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Enigma and the Intelligence War

Course details

From £1150.00

Sun 02 Aug 2020 - Sat 08 Aug 2020

Enigma and the Intelligence War


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

The Enigma cipher was the backbone of German military, air and naval intelligence communications during World War II.  Bletchley Park was home to the Allied codebreakers who worked in impenetrable secrecy on decryption of the cipher and, in the process, gave birth to the modern world of computing. Bletchley was acquired in 1938 by the Government Code & Cipher School. At its wartime peak some nine thousand men and women worked there.  This course, which includes a full-day site visit, will analyse the development of decryption measures, and consider both the impact of Bletchley’s work on the war in Europe and the Far East and the extent to which it may have shortened the war and ensured an Allied victory. 

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.

The programme begins with a review of the pre-war intelligence heritage of the ‘Station X’ operation, including the invaluable work of the Poles in the 1930s, and its establishment at the Bletchley Park country house complex. The commercial origins and functional structure of the Enigma substitution codes will be examined as will the period’s unique social and political circumstances.

Y Stations: these were the vital listening stations that gathered the signals intelligence material essential to Bletchley Park’s secret work.  The course will also consider the key personalities – not only Alan Turing – whose painstaking and insightful work led cryptographic success, the risks inherent in that very success, as well as the technical advances that emerged from it.  

Today the course evaluates the Enigma decrypts in relation to particular wartime theatres and campaigns, not least the vital Battle of the Atlantic on whose successful outcome not only the sustenance of the British nation depended, but also the Allies’ eventual capacity to take the war to the enemy and reconquer Europe.

Full day visit to Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, which has been a museum since 1993.  Participants will visit the original Mansion, the Bombe and Codebreaking Huts and the Museum which includes Enigma machines.  The adjacent National Museum of Computing will also be visited.

The concluding day considers the work of Station X as extended to overseas outstations and operational theatres. There will be an informed conjectural discussion of the progress and conduct of World War II had Ultra Intelligence not played such a crucial role.  Finally there will be a critical evaluation of recent cinematic depictions of the Station X operation.


Field Trip

Destination: Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing

Excursion Rating: Moderate
Up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.


Description Costs
Programme fee (no accom–incl. field trip, lunch and dinner) £1150.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom, field trip and meals) £1645.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom, field trip and meals) £1460.00


Mr John Harris


Former Merchant Navy and Naval Reserve Officer with a specialist interest in British naval history, John Harris leads cruises and battlefield tours on maritime themes. He teaches maritime history programmes for The Oxford Experience and is Steward Emeritus of his college, Christ Church. He was co-organiser of a 2002 Oxford conference to which many Bletchley veterans contributed archive material.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

The fee stated includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available*.

There is also a limited number of standard rooms available, which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but shared bath and toilet facilities. Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room)*.

*If you wish to book a twin en-suite room or a standard twin set room each person should complete an application form and email it to us at as these rooms cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems. Students should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


If accommodation is unavailable in a particular week, we also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

If you wish to enrol on a non-residential basis please complete an application form and email it to us at as this option cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)