Just three months after the move of the reconstruction of the Turing-Welchman Bombe to its new home at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) in Bletchley Park, the machine successfully found the key to break an Enigma-encrypted message again in a live link-up with Poland.
In a remarkable few months, a crowd-funder had financed the Bombe’s move, a new gallery in TNMOC had been prepared to house it, and veteran Bombe operators had visited to see the remarkable tribute to Second World War codebreakers in action again.
The Turing-Welchman Bombe automated the deciphering of Enigma-encrypted messages during the Second World War. Based on the work of Polish mathematicians who first broke Enigma before the war began, Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman had created the Bombe to automate the decryption process to reveal enemy Enigma messages. More than 200 Bombes were in operation during the war, routinely breaking Enigma-encrypted messages to reveal invaluable intelligence about enemy operations.
As a tribute to the codebreakers, a team led by John Harper reconstructed the machine in 2007 and in April 2018 the Bombe was moved to The National Museum of Computing, close to the reconstruction of the Colossus computer that accelerated the breaking of Lorenz-encrypted messages of German High Command. Together these machines are credited with shortening the war by two years, saving countless lives.
On 21 September 2018, in recognition of the Polish mathematicians who first revealed the secrets of Enigma, the Bombe team at TNMOC successfully found the key to an Enigma-encrypted message in a live challenge and video link-up with the IFIP World Computer Congress in Poznan, Poland. The delegates in Poland heard from Sir Dermot Turing, Dr Marek Grajek and Dr Roger Johnson about the Bombe’s origins and technology while the expert Bombe team at TNMOC broke the message live and gave the traditional call of ‘Job Up!’ as the message was decrypted.
Encrypted message: IEEV LDQE WVUQ SHPG PZWL
Decrypted message: MYXD OGXH ASXN OXNO SEYY (My dog has no nose)
Ruth Bourne, a 92-year-old former Bombe operator (who still makes regular cameo appearances demonstrating the Bombe at TNMOC to the public), was present at the challenge to verify the procedures and to recall those stressful but highly rewarding wartime codebreaking days.
Andrew Herbert, chair of TNMOC said: ‘In Block H, the home of The National Museum of Computing, on Bletchley Park, the public can now see working reconstructions of two of the most important machines of the Second World War. In their hey-day, these machines changed the world and today their significance is undiminished. Visiting student groups and the general public can watch in awe and be inspired by these historic working machines that paved the way to our digital world.’
The working reconstructions of both the Bombe and Colossus machines can be seen daily at The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park. See www.tnmoc.org for details.
This article is a corrected update to a piece published in the autumn 2018 issue of ITNOW. The previous article reported inaccurately the Bombe’s new home. We would like to apologise for any resulting confusion.