Bletchley Park is well known as the setting for some of the most brilliant and audacious acts of codebreaking during both world wars. In fact, it is generally accepted that the work of outstanding individuals like Alan Turing and Alfred 'Dilly' Knox was responsible for shortening the second World War by up to two years, saving countless thousands of lives on all sides.
Bletchley Park and its grounds have been turned into a fascinating permament tribute to the outstanding work of the mathematicians and the army of mainly young women who spent countless hours developing the machinery and know-how to crack increasingly complex coded messages sent by the Nazis and their Axis allies.
This weekend Bletchley Park marked the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 with a unique gathering of codebreaking devices from all over the world. Machinery and other rare manual ciphers came from far and wide including exhibits from Germany and Canada. Some items were even supplied by the Ministry of Defence and other Government agencies, and some very rare machines were seen in public for the first time since the end of the Cold War.
We present some of the highlights here:
The Gretag AG TC-53 on-line cipher was designed by Edgar Gretener and made in Switzerland. It has a total of 12 rotors, the first four of which are 'scrambler' rotors. To the right are eight notched rotors which control the rotation of the first four. This is one of the last rotor machines made before modern electronic scramblers took over.
The Fialka was one of the post-war machines developed by the Soviet Union and has direct links back to the original Enigma machines. It is, however, far more sophisticated and complex with 10 wired rotors, a punch tape reader and puncher and the ability to print either plain or cypher text. The Fialka uses punched cards to achieve the same results as later Enigma models' plug boards.