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Digital Subscriptions > BBC History Revealed > July 2019 > Women of Bletchley

Women of Bletchley

Tessa Dunlop, historian on the BBC Two series Coast, shines a light on the secret and undervalued work of the women of Bletchley Park, without whom the codebreaking successes of World War II could not have happened
Women played a huge role in the work that went on to crack the Enigma machine at Bletchley Park
ALAMY X1, GETTY IMAGES X1

This year is the 100th anniversary of GCHQ, once called the Government Code and Cipher School (GC&CS) and the brainchild behind one of World War II’s most famous institutions: Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.

LEFT: Keira Knightly stars in The Imitation Game as Joan Clarke, a rare female codebreaker

During the war, Bletchley depended on the heft of a predominantly female workforce yet Joan Clarke, the codebreaking fiancée of Alan Turing (immortalised by Keira Knightley in the 2014 film The Imitation Game) is one of Bletchley’s very few famous woman. Britain’s codebreaking operation has been dominated by a male narrative – a star-studded cast of 20thcentury brain boxes, led by mathematician Alan Turing. His outstanding role in the creation of the bombe machine, an electromechanical testing device essential for unravelling German Enigma encoded messages, was hugely significant. It is a feat perhaps only rivalled by that of Tommy Flowers, the engineer who designed the even more advanced Colossus, the world’s first programmable computer.

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About BBC History Revealed

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