(Remember that you can right click on any photo and select “open in a new tab” to see a larger version, useful for some of the pix with words)
Another busy weekend. Sunday was the Jaguar Driver’s Club’s Jaguar National Day at Woburn Abbey near Milton Keynes in the central Midlands. Another fine weather weekend and the drive was about an hour and half. Enroute on Saturday I decided to visit Blechley Park, a very important spot for us WWII history buffs.
You may recall that Blechley Park was the home to the super-secret code-breakers facility that ultimately broke the German Enigma machine code and is credited with saving tens of thousands of lives and shortening the war by two years or more. Started in the late 30’s in London, the facility was moved to Bletchley Park, a requisitioned manor house in the countryside, for fear of the bombing of London, which eventually came to pass. The “recruits” were an unconventional bunch of mathematicians, historians, linguists, academics and even crossword puzzle champions, all supplemented by thousands of WRENS working round the clock to gather and decipher German war communications.
Of course, ciphers go back to the ancient Greeks, and probably long before, as a means to attempt secure communications. Codes ranged from simple one-for-one letter substitutions to invisible ink to number combinations which referred to a specific page, line and word in a commonly available book. One clever Greek king tattooed his message on the head of a slave, let the hair grow out and then sent the messenger on his way with instructions to the recipient to shave his head! Such is the devious world of cryptology.
The Germans had developed a number of systems prior to WWII, but most relied on the use of “one-time” pads (decoders) that were used for one day and then discarded. These are virtually unbreakable but suffered from the problem of distributing identical pads to hundreds of far flung outposts, ships, submarines and field units. And of course, if one pad was captured, the whole system ground to a halt until new pads could be delivered to everyone. Then came the “machine” age.
The Germans needed a reliable and inexpensive machine that could encode and decode messages quickly, was portable, and easy to use. The result was the Enigma, a typewriter sized device that had three rotating alphabetic wheels and series of changeable wire leads. The position of the wheels and plugs was changed daily. The operator typed in the plain text, for example an A, the first wheel translated that into another character, say X, then the second wheel translated the X into another letter, say N, and finally the third wheel translated it once again. The system architecture resulted in 150 million, million possible combinations, so in the pre-computer era, brute force decoding was impossible. Even if the Allies captured a machine (and they often did), it was useless without knowing the setting for the wheels for that day. So, the cryptographers at Blechley were tasked with breaking the code every day and as quickly as possible, for things like submarine locations were only valuable info for a short while.
I won’t bore you with the fascinating details of how they did this, but after winnowing down the possibilities through some very clever means, the remaining manageable number of possible combinations were run through an electrical/mechanical device, called a bombe, that tested the theoretical possibilities until it found the solution (for that day). Then all the intercepted German messages (at times thousands per day) would be deciphered, translated, sorted and distributed to the various government and armed forces for action. At its peak, 6000 people were working at Bletchley round the clock, seven days a week. These were mainly not military, and as mentioned above, a rather unconventional bunch, so life at Bletchley was “interesting” to say the least. It’s a great story and well worth a look at the website and a visit if you are ever in the area.
Saturday night was the JDC “Formal” which I mentioned in my last post. I thought I looked rather natty in my slacks, sport coat and silk shirt. Everyone else was in a tux! But the evening was not a total bust. Met some nice people and even won one of the raffle prizes, albeit the bobby prize, of a ten-pound zucchini squash (called something like a “courgie” over here). Hope the hotel maid liked it.
Sunday was the big car show. About 400 cars celebrating several “anniversaries”, including the XK’s 70th, the XJ’s 50th, the modern XK’s 20th and the XF’s 10th. The JDC is broken into sub-groups along model lines (XK Register, E-Type Register, etc.). All of them had their own display area and prize giving. There were an unusually large number of pre-war and just-post-war cars, as the photos show, and the largest group of XKs (30+) I have seen at any show yet. And some very nice cars indeed.
Anyway, I was hoping to perhaps get the prize for the furthest travelled to the event (as we did at XK70) or maybe the longest ownership. Got beat out by a guy from Hong Kong on the first one and lost the second by three months (my ownership is 47 years and two months)! Then they announced the winner of Best in Class……surprise! Something else to ship home at enormous cost.
Off to Ireland tomorrow, hope I have time to keep up on blogging!
THE MAIN HOUSE AT BLETCHLEY PARK, WHERE THE SENIOR OFFICERS WORKED
NICE LAKE IN THE CENTER OF THE PARK, LOT’S OF AMOROUS INCIDENTS HERE
THE OFFICES IN THE MAIN HOUSE PRESERVED AS IF THE OCCUPANTS JUST WENT OUT FOR LUNCH
NO LESS THAN EIGHT KIRBYS WORKED AT BLETCHLEY OR IN THE REMOTE LISTENING POSTS AROUND ENGLAND. I WOULD LOVE TO RESEARCH THESE.
SIGNALS WERE PICKED UP AT “ANTENNAE FARMS” SITUATED ALL OVER ENGLAND, THEN RUSHED TO BLETCHLEY VIA MOTORCYCLE. HUNDREDS OF THEM RUNNING 24/7. TIME WAS OF THE ESSENCE. IMAGINE BLASTING ALONG COUNTRY ROADS WITH BLACKOUT IN EFFECT, LIMITED HEADLIGHTS, RAIN, MUD, WIND AND COLD. BRAVE SOULS. THEY EVEN REMOVED ALL ROAD SIGNS IN CASE OF INVASION AND COURIERS HAD TO USE A DIFFERENT ROUTE EVERY TRIP!
THE “HUTS” WHERE THE REAL WORK WAS DONE
INSIDE THE HUTS, JUST AS THE WERE DURING THE WAR
ONE OF THE “BOMBES” THAT DECIPHERED THE DAILY CODE. EACH THREE CYLINDERS REPLICATED ONE ENIGMA MACHINE AND RAN A PREDETERMINED “PROGRAM” TO CHECK POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS.
BOTTOM PICTURE PROBABLY REPLICATES WHAT THE HUTS LOOKED LIKE DURING THE WAR
WOBURN ABBEY (COMPLETE WITH DRY GRASS LAWN, NO RAIN HERE)
THE ABBEY HAS A 500 ACRE DEER PARK, AND HAS THE ONLY REMAINING HERD OF RED DEER (FROM CHINA) IN THE WORLD
LOT’S OF XK’S
LOT’S OF PRE-WAR AND 40’S-50’S JAGS
TWO XK150S MODELS, SAME AS MY CAR EXCEPT ONE LETTER (AND $150K)
REAL PATINA, ORIGINAL XK INTERIOR
PRE-WAR “SS” CARS. LYONS CHANGED THE NAME OF THE COMPANY AFTER THE WAR TO JAGUAR DUE TO THE CONNOTATION OF “SS” (GERMAN WEHRMARCHT)
MARK X LIKE MINE BUT THIS IS THE DAIMLER VARIANT, QUITE RARE
A MARK I DAIMLER VERSION WITH THE V8 ENGINE, I WANT ONE!
XK150 OWNED LONGER THAN MINE, ALSO ONE OF ONLY TWO OTS MADE IN RHD WITH 3.8 AND SPATS. ALSO HAS AN OPTIONAL WHITE STEERING WHEEL.
THIS CUTE LITTLE THING IS A NISSAN MADE OVER WITH MARK II PARTS!