Last weekend I visited the home of the code breakers, Bletchley Park. It was here that the countries most talented mathematicians and engineers worked to build a mechanical code breaking machine which they called the Bombe. All the original machines were destroyed after the war but a project to rebuild a working replica has recently been completed. This machine, and a selection of the Enigma and other cipher machines it was designed to crack, are on display for the public to see.
The intelligence decrypts at Bletchley were code-named Ultra and they contributed greatly to Allied success in defeating the U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic.Ultra was also vital to the North African campaigns but it was prior to the D-Day landings, of June 1944, that the Allies probably benefited most. By 5th June 1944 the allies knew the locations of all but two of the 58 German divisions on the Western front. They were also able to evaluate the success of the deception campaign (Operation Fortitude) which ensured the bulk of German forces remained poised for an invasion at the Pas De Calais.
The work done at Bletchley breaking German codes almost certainly shortened the war by as much as 2 years and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. After the war Eisenhower credited Ultra with having made victory possible.
Here are my pictures from the trip.
The site itself is huge and encompasses several buildings and houses a wide range of exhibits and collections. Particularly interesting - from a gamers point of view - was the Toy Museum. Included amongst the hundreds of exhibits were a great selection of toy soldiers. There were also some great Mould kits for making your own lead models. One kit included the important safety notice to ask your mum which pan to use for melting the lead in! Some of the moulds also had painted examples of the figures they produced which was interesting to see.
This is well worth a full day visit as there is so much to see.