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.

The original building at Bletchley Park – an Edwardian Manor House, called “ugly” by some.

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.

Part of the exhibits include caricatures and cartoons of the personalities at Bletchley Park (called Bump’n Palace), done by those who worked there.

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.

“The Cottages” where Dilly Knox and the first recruits to BP worked. Expansion to over 9,000 workers meant more buildings were hastily erected, and recruits billeted nearby, or lodged in 8-bunks-to-a-room accommodation.

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.

Some of the very utilitarian buildings, seen from across a central pond, used for recreational down time for the workers – ice skating in winter, and boating in the summer. You can sometimes hear the workers calling out to each other in the spaces they used to occupy, thanks to the excellent interpretive team at BP.
It’s easy to get into the war effort at BP.
One of the “huts” used for code breaking and intelligence efforts. Divided into rudimentary offices, with desks made out of plywood, and one room not aware of what the next was working on.
“Eccentric but charming” item of the day. This gentleman, watching a demo of the Bombe, appropriately dressed in his custom-fitted suit, with short pants, knee socks and dress shoes.

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.

Props left behind after filming of “The Imitation Game” in the main house at Bletchley Park.
The ballroom at Bletchley Park manor house, where several scenes were filmed in “The Imitation Game.” And where the Hollywood prop for Alan Turing’s Machine was left behind.
Detail of wood carving in balcony railing at Bletchley Park.

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.”

“We also served.” The 2011 memorial to the silent workers at Bletchley Park. In front of A block, a post-WWII construction, but still very institutional.

It is estimated that the code-breaking at Bletchley part shortened WWII by 2-4 years.