This was quite an extraordinary day and far exceeded all our expectations. BP, as it was called in the war amongst its 10,000  workers, is an amazing memorial to a unique enterprise. It’s hard to encapsulate all of its characteristics, but one could refer not only to the intellectual achievements among the mathematicians and scientists (traffic analysis, statistics, machine computation) or the often forgotten engineering triumphs (Tommy Flowers, the GPO engineer, designing the Colussus), but the fact that three-quarters were women, that there was a creative community existing in wartime without military discipline, and that the whole thing grew from nothing to a war-winning enterprise in three years. Quite an achievement, and it all took place in the most lovely surroundings!

 

This is a highly recommended trip for anyone who has done all the London stuff and wants a bit of a trip to the country. It’s only an hour or so from London and takes you into Buckinghamshire, through wonderful villages with names that could have been thought up by Evelyn Waugh – Leighton Buzzard was the highlight. A five minute walk and you are at the Museum, which incorporates the National Museum of Computing, which would have been another whole day.

Like most modern museums, it is brilliantly presented and use the whole of the site. The lower floor of the mansion is exceptionally restored, with props from the movie in one of the rooms, and lots of details on the major figures, of whom Turing is only one. It is amazing how many important figures in post-war England served at BP — Asa Briggs, Peter Calvorcoressi, Roy Jenkins — and how the place employed people who really created the world that is emerging in the 21st Century.

  
 I suppose that we all think we know about Turing after the film (although I’ve read the biography and I think he is much more complex than presented in the film, and his ideas are far above my little brain); but the display on Gordon Welchman has set me reading, and there is someone who not only created the science of signals traffic analysis, but invented most of the military communications systems of the Cold War and later, which underpinned the Internet; then applied the principles to air traffic control, and then worked out the basic ideas that underpin cloud computing. Pretty amazing.

Of course, what we came to see was the fight against Enigma (I’ve decided that this is because the whole Fish/Colussus thing is just to complicated for mere mortals to understand), and it was a thrill to walk through the original huts (which we found out later were superceded in the middle of the war for the more permanent brick facilities), and see the buildings where Turing and his team created the first ‘bombe’.

  
There’s nothing much left on site of the bombes; indeed, even the original Huts (including Hut 6) must have been pretty derelict when the Trust took over. The old wooden buildings are full of original or contemporaneous artefacts to create the sense of what it was like in the early days, but the real star for me was the rebuilt bombe that enthusiasts built over years to explain the real achievements of the Hut 6 code breakers.

   
 

IT must be glorious in summer, with the sounds of wartime BP emerging from speakers around the lake and near the tennis courts; but even in the chill of the short days, it was a lovely day. Now for fireworks and a chilly start to 2016.