Bletchley Park’s Boffins

Much has been written about how mathematicians, who worked at Bletchley Park in the UK, broke the Enigma codes, thereby playing a significant role in defeating Nazi Germany’s U-boats. However, apart from aficionados of computer history or WW-II buffs, few people know about another part played by the scientists and engineers at Bletchley Park. In order to break the so-called Lorentz encryption, used by the German army, the boffins built the Colossus computer. As part of a series of models about British history, James Pegrum (peggyjdb) has built a scene depicting the Colossus Mk.2, as used at Bletchley Park on the eve of the D-Day Normandy landings.

Size Isn’t Everything

Even though the project remained largely unknown for decades, mainly because it was classified, Colossus is significant as the World’s first programmable digital computer.

Many thanks to Richard Selby for the heads up.

6 comments on “Bletchley Park’s Boffins

  1. Keith Goldman

    How did I let this one slip by? You win this round Ralph. The history of Bletchley Park is fascinating and Pegrum never fails to entertain with his dioramas.

  2. Ralph Post author

    Thanks Keith. I prefer quality over quantity ;-) (disclaimer: that is not to say that the stuff you blog lacks quality, of course.)

  3. Sid Sidious

    “…[T]he project remained largely unknown for decades, mainly because it was classified…”


  4. searme

    If you are about to discover the little known parts of history, it’s a good thing to be more precise about the “broke Enigma codes” part. Straight from Wikipedia: “The Polish Cipher Bureau first broke Germany’s military Enigma ciphers in December 1932. Five weeks before the outbreak of World War II, on 25 July 1939, they presented their Enigma-decryption techniques and equipment to French and British military intelligence in Warsaw.”

  5. Ralph Post author

    Having read ‘Enigma: The Battle For The Code’ (by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore) several years ago, I am well aware of the role Polish mathematicians played in working out the inner workings of the Enigma machine and how the codes could be deciphered. However, I hope you’ll understand that, when writing a blog post about a LEGO model of a computer used at Bletchley Park, which wasn’t even used to break Enigma, I am not going to spend a lot of words on Enigma. I didn’t mention the sailors and spies who risked their lives to capture machines and code books either.

    Every time the settings on the Enigma machines were changed, which was done on a regular basis, the code had to broken anew. Furthermore, machines with more rotors greatly increased the number of possible settings. That’s where Bletchley Park enters the picture and hence the plural ‘the Enigma codes’ in my blog post. To those readers who want to know more about Enigma, I heartily recommend reading the book mentioned above.

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