Dear Mr. Cumberbatch,
You did a great job in “The Imitation Game” as Alan Turing. But a 2 hour movie couldn’t tell it all. Neither can an entire day at Bletchley Park – not even a start.
A community with so many different talents, allowed – encouraged – to follow their hunches. Like the scholar in romantic German literature given a piece of Morse code. They knew “StGoch” was a place name, but couldn’t find it anywhere. She asked, “How do you do a capital letter – or punctuation – in Morse Code?” Well, you can’t. By puzzling over the letters “stgoch” and using her instinct with language and puzzles, she found it stood for SanTiaGO, CHile.
And like the Greek classicist and papyrus scholar Dilly Knox, who didn’t like working with rowdy young men, and got special permission to have an all-female team (even if one of them did wear trousers and a bow tie, and smoke a pipe.) He used a linguistic (as opposed to Turing’s mathematical) way of breaking codes. His technique broke the Enigma codes used by the Italian Navy and the German Abwehr.
And like Gordon Welchman, the math professor, who analyzed the metadata of messages, such as which call sign belonged to who, and where that person was, in order to track the movement of the German Army. Called “traffic analysis,” it led to modern intelligence methods. All post-war traffic reports are still classified today because it is so sensitive.
Bletchley Park itself is an “ugly Edwardian manor house”, and a reconstruction of ugly, utilitarian huts, and full of ghosts. All records were totally destroyed after the war – even the scraps of paper scrunched up and stuffed into the cracks in the walls to help insulate the cold buildings in winter were removed. Turing’s machines, the “bombe” and the “colossus” seen in the movie, were taken apart until they were nothing but a pile of wires and pieces of metal.
The work done there remained secret until 1975. Having signed the Official Secrets Act before they knew what their assignments were, even then few of the workers (the great majority of them women) ever mentioned it. Never acknowledged or given a medal, in 2009 Bletchley veterans were allowed to apply for a “commemorative badge” and for a spot on a Roll of Honour, “giving as much detail and supporting evidence as you can.”
In 2011, Queen Elizabeth unveiled a memorial on site at Bletchley that says, “We Also Served.”
It is estimated that the code-breaking at Bletchley part shortened WWII by 2-4 years.