Charting Churchill: The Main House, Bletchley Park

The Main House, Bletchley Park 2014 by Leslie Hossack

The Main House, Bletchley Park 2014

© Leslie Hossack

Throughout World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill understood the value of collecting and using military intelligence. In 1938, the government had purchased Bletchley Park estate, located 50 miles from London, where they installed their most secret codebreaking teams. The task was to break Enigma, the German code which Hitler considered unbreakable.

Initially, the Bletchley operation was centered in the Main House shown above, but soon wooden huts were built to provide work space for the growing number of staff. Later on, large concrete blocks were constructed to house even more workers, numbering almost 9,000 by 1944.

By 1940, the first breaks into Enigma were achieved by the cryptographers at Bletchley Park, also known as Station X. Churchill followed their work very closely and personally received intelligence updates throughout each day. In 1941, “Ultra” was the term adopted by British military to designate intelligence from Bletchley Park; this information was even more important than “Most Secret” – it was “Ultra Secret.” According to Sir Harry Hinsley, official historian of British Intelligence during World War II, Ultra shortened the war by not less than two years.

On September 6th 1941, Churchill visited Bletchley Park. He spoke to staff outside of the Main House and visited Hut 6. He later referred to the Bletchley cryptographers as “the geese that laid the golden eggs but never cackled.” Throughout the war, when asking for the latest Ultra reports, he often said: “Where are my eggs?” And for decades after the war was over, individuals who had worked at Station X said not one word about its existence.

To learn more about events of 1941, please visit the BBC World War II Timeline. This BBC summary, prepared by Bruce Robinson, was last updated in 2011.

The image featured above is part of the limited edition collector’s portfolio created by Leslie Hossack to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill. She presents locations that chart Churchill’s personal and political life, from his birth at Blenheim Palace in 1874 until his death in London in 1965. THE CHURCHILL PHOTOGRAPHS are part of Hossack’s larger body of work that explores Nazi architecture in Berlin, Stalinist structures in Moscow, contested sites in Jerusalem, a Cold War bunker in Ottawa, NATO’s Headquarter Camp in Kosovo, and buildings linked to the Japanese Canadian internment during World War II.

To view more photographs, please visit Leslie’s website.

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