I’ve written here previously about Bletchley Park, the home during World War II of the UK Government Code and Cipher School, also known as Station X. The work of the cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park was responsible for the breaking of the German Enigma machine encryption on a large-scale basis, as well as the more difficult Lorenz cipher, used by Hitler to communicate with his field commanders. Some historians estimate that this work shortened the war in Europe by two or more years. The site is now run by the Bletchley Park Trust, and also houses the UK National Museum of Computing.
A project to restore the Bletchley Park facility, along with some of its specialized equipment, was launched a couple of years ago. I noted then that Google had taken an active role in supporting the project.
A recent post on the Official Google Blog describes some further developments in this relationship. The Bletchley Park Trust has become a member of the Google Cultural Institute, which features an online gallery of exhibits dealing with (relatively) recent history. The Bletchley Park exhibit has an overview of the work that was done at Station X. It includes images of the Bombe machines that were used to break the Enigma cipher on a production basis, and of Colossus, the electronic computer used, along with the Tunny Machine, in breaking the Lorenz cipher.
The blog post also has an interesting short video presentation by Ms. Jean Valentine, one of the original Bombe operators.
In her role operating the Bombe, Jean directly helped to decipher messages encoded by Enigma. In this film Jean gives us a firsthand account of life at Bletchley Park during the war, and demonstrates how the Bombe worked using a replica machine now on show at the museum.
Much of this history remained a closely-guarded secret for many years after the end of WWII. It’s fascinating to see how much truly creative work was done under very difficult conditions.