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Enigma machine unveiled by veteran Bombe operator

Date Posted:26/06/2019

Veteran Bombe operator Ruth Bourne unveiled an Enigma cipher machine, the latest addition to the Turing-Welchman Bombe Gallery at The National Museum of Computing, in celebration of the first anniversary of the opening of the gallery at the museum.

Uniquely, TNMOC can now demonstrate the range of equipment used in making and breaking both the Enigma and Lorenz ciphers, the two most important enemy ciphers in the second world war and which represent the very early stages of cyber security, a technology that is so vital to modern society.

The reconstructed and completely authentic Enigma machine has been donated to the museum on long-loan by Sheridan Williams, an educational guide and long-time volunteer at the museum. Built in Germany by renowned cipher historian and engineer Klaus Kopacz, the Enigma machine is a perfect working reconstruction and will be in almost daily use by visiting educational groups, giving them profound insights into cybersecurity and the development of our digital world.

Paul Kellar, who heads up the Bombe team at TNMOC, explained how the Enigma working beside the Bombe greatly enhances the visitor experience: “The Enigma is set up to encrypt the Biscay weather forecast for D-Day. The Bombe breaks that key and matches the Enigma's settings, thus enabling us to show the whole process as it might have happened in 1944.”

At the official unveiling of the Enigma machine by Ruth Bourne, members of the Bombe team at TNMOC gathered to congratulate her and present her with a special plaque engraved:

For Ruth Bourne
Who ran the Bombe when it mattered 1942-45
And demonstrated it for the public 2009-19.
From all your friends on the Bombe Team.

Ruth Bourne and her fellow Bombe veteran the recently deceased Jean Valentine opened the Bombe Gallery at TNMOC in June 2018.

Andrew Herbert, chair of TNMOC, welcoming the new addition, said, “The addition of the missing link, the Enigma machine, to our wartime codebreaking displays is a very satisfying achievement and we are very grateful to Sheridan Williams for sourcing and donating this beautifully and precisely engineered Enigma machine. It already fascinates students on our very popular Learning Programme for schools and colleges, as well as general visitors. It is a superb enhancement to our tribute to the men and women, like Ruth Bourne, who worked at wartime Bletchley Park.”

Across three galleries, the Bombe, Tunny and Colossus galleries, TNMOC now demonstrates the making and breaking of the two key enemy ciphers of the second world war: the Enigma cipher communicating day-to-day operations and Lorenz conveying the strategic messages between Hitler and his generals.

Andrew Herbert concluded: “It is hard to exaggerate the significance of what we now display. The Bombe, Tunny and Tunny Galleries give unrivalled insights of the state-of-the-art of cybersecurity in the 1940s and the early stages of our digital world. It is sobering to think that our lives today might be very different if the codebreaking geniuses of Bletchley Park had not been so successful in breaking those ciphers.”
 

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