The best of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing

The best of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing

The best of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing

Hopefully, everyone knows about Bletchley Park the Home of the Code Breakers and the story of Alan Turing. If you don’t then you must visit Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing to educate yourself on the struggles of Code Breaking and WWII.

The best of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing

Thanks to Bletchley Park and Experience Oxfordshire for providing complimentary entry for the purpose of this honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and as usual brutally honest lol.

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As a top-secret location during WWII Bletchley Park was of incalculable value in helping Britain win WWII. If it wasn’t for the work done at Bletchley, then the world as we know it would be truly different.

Having said that this worrying return to nationalism and Nazism is a deep threat to all of us and would mean that the lessons learned from WWII have gone sadly missing.

Bletchley Park sign
©Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park and its adjacent National Museum of Computing are two sites that are a must-see when in this area.

Getting to Bletchley and the National Museum of Computing

While these are two separate locations they are within easy walking distance of each other on the same grounds.

By Rail

Bletchley Railway Station is 400 metres from The National Museum of Computing. – Turn right down the road to the pedestrian crossing and the entrance to the park estate is the other side of the road.

By Bus

There are buses and coaches from all parts of Milton Keynes and beyond, arriving at Bletchley Bus Station. On leaving the Bus Station head towards the Railway Station and turn right down the road to the pedestrian crossing and the entrance to the park estate is the other side of the road.

By Road

For Satellite Navigation users please use this postal code (MK3 6DS) and continue past it (with the station on your right). The new Bletchley Park entrance is shortly afterwards on the left (after Milton Keynes College).

Bletchley Park address
The Mansion, Bletchley Park,
Sherwood Drive, Bletchley,
Milton Keynes, MK3 6EB

Car Park
There is limited, free on-site parking available for cars, but car parking cannot be reserved. The car park includes 2 electric car charging points for visitors to use

Admission costs to Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing

Admission prices to Bletchley Park

Online advance price

Adults – £19.00
Children 12 to 17 – £11.40
Children under 12 – FREE**

On the day price

Adults – £20.00
Concessions* – £17.50
Children 12 to 17 – £12.00
Children under 12 – FREE**
Family Ticket† – £52.00

Admission prices for the National Museum of Computing

One-day tickets

Adults £7.50

Children aged 5-16 £5.00

The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC)

The National Museum of Computing is open Tuesday – Sunday and traces the history of computing and includes working reconstructions of the Turing-Welchman Bombe that broke Enigma and Tommy Flowers’ Colossus that broke the Lorenz cypher, used by Hitler to communicate strategic messages with his High Command.

check out the first computer the bombe at Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing
©National Museum of Computing

Housing the world’s largest collection of working historic computers, the Museum takes its visitors through the development of computers from the ultra-secret work done at Bletchley during WWII through to the personal computers we use today. 

Map of the National Museum of Computing

map of the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park

The National Museum of Computing is home to the world’s largest collection of working historic computers. It is recognised as one of England’s top 100 ‘irreplaceable places’. Recently both Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing welcomed back the veterans of WWII who worked at Bletchley and helped break the Enigma codes.

Things you must see at the National Museum of Computing

Enigma

This is a fascinating working reconstruction of the machine that broke the Enigma codes. The Colossus, Bombe is widely believed to have not only shortened the war but saved countless lives during that era.

a celebration of the work done during WWII at Bletchley Park
©Bletchley Park

From encrypt to decrypt during World War II

The Tunny Gallery, along with the Colossus Gallery, shows the entire World War II code-breaking process of the Lorenz-encrypted messages, Tunny as is called, from signal intercept at the Knockholt receiving station in Kent to the production of the final decrypts on Tunny machines in Bletchley Park.

original Colossus at the National Museum of Computing
©National Museum of Computing

 Colossus

National museum of computing
©National Museum of Computing

Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, had a single purpose: to help decipher the Lorenz-encrypted (Tunny) messages between Hitler and his generals during World War II.  

How the early computers were constructed  

See what the very early computer systems looked like in the 1950s; The reconstruction of the first EDSAC computer, the Harwell Dekatron Computer, aka WITCH, and the original HEC prototype.

When computers filled a room

room sized computer at Bletchley Park
©Von Venusianer, CC BY-SA 3.0,

I am old enough to remember the days in the late ’70s and early 80’s when the computer we used filled an entire building, not just a room. When entering we had to wear white hazard suits, hairnets and booties so we didn’t inadvertently bring in dust that would compromise the machine.

The best of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing
©TedColes – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

At the National Museum of Computing, you will see huge computers that actually still run. From the huge ICL 2966 of the 1980s, a 1950’s Marconi TAC, 1960’s Elliotts and a 1960s IBM 1130.

Computer Games

Take on the challenge and play some retro computer games on Mac’s Amstrads and early IBM machines.

playing vintage video games
©Atari Compendium

Bletchley Park a place of exceptional historical importance

Bletchley Park is an internationally renowned heritage attraction, that celebrates technological excellence, and the patriotism of the era.

