Bletchley Park—An Enigmatic Exploration

 

Bletchley Park is a modest museum which makes the visitor walk back in time to the astonishing world of espionage and code-breaking. After seeing the BBC series, “The Bletchley Circle,” and the movie “The Imitation Game,” (January 15, -2015 review) I had the opportunity to visit Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, approximately a thirty-minute train ride from London.

Enigma

Enigma

Once Britain’s best-kept secret, today Bletchley Park is a unique heritage site and tourist attraction, as well as an educational resource and memorial to the scientists and mathematicians of the pivotal Enigma project. Bletchley Park exemplifies the feat of organization and mobilization to tackle the difficulty of the German Enigma code as well as to guard the top-level secrecy required of their covert operation.

Members of MI6 and the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) were assigned the job of cracking the Enigma code, the masterful and complex cipher system that changed at least once a day with 159 million possible settings produced by the Enigma machine.

The Bombe

The Bombe

The process of breaking Enigma was aided considerably by a complex electromechanical device, designed by Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman, called the Bombe. Both an original Enigma and the Bombe are on display at the park. The Bombe ran through all the possible Enigma wheel configurations in order to reduce the possible number of permutations. Bombe machines were operated by Wrens (=the women codebreakers), whose work sped up the solution to breaking the Enigma.

As the project grew to over 12,000 (more than 75% women), the clandestine project had to build large pre-fabricated wooden huts set up on the lawns of the Park. Not unexpectedly, the women’s huts were crammed with twice as many lodgers in smaller rooms than the men’s. It was disturbing to see how small the rooms were (eight double-bunks to a 9’ x 9’ room) for such brutal all-night intelligence and computational sessions. It was not all grim, however. The women billeted in huts could join in the nightly concerts, lectures, dances and choirs at the adjacent Edwardian mansion.

Edwardian mansion

Much of Bletchley’s equipment and documents were destroyed at the end of the war and the secrecy imposed on the former Bletchley workforce remained a government policy until 1974. And, it wasn’t until July 2009 that the British government announced that Bletchley personnel would be recognized with a commemorative badge

 It was decades before the outside world learned anything of what went on in  a warren of dilapidated huts surrounding the Edwardian mansion in Buckinghamshire. The estate has been restored, thanks to the Bletchley Park Trust. The visitor center was built in 2011 with funds the Trust raised. Formed in 1992 to preserve the spirit of Bletchley, the Trust rescued the site from a proposed housing development. Interestingly, it was private funds that secured the future of the site and helped to restore the decaying huts in which many of the codebreakers worked. A video documents the deplorable condition of the facility before restoration.

The main museum collection focuses on the wartime code-breaking efforts, including the Bombe and the Enigma machines, as well as extensive displays related to wartime code-breaking and espionage. Some quirky features of the museum are a “pigeons of war” exhibit on the important role of the 250,000 homing pigeons used in Great Britain, and the children’s corner where hands-on displays attempt to illustrate the laws of probability in computing possible letter/number arrangements on the Enigma.

 

 Note: An excellent online tour can be viewed at: http://www.codesandciphers.org.uk/bletchleypark/

 

Things Unsaid–My Debut Novel’s Book Launch

 

I’m so excited Things Unsaid is now available at Amazon in paperback and e-book formats as well as at your local indie bookstore. Published by She Writes Press, a small indie press devoted to women authors, Things Unsaid is my writer’s journey into fiction, a journey that has taken almost three years.

Things Unsaid

Things Unsaid

If you are in Northern California, please check out three local book events happening over the next two weeks. I would LOVE to have you join me!

1) This Sunday, October 18, 3:00-4:30 Folio Books, SF (Noe Valley)– Tea and cookies will be served.

2) Friday, October 23, 4:00-6:00 McIntyre Wine Tasting Room,  The Crossroads Shopping Center, Carmel–Complimentary glass of wine to all who RSVP!

A second glass of a different wine, if you bring your copy of Things Unsaid or purchase a copy onsite for signing. E-book receipts are also included.  There will be a raffle!

3) Friday, October 30, 5:00-7:00, Green Chalk Contemporary Art Gallery, Monterey–Sponsored by Crystal Fish Sushi. Seiko Atsuko Purdue’s art will also be on exhibit!

Here are what people are saying about Things Unsaid:

1)… In a carefully crafted cautionary tale, Diana Paul writes a story of a family that could be anyone’s family…Family ties are stressed to the breaking point. … Moral dilemmas, emotional roller-coasters, sacrifice and duty abound in this tense novel that exposes raw human emotion—sparing no one the pain that comes with such issues.  [StoryCircleBookReviews]

2) … Family is never easy to deal with, elderly family is even more difficult. “Things Unsaid” tells of the tightrope act that is fulfilling familial duty and obligation. [BlackDogSpeaks]

3) …. Her novel, Things Unsaid, dissects family and generational relationships not only from the traditional storytelling perspective – and she tells a compelling story – but also from the wellspring of her philosophical beliefs. [SnowflakesArise]

4) I have to say I was hooked on the story as it unfolded and found it hard to put down. It’s well-written for a start with plenty of attention to detail and a strong sense of place. The characters are amazingly well-drawn. It’s almost as though Diana has written about people she knows, she gets into their innermost thoughts and feelings so well” [BookBlogforBooksworms.com–UK]

5) This story was almost hard to digest, because it speaks of a family in such dysfunction that it is painstaking to read. But, that is exactly what makes this story so wonderful and different. [Goodreads]

6) Things Unsaid, a provocative read, asks us to consider what children owe their aging parents and siblings… As we come to know this dysfunctional family — a narcissistic mother, a shadow-like father, and two calculating siblings — we watch as Jules struggles financially and emotionally to meet their needs.  [Amazon]

Come to one book event, if you can, or more than one! Let’s party!

 

Note: To learn more about Things Unsaid, recent press, and articles I am currently writing for a range of online and print media, please visit my author website at: www.dianaypaul.com or click the tab above, “My Author Site” for more information.