Coffee with the Code Breakers

Coffee Report

Coffee today was up at Bletchley Park, home of the codebreakers. Obviously more about that later in my post, but unfortunately the coffee was terrible, scorching hot, thus burnt and bitter. Probably one of the worst I’ve had. At least the museum more than made up for this dissapointment.


Getting to Bletchley Park

left the apartment and headed back to “Bank” station and found the Northern line to take me up to Euston station. was very quiet at this time, however given the proximity to London Bridge, there were quite a number of police about. One thing about the underground, it really is like a rabbit warren in some places, I think I probably walked at least 300m underground just to get to the right platform. You could consider it a charming legacy of 19th century engineering, or a security nightmare.

About 10 min before departure, the platform was announced on the board in the main hall and there was a sea of people moving towards the train. This one also stops at Watford Junction where the Harry Potter studio tour is, so its bound to be popular. Fantastic scenery on the way, lovely little villages and rolling green grasslands. Once at Bletchley its about a 2 minute walk up the road to the site. Small security check and you are in. 17 pounds for entry. Hadn’t had any breakfast as headed straight for the cafe and got my coffee. A cool summers day, 16c, lovely weather really, but more like a brisk winters day at home.


About Bletchley Park

Its hard to understate just how significant this site is globally, Its a little sad that the majority of people just don’t know about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes world heritage one day in the future. Its estimated this institution shortened WW2 by between 2-4 year with the work they did cracking message encryption used by the Axis powers. It was also one of the sparks that ignited the computer revolution. It probably sounds a little dramatic but civilisation owes this place a significant amount of gratitude, it virtually guaranteed allied victory in WW2. Many of us in IT owe our careers to the work started that was started in this location.

And most of the work there couldn’t have been done without Alan Turing. Unfortunately he was treated abysmally after the war due to his sexual orientation and only recently has received an apology from the government.

Here is an enigma machine, one of the machines the Germans used to encrypt their messages. In my opinion one of the real gems at the site is actually in the National Museum of Computing, just behind the main Bletchley site (it a seperate museum and costs extra to go in). They have a working Colossus machine that was used to break some of the encryption codes, considered the first computer.


Even though the site is focused on code breaking, there is so much more there. If you have a passing interest in WW2 history or 1940s Nostalgia its worth the trip out. The flip side of no one really knowing about the significance of Bletchley is that its not crowded.

I was really lucky that the weekend I was there happened to be “1940s vintage week” and there were people everywhere dressed up in 1940s clothes, driving 1940s cars, riding bikes, having picnics. It was quite surreal.

Once I’d finished at Bletchley Park, I went around the side and into the National Museum of Computing. If you are into 1970s/1980s computers, this is *the* museum for you. Most of the equipment is in working order and you can use it. Using the real thing is so much better than emulation. Emulating the old machines preserves the software legacy but the hardware is something completely different. Sinclair, Commodore, Apple, Atari, Acorn, Altair, PDP-11. They even have a cray super computer. Plenty of video games, I was really pleased to see a Sega Cray Taxi machine there.

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Looked around that museum for a few hours, then headed back to London. Had to wait an extra 30 minutes for a train as they cancelled one. Went from Euston to Tottenham Court road station on the Northern line, then walked down Oxford St looking for another place of major historical significance, Broad St, where in the 1850s John Snow linked the outbreak of Cholera to contaminated drinking water from one pump. A major scientific discovery that in part lead to modern medicine. You would think its logical that we shouldn’t drink water contaminated with sewage, but in the 19th century this wasn’t quite understood, even though the Romans knew to seperate the two,  over 2000 years earlier. Unfortunately the government have removed the replica pump that used to be there, so unless you specifically know about the areas significance there is nothing there to point it out. At some point in the past the street was also renamed “Broadwick Street”.

I had a drink at the John Snow pub and signed the book to petition the government to reinstate the replica pump.


After a quick drink at the John Snow, I decided to head down to “Herman Ze German” for some traditional German Curry Wurst. This took me through China Town. Rather fitting that I should finish the day on a German food dish after spending the day at the site dedicated to breaking the German codes from WW2. The Curry Wurst was delicious, but way too much food. I wouldn’t want to have this too often.

After this I decided I should probably walk back to the apartment to work off at least a small portion of the food. Sine I’m right next to the Walkie Talkie building, its an easy to spot landmark and just headed that way. Went down and walked along the Thames, crossed over to the south side at Blackfriars then back agin across the Millennium foot bridge. Was low tide of the Thames so was able to walk down to the rivers edge. Crossed back, past St Paul’s then down Cannon St towards the apartment. London Bridge is still closed and media everywhere.