Normandy Trip- Bletchley Park.

As I posted earlier to break up the drive down from Yorkshire to the New Forest we called in at Bletchley Park.

It is a nicely presented modern museum, telling the story of the site as you move round the complex. To make the most of the visit we used the free audio guide and followed the suggested route.

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The modest scale of the code-breaking work at Bletchley was such that at the start of the war the country house and its various outbuildings were all that was required. Very quickly this was insufficient and the sprawl of huts was built up.

As I’m pretty sure that you are all aware of the stories of Bletchley Park I won’t go into too much detail of what happened there. The thing that really surprised me however was the absolutely massive scale of the operation that was there. Round the clock large scale breaking of German and other Axis codes. It required thousands of mostly women working very hard with no recognition for decades afterwards to produce a quality of signal intelligence that shortened the war by several years.

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The audio-guide led me to this memorial to the work that the Poles did before the war that enabled so much to be done during the conflict years. In general I feel that the Polish contribution and sacrifices to WW2 has been undervalued for many years and it was nice to see this tribute to that nation.

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The majority of the museum is made up of the huts with little displays set up in them  to given an idea of the spartan conditions people worked in there.

The audio-guide leads you through the huts and you can listen to the development of the site and the functions of each hut. It is a good use of the buildings and in someways reminiscent of Eden Camp. However they do get a little same-y with the 1940s style set dressing, but that is a small price to pay for the preservation of the site. The majority of the artifacts are held in a separate building. The centrepiece of this is a magnificent rebuilt bombe that was used to decode the engima intercepts.

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This wonderful machine (not a computer) is demonstrated by the staff there- the gent who did our presentation did a great job and was very knowledgeable, especially passing this on to the younger people there.

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These two example in different conditions were what it was all about: The Enigma Machine. Used by The Germans in their thousands, the encrypted messages were transmitted in Morse and picked up by listening stations, transcribed and then sent to Bletchley. So fast was the process , that by the end of the war, Allied commanders were getting decrypt translations at about the same time as the intended Nazi recipient had got it.

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The bombe didn’t produce a definitive answer: machines such as this were needed, as well as plenty of brain power to test possibilities that the machine threw up.

Sadly our visit was cut short by the closing of the museum. Fortunately the entry tickets are valid for a year so I plan to go back down there to have a decent  look at what I missed sooner, rather than later. I also might visit the National Musuem of Computing that shares a site with Bletchley Park.

Next- on to France….

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

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Normandy trip- The Mulberry harbour.

As request by Chris here are the photos of the remains of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches; Dad and I visited on the Tuesday of our holiday.

When we arrived the tide was fairly high up the beach but the remains of both the breakwater and the pontoons were still visible.

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We took a quick look on the beach to get a bit closer.

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We then took a wander around the other outside exhibits before going into the museum whilst the tide receded.

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A 5.5 inch gun- there are quite a lot of these preserved around Normandy.

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A section of the roadway that linked the pontoons with a little bulldozer on top.

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There is a gun emplacement up the hill from the port with a Sherman on top of it which gives a nice view of the bay so we took a walk up there.

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We then went into the nice little museum at Arromanches.

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Inside was the usual combination of models and artifacts; the former were difficult to photograph as they were under glass.

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By the time we had gone round the museum and watched the short video presentation in there the tide had gone out further revealing more of the Mulberry harbour.

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The heart wasn’t my work btw.

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Next Dad and I popped a couple of miles up the coast to see the gun battery at Longues Sur Mer but I’ll save that for another post.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

An Update… and Normandy holiday pics…

… I figured it was about time for one.

 

The big news is that I’ve finally finished my MA in Military History and done well enough for a distinction, next step is to try and find the funding for a PHD as I’m wanting to expand my MA thesis.

 

I’ve also had a holiday to Normandy, was a nice road trip with my Dad. The extended family was down in the New Forest area for my Uncle’s wedding so it was an easy trip across the Channel to visit Normandy. All in it was only a week long trip but I managed to make the most of it.

Friday- Down to New Forest  but called in at Bletchley Park.

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A replica working Bombe.

I’d not been before – I was really impressed with it, I don’t think we saw all of it as it we only had a few hours but I’ll certainly be back. The scale of the operation was staggering in terms of the number of radio messages being intercepted and decoded.

Saturday- Uncle’s wedding.

Sunday- drove to Portsmouth for the ferry over to Ouistreham and then on to the holiday cottage.

Monday- Sword beach, The No. 4 Commando and Le Grand Bunker museum.

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Sword Beach looking west along the coast.

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The Museum entrance with a couple of artillery pieces outside.

Tueday- Arromanches and the Mulberry Harbour, the DDay Museum there and the Longues Sur Mer battery.

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The remains of one of the Mulberrys.

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A casemate and gun at Longues- Sur- Mer.

Wednesday- Point Du Hoc and Omaha beach.

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An open gun pit at Pointe Du Hoc.

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Omaha beach looking East.

Thursday- Peagasus Bridge, Gondree Cafe, Airbourne Museum and Merville Battery before getting the overnight ferry back to Portsmouth.

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The new bridge and memorials.

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The original bridge in the grounds of the museum.

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A casemate at Merville.

Friday- Arrived in Portsmouth, saw the new RN aircraft carrier and lots of Type 45 destroyers as we docked then drove and hour west to see Bovington Tank Museum.

