In an abandoned building in the English countryside, a small group of explorers pick their way through decades of dust and debris. In amongst the desolation, they discover fascinating relics of a bygone age. And although the buttons and dials ceased to function long ago, this aging technology once helped to defeat a great evil.
On the outskirts of Milton Keynes, a town in Buckinghamshire, England, stands a mansion known as Bletchley Park. Completed in the late 19th century, it’s a sprawling property that blends elements of Tudor, Gothic and Baroque architecture.
In August 1938, Bletchley Park was host to a group of people traveling under the guise of a shooting party. In reality, however, they were members of the British Secret Intelligence Service and the Government Code and Cypher School. And they weren’t there to shoot – they were in the area to scout out its potential.
Indeed, war was looming, and the British government wanted a base for their code-crackers that was far from the capital of London. And since many of their personnel were expected to come from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the location of Bletchley Park – on the train line between those two cities – meant that it was a perfect fit.
On September 1, 1939, World War II began and the code-breakers arrived at Bletchley Park. Their job was to try to decipher the secret, encoded messages that formed Nazi communications. This information, then, could potentially be instrumental in the war effort.
Most famously, the team of academics and analysts at Bletchley Park were responsible for attempting to crack the Enigma cipher. A German invention, the Enigma machine mechanically encoded secret correspondence. Once encrypted, only someone also in possession of an Enigma machine could decode the messages.
The war dragged on and, as a result, more code-breakers came to Bletchley Park to help break the Enigma cipher. So, in order to accommodate them all, top brass decided to add brick blocks and wooden huts to the property.
Finally, in January 1940, the team succeeded in cracking the code. At last, they could decipher messages sent via Enigma. For the rest of the war, then, they used their skills to deliver vital intelligence to London and beyond. Eventually, moreover, their work would play a significant role in Hitler’s defeat.
After the war, the heroes of Bletchley Park remained unsung for almost 30 years. Then, in 1974, former British Royal Air Force officer F. W. Winterbotham released a book detailing the vital work that had been carried out at the facility.
Nevertheless, Bletchley Park’s newfound fame did little to help the buildings where the code-breaking had been carried out. Over the years, in fact, they were used variously by teacher training schools, Post Office employees and government agencies. But by the early 1990s, they were empty and facing demolition.
Thankfully, there were some who were not prepared to stand by while Bletchley Park’s heritage crumbled. Indeed, in February 1992 – after a long campaign by war veterans and historians – the local authorities subsequently designated the complex as a conservation area. The following year, moreover, the site opened as a tourist attraction.
However, the Bletchley Park estate is vast and, despite ongoing restoration efforts, many of its buildings remain abandoned. Eerily, some of the blocks that once housed the country’s finest minds look as if they have remained untouched since the war.
And it’s these slightly sinister buildings that have led to Bletchley Park developing a reputation with a very different sort of visitor. Due to its peeling paintwork and discarded machinery, it has become a popular destination for urban explorers. One such explorer is a user known as Mikeymutt, who is part of the Derelict Places online community.
On January 17, 2017, he uploaded an incredible set of photographs from his latest exploration of Bletchley Park’s still-abandoned D and G blocks. Both completed in 1943, they offer a fascinating insight into what daily life was like at the heart of wartime Britain’s most secret operation.
With two companions, his first port of call was the derelict Block G. Once used to monitor the distribution of false intelligence to German command, it was finally vacated in 1984 – and left to rot. So, as a result, the photographs reveal a building on its last legs, with graffiti daubed on the crumbling walls.
In Block G, all of the rooms are empty, with nothing to suggest the vital role that the building once played in shaping the history of the world. However, the photographs of Block D reveal something entirely different – and all the more amazing.
Although the famous Hut 6 is where the code-breakers initially cracked the Enigma cipher, Block D is where they continued to decipher and analyze throughout the later years of the war. So, while Hut 6 found new life as a shiny museum, Block D remains stuck in the past.
In addition to the usual decay that you see inside an abandoned building, fantastic relics from the past also fill the rooms, forgotten and gathering dust. In one photograph, an empty chair sits in front of a table of dials and contraptions, as if waiting for the operator to return.
In another, abandoned typewriters sit ready to spit out reams of code. Several of the rooms house stacks of boxes, wires and various strange gadgets. What’s more, there’s even a huge “bombe” machine in one corner, the very device that helped to crack the Enigma code and bring down Hitler. However, some commenters have suggested that it may be a reproduction.
Sadly, few of the relics are likely to date back to Bletchley Park’s most famous era, with much of the technology appearing to be too modern to be left over from World War II. They are, however, testament to the important work that has been carried out here over the years. And what’s more, they’re certainly a slice of history that once threatened to disappear for good.