New Exhibition Opening at Bletchley Park

Written by Ben Hardwidge

May 9, 2011 | 15:04

Companies: #bletchley-park

Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Capture of Enigma Codebooks from the U-Boat 110, 9 May 1941.

Bletchley Park Trust is proud to confirm the opening of a new exhibition on Monday 9 May 2011, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the capture of an Enigma machine and codebooks from the German U-boat 110 which took place on 9 May 1941 exactly 70 years ago.

The exhibition contains photographs of the capture – it is the first time all known photos have been exhibited together at the same time – and also the full story including many of the details which appeared in the best selling book on the capture of the Enigma code by historian Hugh Sebag-Montefiore. The exhibition contains the first hand account of the 20 year old 2nd Lieutenant who climbed into the U-boat to seize the documents (he is still alive today), and it also covers the story from the German side. Some of the U-boat survivors have told their story. A special 70th anniversary edition of Hugh’s book, which has been specially updated to coincide with the exhibition, will be available at Bletchley Park.

As well as being a dramatic event in its own right, the capture of the U-110 is also noteworthy because it was so significant to breaking the naval Enigma code. Many people still do not realize that Alan Turing and his Bletchley Park codebreakers were not at first able to break the naval Enigma code used by Germany’s U-boats. At the beginning of 1941 they were crying out for the codebooks to be captured. They knew that once they had them in their hands the code could be broken. On 7 May 1941 some codebooks were seized from a captured weather forecasting ship. But there were significant documents still missing. When they were finally captured from the U-110. King George VI famously said it was the most important event in the war at sea.

While disputing King George VI’s claim, the exhibition reveals exactly what was captured – which included the Offizier Enigma codebooks used for particularly important messages – and also describes how these were used to conquer the Germans. For example the great British victory at the battle of North Cape in December 1943 when the Royal Navy sunk the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst was fought under the cover of the Offizier Enigma codebooks recovered from U-110.
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