Bletchley Park was unique in many different was. Located just outside Bletchley, in southern England in some ways it could have been said to be detached from the rest of Britain during World War 2, lost in a secret world. The organization at Bletchley Park was unique. The method of operations, the dedication, the secrets hidden away behind the walls and even the people working there. All were completely different to what had ever been seen before in terms of code cracking.
Secrecy was a big part of life in Bletchley, and even in the beginning when the initial government representatives went to ‘check it out’ for possible use during wartime, they acted as privately as possible and gave reason for their stay as a hunting trip. The private aspect of station X continued throughout the war with guards patrolling the perimeters of Bletchley day and night. The secrecy kept up after the war as well, with those who had worked at Bletchley Park not being officially allowed to talk about it publicly until 1976.
This was likely to be due to Churchill’s mistake after World War 1; of letting the Germans know that the British had cracked their code. Station X was another method of keeping the enigma secret. It was code-name used, meaning the key station where all the messages were sent. There where several other station Y’s, all of which recorded any messages the intercepted and passed them straight on to the larger workstation at Bletchley (station X). This was to keep Bletchley Park looking relatively normal and aerial-free, thus aiding with the bid for secrecy.
The people working at station X came from a variety of different backgrounds and were often chosen explicitly for their social records and information, rather than any skills with code breaking they had. Whilst this did only apply to the minority at Bletchley, (many working there during the war had come straight out of universities such as Oxford or Cambridge with a Math’s degree) it is still a key aspect of the organization. Some were recruited on their ability to see ‘outside of the box’ – meaning that they were hired to see gaps (or flaws) in what others could not.
This resulted in many people with more ‘eccentric’ personalities residing in Bletchley during the war. Such people included the ‘marvelous’ Alan Turing, who came up with the idea for the ‘Bombe’, one of the first computers in the world. He was certainly one of the abnormal people at Bletchley Park, but also an example of an extremely intelligent one. The actual organization at Bletchley was divided into certain huts. It was within these huts that the duties revolving around code cracking were divided up.
For example, hut 8 may have been cracking the naval codes of the enigma, whilst hut 4 was deciding if they were to be of any use. This not only increased efficiency, but as a side effect, seemed to raise morale as well. Rather than working as a larger body were small triumphs went completely unnoticed, through these huts a sense of recognition of others efforts was able to be established. Many of the people with Bletchley were incredibly dedicated and in some cases worked solidly for 24 hours just to make sure that one particular aspect of the code was broken.
This of course accelerated to process in which the enigma was eventually broken. Originally, those working at Bletchley Park were not respected or given the appropriate amount of attention by the SIS. (The secret intelligence service) However, this changed after Bletchley accurately predicted the location of a German warship that was just about the attack the British. The SIS ignored the warning, and two British ships were sunk and 1,500 men died. This was a wake up call for the SIS, who then proceeded to give any messages received from Bletchley top priority.
2. Why was Bletchley Park able to break the German enigma? Those working at Bletchley Park were able to break the enigma for several different reasons. Most importantly, it was due to their great skills at code cracking, their powerful intellect and the amazing perseverance that many had to try and achieve the goal. Other reasons must be taken into account though. Such as the clumsy mistakes by the German operators and the help that was given to the British by other countries such as the extraordinary work done by Poland before the war.
The British received a great deal of intelligence from other countries during the war. The poles had secretly been working on the enigma before and during the start of the war. Three mathematicians had been trying to decode messages and solve the random jumble of letters. As Germany invaded, polish officials met up with the British and gave them all they knew about the enigma. This not only opened the gates for the British as to what the Nazi’s were using to scramble to letters, but also gave them a solid head start in order to go about decoding them.
Later on, a German who was willing to sell information about the enigma contacted the French. French intelligence later passed this information on to the rest of the allies, including the British. Both of these two events greatly helped Bletchley Park crack the code of the enigma initially, and throughout the rest of the war. Another factor that continued to help the people working at station X were the mistakes of the German operators. It is likely that if the Germans had used the enigma exactly as directed, it would have been a lot harder to crack, thus taking up much more time.
Common mistakes were not replacing or changing the order in which the cog wheels were arranged, not arranging the two plugs in the correct formation and other more minor errors that were normally results from laziness. Another fault that was used to its maximum effect was that of the double helix. In many cases, the enigma was not anywhere near as random as the Germans had first hoped, and in a few cases the British were able to see clear patterns were letters were exactly the same within the code. Whilst this was not necessarily the Germans fault, it was still as mistake that they did not know about and failed to consider.
These mistakes were exploited and picked apart by the British, giving them a further chance in forming patterns out the mess. Bletchley used certain methods to ease the task of finding the right combination out of 150,000,000,000,000,000 possibilities. Techniques such as laying out perforated sheets to see if any letters matched were popular and helped the efficiency of code cracking as a whole. Also, machines that were invented during the war (including one of the first computers in the world) were a great asset to those at Bletchley as well.
The machines invented during the time in Bletchley were all upgraded versions of the same basic idea. The human operator would feed in a code that had usually been worked on previously by other people or was a calculated (‘likely to be true’) estimate (nicknamed a ‘crib’ by those a Bletchley). The operator would enter the code into the machine and then it would cycle through all the possible combinations, stopping when it reached the correct one. The final version, invented by Turing, could decipher the code, possible wheel locations and possible plug locations thousands of times faster than a human.
This greatly helped the British with the speed of cracking codes and sending them off to those who needed them. However it did not decrease the difficulty of knowing what formulas to use within the machine in the first place, or even decoding the initial and forming calculated guesses to feed into the machine to start off with. Those working at Bletchley had to solve several things in order to gather the information needed to have a chance at cracking the code. These included: The Cog order and wiring The text settings The Cross plugging And language (including German military slang terms).
This required great patience and dedication – all skills that those working at Bletchley either had already, or managed to acquire. “Cracking a code can be an incredibly frustrating experience” said one worker, “but in most cases the results are uplifting, rewarding [and] very satisfying”. Through intertwining many different people into a close knit community, along with their skills, personalities and unique ideas, Bletchley Park managed to effectively the ultimate code-cracking machine. Finally, breakthroughs were also a key factor when it came to breaking the code.
Strokes of luck such as recovering German navy code books off small weather vessels that were easily captured, or getting other such Nazi secrets of sinking U-boats or crashed vehicles greatly helped advance the enigma effort. Overall, there was no key reason why the British were able to crack the code of the enigma. No huge mistake was made by the Germans that completely gave the secrets away, no massive breakthrough was made by the British to unlock all the enigma codes in one go, the end result came from many different factors that when put together, gave Bletchley Park the key to the enigma code.