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Codes and Ciphers – Bletchley Park, the Ultimate Destination

What's the difference between a code and a cipher? I don't know - what is the difference between a code and a cipher? Actually I do know after a great day out at Bletchley Park!

The Puzzles

There are lots of things to see and do at Bletchley Park.

So much more than a museum, there are puzzles to solve everywhere.

We started our day by trying to pick up a signal on an old radio and my friend really got into it. We decoded some morse code and left each other encrypted messages through a virtual interactive enigma machine.

At the end of our tour around Bletchley we popped into the gift shop. I couldn't resist buying a book of logic puzzles. 

Codes and Ciphers - Bletchley Park, the Ultimate Destination - The Puzzles
Codes and Ciphers - Bletchley Park, the Ultimate Destination - The Machines

The Machines

We learnt all about the German Enigma machine. An amazingly clever invention.

It was mathematicians in Poland who started the process of cracking its codes. When the threat from Germany became stronger, the Poles shared their knowledge with British intelligence, probably saving us at least 6 months. There are three memorials to the Polish at Bletchley.

They also helped us see that not only did we need to recruit classicist scholars and linguists but that mathematicians would be our secret weapon. 

We learnt about Colossus, the world’s first electronic digital computer. We also learnt the difference between Enigma and the British equivalent Typex. The Typex was able to encrypt its own letters which the Enigma couldn’t, making it far more difficult to crack than the Enigma! Fascinating stuff.

The People

Alan Turing was probably the most famous of the characters that populated Bletchley Park.

But there were so many fascinating stories of individuals. Lots of the exhibits have quotes from people about their time at Bletchley. They kept quiet about what they did until 1975, so for some it must have been quite a relief.

There was an eclectic mix of people working there. Debs rubbed shoulders with squaddies and rank and status was largely ignored.

It sounds like an incredibly unique experience to work there.

Codes and Ciphers - Bletchley Park, the Ultimate Destination - The People

So, I’d recommend any would be spies, to go there and experience Bletchley for themselves. Or take the easier option and play spies on the nearest Spy Mission to Bletchley at Buckingham.   Oh, and the difference between a code and a cipher is a code replaces whole words with symbols while ciphers replace individual letters with other letters or symbols! 

21st June 2017

Posted In: Buckinghamshire, Things to do

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