A replica Bombe machine based on those that cracked ‘unbreakable’ Nazi Enigma codes during the Second World War will be unveiled to the public for the first time this week. The Bombe will form the centrepiece of a newly-opened dedicated display at Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes—the historic site for British World War 2 code breaking activities.
It will be unveiled by HRH Duke of Kent, Patron of the British Computer Society (BCS) to mark 50 years of the organisation, which represents over 60, 000 IT and communication professionals across the UK.
For the first time in 60 years the public will be able to imagine what it was like to work on the noisy code-cracking machines at Bletchley Park, thanks to 12 years of dedicated work by a team of enthusiasts to rebuild the British Turing Bombe. It’s completion by the BCS-funded Computer Conservation Society coincides with the 50th anniversary of the BCS, the leading membership organisation for IT professionals.
To commemorate the efforts of the machines’ WRN operatives during the war and their contribution to the early history of computing, the BCS has also recorded a number of surviving women veterans’ stories for a specially-created website resource for school history lessons.
These oral histories describe the relentless timetable set up at Bletchley and various outstations around the country to help Bletchley Park’s cryptographers decode over 3000 enemy messages a day. They also give a vivid insight into life during the war for the women, many of whom were not aware of the nature of the work until they arrived at the Park.
The Bombe was the brainchild of Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman, combined with the engineering skills of the British Tabulating Machine Company in Hertfordshire. Without the information it provided, the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the North Atlantic could have been lost, making a British surrender a distinct possibility. At the very least, it is said the total work at Bletchley Park helped shorten the war by up to two years, thereby sparing this country from an even deadlier form of aerial bombardment! Turing’s work also paved the way for the computer technology we are all so familiar with today.