Science - X marks the spot

7th December 2012 at 00:00

What it's all about

If you want to take your pupils on an educational trip, the 2012 Turing centennial provides an opportunity and Bletchley Park a location, writes Roger Davies.

This was the centre of the Second World War code-breaking effort, in which Alan Turing played a central role. The most famous of the ciphers broken at Bletchley Park were those generated by the Enigma machine, but other codes used by Germany and its allies were cracked there, too.

Large wooden huts were erected on the lawns behind the magnificent mansion in Buckinghamshire. These became home to the famous codebreakers of the war and were one of the birthplaces of modern computing and cryptography.

A team including Turing made the first break in early 1940. By April, they had cracked both the German army and Luftwaffe ciphers. Enigma was broken with the help of a complex electro-mechanical device, designed by Turing, known as the Bombe. The Bombes were operated by an army of Wrens (members of the Women's Royal Naval Service) in Hut 11. As the code-breaking work increased, the numbers working there swelled to more than 9,000, and by 1944 at least 200 Bombes were in use.

Teachers can take pupils around the grounds of Bletchley Park, identifying the surviving huts and learning more of this fascinating story. School visits to Bletchley Park are welcomed, tailored to different age groups. For details, visit

What else?

Show pupils how antique the first computers seem now with scottlowther's computing timeline - a perfect classroom display, bit.lyComputerHistory.

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