On the last full day of our trip to London we took the train to Bletchley. It was an easy trip from Euston station, under an hour and only 16 GBP for a return ticket. Bletchley Park is clearly marked and you can walk to it in under 5 minutes from the train station.
Bletchley Park was the site of top-secret code breaking during WWII. The codebreakers regularly cracked codes of the Axis powers including the German Enigma. Their work is credited with shortening the war by two to four years. The movie, The Imitation Game has helped to bring the work of these men and women into focus for many. I actually have not seen the movie but I am very interested in the time period and thought it would make a nice day trip out of London. It was truly fascinating.
The amount of information available and the number of buildings to tour is a bit overwhelming. We spent a number of hours at Bletchley Park and still did not see close to everything. We just eventually reached the stage where we were not really taking in information. You know that stage in a museum when it all becomes a bit of a blur even though it is all interesting? Your ticket is good for a year so if we lived nearby (if only!) I would definitely go back and see the sections we missed or hurried through.
The first section we went through was a museum of enigma machines, displays about various code-breakers, a section on Alan Turing, and a demonstration of the Turing-Welchman Bombe. The Bombe is a device that was used to help codebreakers detect the staring positions for the Enigma machines. It is huge, scarily complex, and very impressive.
The mansion itself is beautiful. Many of the rooms are set up the way they would have been during the war.
There is a section about The Imitation Game since some of it was filmed on location.
There are a number of huts with even more information. They are set up so you feel like you just walked in while the workers are gone for a minute. There is a sweater on the back of a chair, a purse on the table, an umbrella leaning against the wall. I liked the way these touches make it feel very immediate and real. Some of the rooms have video projections of people working and talking which contributes to the feeling of being immersed in the moment. I particularly liked the experience in the hut where the WRNS ran the Bombe machine. The video was of two of the WRNS discussing their work and their feelings about it, supposedly while the machines ran and phone calls came in. That kind of thing can feel very fake if done poorly. This was done well and contributed to the experience.
There are several coffee shops on the grounds. In one of them I had a very nice piece of Victoria sponge cake. I stole a few bites of my husband's lemon drizzle cake and that was quite tasty as well. We didn't have the best weather on this day. You can see the skies are grey and gloomy and the pictures are a bit dark but it didn't start raining until we got back into London.
I heartily recommend a trip to Bletchley Park. I don't think you have to be particularly interested in WWII to find it enthralling. My husband has no overwhelming interest in that time period and he enjoyed the day.
Finally, here are two quotes that were written on the walls inside the mansion. They aren't the best pictures but I like the sentiments so I am putting them in anyway.