Bletchley Park, 7 July

One of the scenes in That Is All You Need To Know had a new girl journeying there on a crowded wartime train, and our office outing started rather the same way.  I did see what I took took to be our lot waiting in a group at Euston, but I wanted to get a seat and they also looked worryingly like a party of keen young bikers.

After some faffing about and waiting we had a guided tour of the Bletchley Park site by a MOD bloke who looked worried on being told that most of the party comprised mathematicians.  He hurriedly said that he wasn’t going to go into technicalities.  In the picture below he is talking of the hardships endured by the Wrens who had joined up in the hope of seeing young men or the sea and ended up doing eight-hour shifts of painstaking monotony; well of course it depends on the alternatives they had–not all were debutantes.

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One idea of the trip was to generate pictures for recruitment purposes, and below we see the typical money shot of young people picnicking in the sunshine with some romantic old pile in the background.

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And here we see a model of part of a bombe receiving eager attention–one (in fact the only) complaint about the day was that there was too much WWII stuff and not enough about how codebreaking was actually done.

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In the afternoon, we had another tour, this time of the National Museum of Computing, which started off with the famous Colossus machine, also used for codebreaking of course (and very hot around the back with all those valves).

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Then the group oohed and aahed at the Harwell (Dekatron) Computer or WITCH below; it represented something of a technical regression from the super-secret Colossus but won favour by clicking its relays sympathetically. Our guide was keen to emphasise the educational value of the exhibit–children came to realise that their magic devices in fact relied on someone producing instructions–many, many, many instructions…

And after a nostalgic tour round the home computers of their childhood, our group departed well pleased with its day out. And Murray won Wimbledon on the train back to London too…

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