Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall charting our adventures as we sail around the world. We're sailing up and down the east coast of Australia after a summer back in Britain.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A couple of amazing slices of history

As mentioned in the last blog update, we made a stop in Buckinghamshire to meet up with Richard Fetherston (you'll remember him as one of the Atlantic Crossing crew) and his lovely partner Naomi. It was just great to see Richard again. Their cottage is currently being renovated so they recommended the aptly-named Jo So Cottage in the small market town of Winslow as a B&B.

400 years of character

The dining room and kitchen
 The cottage has been beautifully restored and has three en-suite bedrooms. The owner, Anna, lives next door and we were the only guests so had the place to ourselves. Anna came in to cook us a seriously good breakfast so we ended up staying there for 2 nights; she recommended that we visit nearby Bletchley Park.

We were so pleased that we took up her suggestion. For those not familiar with the name, BP (as it was known to the 9,000 service personnel and civilians who worked there during WW2) was the ultra-secret centre of code-breaking where huge amounts of ingenuity, brain-power and technology went into the process of breaking the supposedly unbreakable German Enigma and Lorenz codes. The work that went on there was classified Top Seret until the late 1970's but has now become widely understood to have shortened the war by about 2 years. The brilliant mathematician Alan Turing was one of the central players there and his work has recently become the main story of the film The Imitation Game.

BP has now become a museum, with a huge amount of effort and money spent to restore some of the code-breakers' huts to their WW2 condition. You get a very clear idea of what went on there and we spent a whole day learning about it all; thoroughly recommended if you are ever near Milton Keynes.

Bletchley Park house

Some of the restored huts. The team in each hut focused on just one part of the huge jigsaw of breaking the German and Japanese codes and people there would have no idea what went on in the neighbouring huts.

B Block, now home to an excellent Enigma museum
A working replica of Alan Turing's 'Bombe', an electro-mechanical device which helped crack the encryption settings (changed daily) on the German Enigma machines

Rear view of the Bombe

A statue of Turing with an Enigma machine
Recognition of BP as the birthplace of British computers
A huge machine, aptly named Colossus, was built here to crack the even more sophisticated Lorenz code and this has become recognised as the world's first electronic computer.

When the war ended, the teams were dispersed and the people returned to academia or civilian life with strict instructions not to divulge to anyone just what they had done at BP. It was only as the secrets became declassified some thirty years later that they could talk about what they had done and the museum features recordings and videos of many of these amazing people. 

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