Year 11 History Visit to Bletchley Park
On Tuesday 4th October, 50 Year 11 History students were transported back to 1941 during an educational visit to Bletchley Park near Milton Keynes.
The purpose of the trip was to help us gain a better understanding of the difficulties faced by the cryptic code-breakers in Britain during World War II. Throughout the trip, students found themselves in awe of their surroundings, it seemed to be an experience that they would never forget.
Upon arrival the large body of students were split in two; one group attended a shortened tour of the site and the other experienced code breaking at its finest.
As the first group entered the site, they were guided to a room where they were all made to sign 'The Official Secrets Act of 1911' - the same form that code-breakers who worked at Bletchley Park were made to sign. During the war, it was important that any important information about British forces was not publicised, and anyone sharing secrets about any ciphers could face execution! They took part in a rigorous introduction to code breaking, learning what real codebreakers learnt during the course of 4 months in under 2 hours. The first task consisted of learning the basics of morse code, followed by a demonstration of how the actual enigma machine worked. Then came the challenge! They were given an actual code that was intercepted by the home front during the war and were made to decypher it. This proved a challenging and exciting experience. The end of the session came quickly as the students found themselves engulfed in the experience. The last part of the code breaking crash course consisted of each student getting a chance to work on an actual Enigma machine, the same one the Benedict Cumberbatch used in the movie, 'The Imitation Game'!
The other group found themselves on a fast paced tour of the site. They were taken to the original entrance of the grounds, taught about the various secrets of the grounds and were informed about how the secrecy of the operation succeeded.
Later on, the individual groups had a chance to walk around the museum which displayed multiple historical articles about those who were spies and cipherers. For the British code-breakers, it was extremely important that the system worked efficiently; sometimes it was possible for the British to receive German messages before the command could be understood by the armies in Germany and France. This was all possible due to 'Enigma', which was a machine that resembled a large typewriter and could turn a message into a hidden code that would only be able to be decoded using another Enigma machine.
The mansion of Bletchley Park featured exhibits, including one about the Oscar-winning-movie, 'The Imitation Game'. Many key scenes of the movie were filmed within the mansion, and focused on code-breaker Alan Turing. We were able to see the costumes worn by the actors in the movie, as well as visit the bar set used in the film.
It was an extremely enjoyable day and the students got a hands on experience of what life during the war was really like. We would like to thank Mr Langford, Mr Wolters, Mrs Clark, Ms Burns, Mrs Williamson and Mrs Hidden for organising and supervising the trip.
Written By Nanak Rana (11V) & Ameeta Muker (11S)