Machine that broke wartime code restored in Milton Keynes

Following years of painstaking work a machine used by the Germans to keep their communications secret during the Second World War is fully restored.

Thursday, 9th June 2016, 1:35 pm
Updated Friday, 10th June 2016, 11:28 am

The Lorenz s742 cipher was used to make and break Adolf Hitler’s most secret codes and for the first time ever, reenactors have been able to demonstrate the intricacies associated with encrypting and decrypting messages.

The demonstration was held at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, and in the presence of five surviving Wrens together with relatives of some of the cryptanalysts who worked to figure out the Nazi encryption.

One of the Wrens present for the demo was 92-year-old Irene Dixon who first came to Bletchley aged just 19.

She went on to work on the Colossus machines.

“When I signed up to the Wrens I thought I would get stationed on a ship, near some sailors but we were sent to stay at Woburn Abbey.

“Unfortunately there were no sailors but we soon learned we would be doing VIP work,” she said.

She and her fellow Wrens were sworn to secrecy and worked in three shifts throughout the day to man the Colossus machines which were never switched off.

“It was very exciting times,” she added.

While she was busy in Bletchley, her fiancee, 20-year-old Sidney Dixon was preparing to land on Juno Beach in Normandy.

“It is absolutely amazing what mum and dad did,” says proud daughter Gillian Gillespie. “I’m honoured they have lived long enough to share their stories, my two boys know all about the war.

“It is extremely important to remember the work done here at Bletchley.”

Cracking the Enigma code gave access to the Nazi HQ’s long-term strategies and let allies know their short term plans, such as the positioning of u-boats, following orders from the Fuhrer himself and his highest ranking officials.”

Volunteer engineer John Whetter worked on the restoration project.

“This level of intelligence was like reading Hitler’s thoughts,” he said.

“It was absolutely fundamental for the war effort.

“These people broke the most sophisticated and secure encryption device in existence at the time.”

The full story of these marvellous machines can now be seen at the computer centre.