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BCSWomen trip to Bletchley Park, May 8 2008

The BCSWomen group held a "premiere day" outing to Bletchley Park on May 8 2008. The day started with a tour led by Jean Valentine, who had been a Wren at Bletchley during the war, and who was a magnificent guide. We saw the mansion, the post office, stables, and outbuildings, some huts, and a reconstructed Bombe machine (all before lunch!). At lunch Paul Dutton, a representative of Mabway Limited, presented a cheque to the Director of Bletchley Park. After lunch, we saw the national computer museum and the rebuilt Colossus computer, with a talk by Tony Sale who led the Colossus rebuild project, and we finished our tour moving via Alan Turing's hut (hut 8) to the museum in Block B which features a history of Bletchley Park and codebreaking.

Photographs from the day

These pictures are arranged roughly chronologically, and hopefully give you a flavour of what the day was like. Most of the pictures are mine, but where I failed to get a photograph I've borrowed one from Karen Petrie's set of the day (which you can find here:, and indicated on this page with a KP after the photo), or Louise Brown's (which you can find on the main Yahoogroup, indicated with an LB after the photo). If anyone would like a higher resolution copy of any of these pictures, please get in touch (

Our guide, Jean Valentine, who was the best guide I could have imagined. (KP photo)

Our tour guide, Jean Valentine, describes the house (with 11 different architectural styles, apparently!)

Bletchley Park Post office

In the stable yard, listening to Jean tell us stories of unexploded bombs and Turing cycling to work with a gas mask on in order to avoid hayfever.

Our party listening to Jean by the memorial to the Polish mathematicians who had first cracked an Enigma machine

Jean, in the hut where she had actually worked during the war, explaining the principles of a Bombe machine using the replica built for the film "Enigma".

Around the corner in B block is a reconstruction of the Bombe which really works, and our guide took part in a demonstration of using a Bombe to crack some Enigma code!

The back of the Bombe.

When the Bombe machine comes up with a "stop", this represents a possible solution to the Enigma encoded transmission. The machine in this picture is then used to check that possible solution before proceeding any further, so if it turns out to be a red herring the Bombe can be restarted to find the real solution. (KP Photo)

Karen encoding something on a real Enigma machine! (KP photo)

One of our party (Nancy Sampson) had a grandfather who had worked in Hut 3: this is a picture of a picture of the interior of his workplace.

Before lunch, Paul Dutton (left) presented Simon Greenish (right, director of Bletchley Park) with a sponsorship cheque from Mabway Limited. (KP Photo).

Another shot of the presentation (LB Photo)

Back to the post office after lunch to buy souvenirs and post letters

Oars from Alan Turing's time at university - no. 5 fell ill so the standby, one A.M. Turing, had to take his place.

Our group en route to the National Museum of Computing

A gentleman (whose name I have unfortunately forgotten) doing a remarkably good job of explaining the workings of morse code, teleprinters, Lorenz machines and the early attempts to crack them (HEATH ROBINSON).

A machine that was reverse engineered from Lorenz traffic and which mimics the behaviour of Lorenz machines

Tony Sale, who had led the Colossus rebuild project, describing the workings and the reconstruction of the computer (from partial plans and a few black and white photographs!). Tony has extensive pages on this project on the web at

The BCSWomen group listening to Tony talk Colossus - it was hot in there! (KP photo)

Our group in the computing museum's Mainframe room

In the personal computer room

A plane between huts.

In the hut where Turing had worked, now a museum with displays about the capture of Enigma machines and other fascinating stories.

The fountain - at the end of the day, many of us needed to sit down and relax. Fortunately the gardens are lovely and facilitated this:-)