Invited talk

Did Alan Turing see an Enigma machine at Bletchley Park?

Sir John Dermot Turing


In the Hollywood blockbuster movie about Alan Turing, The Imitation Game, Alan Turing is frequently seen with an Enigma machine - and it's widely assumed that the codebreakers of Bletchley Park had Enigma machines to hand. Actually, the truth is a bit more mysterious, and more complicated. Before July 1939 the British had only the haziest idea of how the German Wehrmacht-model Enigma machine worked, and it may seem miraculous that Alan Turing was able to design a machine method to break Enigma within a few months of the start of the war. How was this possible - and did Alan Turing actually see an Enigma machine?

Short biography

Dermot Turing graduated from King's College Cambridge and New College Oxford. He spent his career in the legal profession, most recently as a partner of Clifford Chance. Since 2014 he has moved into a more varied range of activities, including an active role as a trustee of Bletchley Park and a volunteer and trustee of the Turing Trust, a charity which sends second-hand computers for a new life in schools in Africa. Dermot Turing is the nephew of Alan Turing and author of a biography on Turing (Prof: Alan Turing Decoded, published in 2015 by The History Press) as well as The Story of Computing, published by Arcturus in 2018. His most recent book is X, Y and Z - the real story of how Enigma was broken (September 2018, The History Press) which explains how the vital groundwork done by Polish code-breakers and French intelligence enabled Alan Turing and the Bletchley Park organisation to achieve its wartime successes. Visit for more details.

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