Top Secret – a Science Museum Exhibition
There’s an interesting exhibition on at the Science Museum, London at the moment entitled ‘Top Secret – From Ciphers to Cyber Security’ which explores over a century’s worth of communications intelligence. It’s on from 10th July 2019 to 23rd February 2020, and you can see the details on the Science Museum website, here. It’s free although you have to book tickets in advance.
The exhibition started with a timeline of methods used throughout the ages to pass secret messages such as the Scytale Transposition Cypher which was used by the Spartan army. Then, moving to the twentieth century, there were exhibits from the trenches of World War One. The part I was interested in came next – the work carried out during World War Two at Bletchley Park which I’m currently researching for a new book.
I’ve already visited Bletchley Park (click here if you want to read about it) and it was a fascinating day out. Definitely well worth a visit.
The next part featured exhibits from the 1950s during the Cold War, when Peter and Helen Kroger, the unassuming Ruislip couple at the heart of a 1950s Russian spy ring, were operating. The couple, whose real names were Morris and Lona Cohen, were arrested in 1961 along with other Russian agents. On display were toiletries with secret compartments where messages and other items could be concealed.
The final part of the exhibition featured the work of GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) which is currently celebrating its centenary. There was information about the top secret work which is carried out defending the country against terror attacks and serious crime as well as dealing with threats to digital security in the 21st century.
For me, the best part was the Bletchley Park section with its German Enigma Machine and Lorenz Machine. I’ve just finished reading ‘The Secret Life of Bletchley Park’ by Sinclair McKay and the ingenuity and dedication of the people who lived and worked there, was staggering.
But I’m also amazed that over 10,000 people worked at the Park during the height of the code-breaking activities yet it remained a secret for many years. It wasn’t until the 1970s that wartime information was declassified and the people who’d worked at Bletchley Park were able to tell their stories and in fact, some people went to their graves without divulging their part in the codebreaking which took place there.