The Codebreakers – Enigma, Bletchley Park and the Battle of the Atlantic

This just in from the Edinburgh Branch of the BCS:

Wednesday 9th December 2009, 6:30 pm.

Speaker: Dr. Mark Baldwin.

University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum, 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9ABmap (click on Informatics Forum in the list of buildings).

This talk is free of charge. Refreshments available from 6:00 pm.

Synopsis

One of the Second World War’s most fascinating stories is that of the Enigma machine, a portable encryption device widely used by the Germans, whose ciphers they believed to be totally secure. Nevertheless, by mathematical analysis and modern technology (and a certain amount of good luck), the Allies devised techniques for ‘breaking’ Enigma ciphers, and thus read several million German messages, providing a wealth of reliable Intelligence. The attack on Enigma, initiated by the Poles in the 1930s, was later perfected by the British at Bletchley Park, today open to the public as a museum site.

The Intelligence gained was of immense value to the Allies in virtually every theatre of war, but nowhere more so than in the Battle of the Atlantic, that fierce conflict which lasted nearly six years and cost over 60,000 lives. Dr Baldwin uses the Battle of the Atlantic to exemplify the importance of codebreaking in winning the war.

After the presentation, the audience are invited to take part in a hands-on practical demonstration of one of the few surviving Enigma machines. Only about 200 are known to survive worldwide; of these, only about a dozen are in public collections in Britain. As these machines are so rare, Dr Baldwin is providing a unusual opportunity for the audience not just to view, but also to operate, an original 4-rotor Enigma machine (i.e. the more sophisticated model, developed for the U-Boat service in 1942). This is of particular interest, as there is no working machine on permanent public display anywhere in England north of Bletchley Park, and nowhere at all in Wales, Scotland or Ireland.

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About Colin Angus Mackay
I blog at ColinMackay.scot. I help run Scottish Developers which is a user group for software developers in Scotland.

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