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The biggest ever ship for the Royal Navy.

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Just one of the halls at Bovington Tank Museum.

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Some of the heavy making up the Tiger exhibit at Bovington.

As you can see it was a pretty packed holiday. It was the first time I’d visited any WW2 battlefield; it was something I took a lot from and will be something I’ll be repeating next year (probably around my birthday time). The deeper appreciation of the events and sacrifices you get from touring places yourself cannot be overstated. Omaha beach was particularly poignant as it was so quiet being midweek and the end of the season. That said the sites that had an American connection were busier than those which did not. As a whole the museums were great (Bovington especially so as well as the new one at Pegasus Bridge) I took hundreds of photos so if people are particularly keen I’ll do a blog entry on each site…?

On to the gaming side of things:

Pennine Megagames is going from strength to strength at the moment. Next years calendar has been decided upon with just a few dates to confirm. Starting with Cockroaches, Copper and Cows (the Mexican Revolution) we then go to The Shot heard around the Universe (rebellious planets in space). June sees a trip to the Eastern Front with Fall Blau ’42, an operational game being developed by myself and Matt. This will be followed by Megamunda– as the name suggests a SF game blending Necromunda and Judge Dredd. Everybody Dies III: Playing with Fire adds more dragons to the well known Game of Throne setting. Finally, double dealing and espionage in 60s/70s South America in Juntas sees out the year. I’m really enjoying getting my teeth stuck into all the operational accounts of 1942 to develop the game engine for the Fall Blau game.

In parallel to this I am working up a Post Norman Invasion of 1066 game that I’ll submit for consideration next year. Set in 1069 it sees the Normans try to cement their control of the North against the last Saxon attempts to retake the crown. The combat system got an early run out at the recent Fiasco show in Leeds. It will be making an appearance next at Recon in Pudsey in early December if anyone wants to catch it.

I’m rather pleased with how my first attempt at making a map has come out.

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I used the paper figures from the Helion book series. I’m really pleased with how well the turned out (I’ll put them in another blog entry) I manged to get two decent sized armies done in a week.

The next expansion to the rather good The Great War board game is up on Kickstarter at the moment:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1992455033/richard-borgs-the-great-war-french-army-expansion?ref=user_menu

I’ve backed this, it looks like it will be bringing in some interesting new rules, the French expansion is set around Verdun which got my interest straight away.

I’m awaiting the new Next War: Poland game to come out, I’ve played the Korea and Indo- Pakistan versions and enjoyed them so this is a must buy. They are not the easiest rules to play but they scratch my modern chit and hex itch.

Oddly for me I’ve been all misty- eyed and nostalgic for my youth now that Games Workshop have reworked Necromunda. I’m seriously considering picking it up, however cost and storage will be an issue.

On to figures I’m still plugging away with my 20mm WW2 and modern figures. I’m currently working up a linked series of scenarios to tie smaller 20mm skirmishes to a big 6mm battle. My Cold War 6mm collection is still a work in progress, some 2nd hand acquisitions have led to an Arab Israeli in 1973 side project. That and I keep eyeing up the new Baccus WW2 miniatures.

Naval and Air war is still going along. Though more movement will be made on those projects when I go to a show next and pick up some more bits from Tumbling Dice. Getting some 6mm figures to tie into my Russo- Japanese warships is another possibility I’m considering at the moment.

All in all plenty to keep me occupied- thanks for reading.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

Update. With holiday pics.

Been a while since I’ve posted… real life has been a bit hectic, stuff going on that took up my attention. That and I’ve been on my travels.

I spent a great week in Athens, nice food and company, saw a few of the sites.

The Archaeological Museum is facinating- well worth a day’s trip. The Antikythera mechanism is simply mind-blowing (but sadly being behind glass didn’t photograph well). The Cycladic art was another personal favourite. As my photography skills are pretty limited I’ve only added a few pics or the more military related things.

A monument taken from a grave yard:

A headstone for the ages.

A headstone for the ages.

Recovered items from the Thermopalye battlefield:

Go tell the Spartans stranger passing by that here, obedient to their laws we lie.

Go tell the Spartans stranger passing by that here, obedient to their laws we lie.

And finally Hadrian’s triumphant arch:

With your humble blogger for scale.

With your humble blogger for scale.

The Acropolis is a magnificent place, and the new support Museum most impressive too:

2500 years old and still standing despite many peoples best efforts.

2500 years old and still standing despite many peoples best efforts.

Sadly the enjoyment of the trip was tempered by the death of my cat whilst I was away. She had had a good long life, but had started to suffer in her final few months. I had looked after her for the last 5 years, before that she spent 15 living with my parents.

Pudding. 1994-2013.

Pudding. 1994-2013.

Gaming wise I’ve not been up to much. Been too cold for the shed (when the water for brush cleaning purposes freezes I tend to leave it). So instead I’ve been generating stats for the 2 Hour Wargames family of rules; this will allow us all to play more modern games using our toy collections.

Some of the reference material I've been using.

Some of the reference material I’ve been using.

I’ll see how long it takes them, and with Ed’s permission I’ll see about uploading them here. Either way we should have fun playtesting the stats to make sure the balance is right.

Cheers,

Pete.