HRH The Duke of Kent, Bletchley Park’s Royal Patron, has officially opened the major new exhibition about codebreaking during World War One, The Road to Bletchley Park. The Duke met the design team and sponsors behind the exhibition, BAE Systems and Ultra Electronics, before announcing it officially open. He was escorted around the Visitor Centre in Block C by the Chairman and CEO of the Bletchley Park Trust, experiencing along the way the exhibition, Secrets Revealed, Introducing Bletchley Park.
The Royal party then took in the Bletchley Park: Rescued and Restored exhibition inside Hut 12 and explored the newly restored Codebreaking Huts 3 and 6, followed by more recently created exhibitions in The Mansion, including Commander Denniston’s Office and The Imitation Game, The Exhibition about the Oscar-winning film.
Sir John Scarlett, Chairman of the Bletchley Park Trust, said “This exhibition tells an essential part of the Bletchley Park story. The Great War took place at a time of rapid technological change and innovation. Cable, wireless, codes and codebreaking were central to this revolution. The work of British interception and Codebreakers achieved outstanding success. As in World War Two, our country was at the cutting edge of technology, where it always needs to be. In the Great War the foundations were laid, and the leadership prepared, for the triumphs of Bletchley Park.”
About The Road to Bletchley Park
The story of signals intelligence in WW1 is an untold but crucial one, because a large number of those involved went on to work with the newly formed Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) in 1919, which then relocated to Bletchley Park in 1939. Sarah Ralph, Bletchley Park’s WW1 Exhibition Research Coordinator, says “Their efforts from 1914 to 1918 allowed the Codebreakers to hit the ground running at the outbreak of WW2.”
The first phase of this fascinating exhibition, now open in the Visitor Centre in Block C at Bletchley Park, introduces the two very separate codebreaking organisations working in WW1: MI1(b), set up by the War Office, and Room 40, established by the Navy. They were each fighting a secret war, behind the scenes in London offices.
The work of these two distinct organisations, each with their own hierarchies and objectives, was dependent on what was then brand new technology. One key exhibit is a replica of a Marconi crystal receiver listening set. Sarah adds “Both Allies and Central Powers used cable and wireless telegraphy to intercept messages and deduce enemy tactics and positions. Each side tried to break the other’s codes and gain valuable intelligence.”
The exhibition also delves into some of the key characters involved in codebreaking during both wars. Sarah says “One of my favourite exhibits related to the work in Room 40 is a copy of Jane’s Fighting Ships. I love this book. It’s an exhaustive catalogue of every nation’s warships. Every time a ship was sunk (Room 40 staff) would cross out the name. It’s a very physical way of marking the conflict’s progress.”
Alice in ID25 republished to celebrate WW1 exhibition
The Bletchley Park Trust is delighted to republish a unique parody of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice in ID25 poked fun at the wartime work of the Naval Intelligence codebreaking section Room 40, which became known from 1917 as ID25.
Originally written by the Codebreakers Frank Birch and Dilly Knox at the end of WW1, it was performed privately as a pantomime in London in December 1918. The parody described life in Room 40 and the people who worked there, and remained under wraps for many decades afterwards.