Enigma Machine Helps Teach History to Children

The British Museum has chosen a rare Enigma machine on display at Bletchley Park as one of 100 objects to help teach history to children.

Enigma is perhaps the best known cipher machine of all time and is inextricably linked with the work and achievements of Bletchley Park during World War Two.


©Bletchley Park Trust

The breaking of the Axis codes at Bletchley Park is a story of determination under pressure – the codebreakers fought a daily mental battle to break the codes for that day and save lives through the distribution of Ultra intelligence.

The WW2 staff of Bletchley Park signed the Official Secrets Act which meant they were unable to discuss or disclose their vital wartime work and achievements, many died without being able to talk of their work and thus lost the opportunity to tell friends and family of their important and innovative work.

Fortunately, there is still more information entering the public domain which adds to our understanding of the Enigma cipher machine and the methods used to break the code. Personal accounts and official documents written by the codebreakers at Bletchley Park both fascinate and educate us, but you can’t beat the chance to experience the Enigma first hand.

The Enigma machine chosen is one of around 2,450 of its kind made in 1942 or 1943. Gillian Mason, Curator of the Bletchley Park Trust, said “Records suggest that these metal cased Enigma machines were used in aircraft and ground stations. A very limited number have survived. Although detailed records were destroyed during the war, a relatively small group of Enigmas were delivered to the German Air Force. The serial number of this machine puts it in the middle of this group.”

The Enigma is on display at Bletchley Park, among the largest collection of Enigma machines in Europe. Bletchley Park run a growing school education programme, including an outreach programme to give students the opportunity to give an Engima machine a go.

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