On Tuesday 6th December, Sir Francis Richards, a former Director of GCHQ, delivered a fascinating lecture about the history of code breaking and Bletchley Park during and after the Second World War. Made more famous by the 2014 film The Imitation Game, Enigma and Bletchley Park have really caught the popular consciousness in recent years.
To begin with, Sir Francis outlined the beginnings of British Intelligence, particularly making reference to the coded messages passed between Mary Queen of Scots and her alleged conspirators. We were interested to learn that code breaking in the Second World War did not start with Enigma; despite common misconceptions, there had already been significant breakthroughs into cracking Enigma in Poland from as early as 1932 - before Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park. Sir Francis then went on to tell us how they cracked Enigma with the use of Bombes, electro-magnetic devices used to help decipher coded message. What made Enigma so difficult to crack was the vast number of possible outcomes due to the various wheels within the machine; it seemed an almost impossible task as the wheels changed each day so the cryptographers had to start from scratch.
Sir Francis finished the lecture by telling us about Bletchley since the Second World War, which has become a treasured heritage site, educating people about the importance of code breaking during the Second World War, and how cracking Enigma reformed the war for the allies.
Jemima (LVI Form)