revealed 50 years after the war! This means many of the parents, close friends and family of the code breakers never found out about the incredible work their family members had done for the war and simply believed that they were ‘clerical workers’. It was great to see them finally celebrated in many biographies at Bletchley Park, which are dotted around the site.
We listened intently to the stories of life at Bletchley Park. A huge number of people worked there and had to live in surrounding villages, often cycling home in the middle of the night during blackouts with no bike lights! Many of those working at Bletchley Park were upset to find out that although countless lives were saved by their work, not every decoded message could be acted on – otherwise, the Germans would know we had broken the code and change their methods. We listened to the story of a lady who found out her husband’s regiment was going to be attacked but couldn’t do anything. This was dreadful and we were all heartbroken. Without a doubt, the service given at Bletchley Park was of huge value to the allies and we all went back to our code-breaking in Maths feeling very inspired.
Follow Surbiton High Girls’ Prep on Instagram and Twitter.Categories: Girls' Prep School