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Anyone who’s ever visited Bletchley Park in the past will know how inspiring it is to see where the World War Two codebreakers like Alan Turing worked and where the world’s first digital electronic computer helped them to read the messages between Hitler and his generals.
But they will probably also remember how sad it was that it was so run down, with Hut 6, where codebreakers cracked the German Enigma ciphers, falling to pieces. Not anymore!
Recently, I had the privilege of showing the Duchess of Cornwall around the newly renovated Hut 6 and introduced her to a number of women who worked there during the war, including Jane Fawcett, one of those actually breaking the ciphers.
Jane said she’d done many things in her life and until recently regarded Bletchley as ‘just something she did during the war’. But as the extent of Bletchley’s impact became available (and historians estimate that it cut as much as two years off the length of the war, saving countless lives) she gradually realised that it was probably the most important thing she had done in her career.
The Duchess spent a long time talking to Jane and Lady Marion Body, who worked alongside her grandmother at Bletchley.
All of the iconic buildings at Bletchley Park have been returned to their wartime glory, allowing all visitors to access the exhibits and experience just what it was like during World War Two.
This was achieved by the magnificent team at Bletchley, including a large number of volunteers who give up their free time to help create a fitting tribute to the people whose dedication and brilliance helped shorten the war and heralded the birth of the computer age.
Michael Smith is a historian and trustee of Bletchley Park and the author of The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park Codebreakers Helped Win the War
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