On Thursday 2nd November Seaford College students, parents, and members of the public, enjoyed a real treat. We welcomed Tom Briggs, the Education Officer at Bletchley Park, for a talk in the Assembly Hall, Decoding Bletchley Park.
Tom brought a real enigma machine with him to Seaford College (in fact, the exact machine that had been used in The Imitation Game movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch) and he spoke to the audience about how the enigma machine worked, and the true nature of the task that faced the real codebreakers of Bletchley Park in World War II.
It was a fantastic talk, and when Tom invited a volunteer to try encoding a message using the Enigma machine, Kitty Cooper gave it a go, with the help of her exceptionally eager assistant, Seaford’s Head of History, Mr Gisby (who practically ran down the stairs at the chance to be involved).
Kitty, in Year 8, told us her thoughts on the evening.
“When we arrived there was a coded sheet we needed to break. It was quite hard! The talk was all about the code breaking work carried out at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Mr Briggs gave us a brief history of the house before telling us about the enigma coding machine. I was allowed to send a hello message using the same machine which was really cool. The whole evening was fascinating.”
Seaford College was also honoured on the evening to have been graced with the presence of Commander Le Pass, who was on the HMS Petard when it sank the U-559 submarine and recovered a new style of Enigma cypher machine at the time, which had four wheels, which was a highly dangerous mission and provided the Allies with invaluable information.
What was particularly fantastic about the evening was the real mix of the audience, from the younger students at Seaford College, through to members of the public. The fascination with codebreaking, and what this meant for the war effort, was clear throughout.
Tom returned to Seaford the following day for a couple of workshops with Seaford College students, looking at how maths can be used to help with codebreaking, and all the students thoroughly enjoyed the sessions, particularly the chance to use the enigma machine at the end of the sessions, which you can see in our short video below!