Codebreaking at Bletchley Park

On 18 September 1938, a small group of people moved into the Mansion pretending to be a shooting party. They were a group of friends having a brilliant weekend at a country house. There was even a Chef from the Savoy Hotel with the.

The best of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing

Unbeknownst to the world and the country, they were a highly trained and intelligent force of codebreakers. Recruited from such august organizations such as MI6 and the Government Code and Cypher School. They sent their very first message on the day the arrived and the work began.

room at Bletchley Park were codebreakers worked

These critical war workers devised methods so that the Allied Forces could decipher the military codes from German, Japenese and other Axis nation’s communications. This produced vital intelligence that allowed Britain and their Allies to prevent many tragedies such as bombing runs, ship sinkings, and much more.

While many worked in the manor house several huts were constructed on-site to hold the secret code breakers work and they all remain to this day.

Hut 6 where Alan Turing worked at Bletchley park

Alan Mathison Turing one of Bletchley’s most famous residents was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, and cryptanalyst,  Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.

Alan Turings office in Bletchley Park

Sadly though as many will know from the film with Benedict Cumberbatch The Imitation Game Turing was a homosexual and although his efforts helped Britain win the war he was prosecuted in 1952 for gross indecency.

sign for Alan Turings offices at Bletchley park

As a result, he accepted chemical castration a barbaric practice as an alternative to prison. His death was ruled a suicide by cyanide poisoning but it has been noted since that it was accidental poisoning.

A massive internet campaign was launched in  2009, to clear his name and the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated”. 

Alan Turing worked in Hut 8 at Bletchley Park and the offices and hut are set up exactly like they were in Alan Turing’s tenure there.

The best of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing

In 2013 Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous pardon in 2013. The Alan Turing law is now an informal term for a 2017 law in the United Kingdom that retroactively pardoned men cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.

On 15 July 2019, the Bank of England announced that Turing would be depicted on the United Kingdom’s new £50 note.

Alan Turing 50 sterling note from England

The Mansion at Bletchley Park

A mansion was first built on Bletchley Park in 1711 but it didn’t become known as Bletchley until 1877. The estate is comprised of 581 acres and the house subsequently built on the site was described as being comprised of Victorian Gothic, Tudor and Dutch Baroque architectural styles. It became known as a “maudlin and monstrous pile”.

elaborate plaster ceilings in the Manor house at Bletchley park

Samuel Seckham who owned the Manor house used to host horse meets on Boxing Day. The riders were served glasses of Sloe Gin from the Bulter before they raced off in their horse and hounds red jackets to chase the foxes. Somewhat like a scene out of Downton Abbey.  

In 1938, the mansion and much of the site were bought by a builder hoping to make a new housing estate. In May of 1938, the head of MI6 purchased the estate using his own money for the use of the government in the event of a war.

map of Bletchley Park

The site was seen as a perfectly situated location, easy to reach from London and right across the road from the railway station. The site was on the railway line between Cambridge and Oxford from which many of the code-breakers were to be recruited.

During the war there quickly became a need for additional areas to house the workers and their codebreaking work. The Naval, Military, and Air Sections were on the ground floor of the mansion, together with a telephone exchange, teleprinter room, kitchen, and dining room; the top floor was allocated to MI6.

offices of codebreakers at Bletchley Park

Construction of the wooden huts began in late 1939, and Elmers School, a neighbouring boys’ boarding school in a Victorian Gothic redbrick building by a church, was acquired for the Commercial and Diplomatic Sections.

When America joined the American cryptographers were posted to Hut 3. Alan Turing’s work was carried out in Hut 6. Most of the huts are as they were during the war and they are filled with maps, the equipment that was used during this time as well as memorabilia that make you feel as if they just left the building.

image display of codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park
My favourite display at Bletchley Park if you turned the images around you could see quotes and information about the person who worked there.

Fortunately, during the war, Bletchley Park was far enough away from London to sustain very little damage. The only damage done was in November of 1940 when 3 bombs went off near the railway station. Since Bletchley was top secret the enemy could not have known how close this was to Bletchley Park.

codebreaker quote

These are the exhibitions that were on display when we went to Bletchley Park

National Radio Centre

The National Radio Centre is a showcase for radio communications technology
11 Apr 2019 — 11 Apr 2029
The best of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing
28 Jun 2019 — 5 Jan 2020
 
24 Mar 2018 — 1 Mar 2028
 

Visiting Bletchley Park is a great way to spend a day. There are several events you can attend at the park and on weekends during the summer there is often live music held in front of the Manor House.

live music entertainment on the grounds of the Bletchley Park Manor house

Take a picnic and enjoy the ground and the small lake where the children can feed the ducks. You can have a gin and tonic in the sunshine and dance to some retro 1940s or jazz age music.

Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing are a fabulous way to spend the day and your kids will love it.

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The best of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing

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