Wednesday, June 5, 2013

History Wednesday: The Bletchely Circle

Period fashion! Knitwear! I love the bow.
 I thought I would continue my pattern of history-related posts on Wednesday. For typewriter fans, this might be relevent to your interests. Or, if you're just a geek like me.

Several weeks ago, someone on Facebook posted a quick summary of a new British show called The Bletchely Circle. While the initial description I was given turned out to be way off base, the show itself was excellent. Of course, I'm a sucker for just about anything from the UK, and when you add in the 1940s-1950s costumes I was all over it.

The Bletchely Circle is about a group of female codebreakers who worked together during WWII. Now, nine years after the war, they struggle to lead normal lives after the secrecy and excitement of their time in the military. On the surface, they've moved on--some taking new, quiet jobs, others as housewives and mothers. Susan, however (seated in the picture above, and pictured right) is having a little trouble letting go of old habits.
I couldn't get a good
clipof this outfit, but
it's one of my
favorite costumes in
 the entire show.

When a series of murders happens in London, she begins collecting information through wireless reports and newspapers, slowly piecing together the pattern that the killer is following. As the killer begins stepping up his game, she calls in some old friends to help her piece together the "code" of his behavior.

One thing that I find fascinating about this show is that it was inspired by the actual Bletchely Park (which, by the way, is now on the list of places I want to see the next time I make it across the pond). Considering it was part of the Official Secrets Act, and I didn't grow up studying a lot of British history (I've mentioned before how poorly my school district covered international events), this was the first time I'd ever heard of it.

For those undereducated like myself, Bletchely was a top-secret facility for training codebreakers and studying intercepted transmissions during WWII. It was staffed primarily by women, and was considered to be the deepest of secrets. 

Lucy is one of my favorite characters. She is the
Spencer Reid of their little criminal
investigation, for those familiar with
Criminal Minds.
This show has a great mystery, filled with dozens of twists and turns. On top  of that, there are awesome costumes, knitwear, and some wonderful interactions between the various characters. If you haven't seen it yet, go look it up now. ITV has already announced a second series of four episodes (the first was only three, so it's a really quick watch) to come out later this year. I think the first series is already up on the PBS website for viewing.

For more information in Bletchely Park and what the girls were up to during WWII, here's a short documentary (only about 25 minutes). It's really interesting. Also, now I sort of want an Enigma machine.


  1. I loved the Bletchley Circle, and have been an armchair fan of the history of their work to decrypt the German Enigma machine ciphers. The battles for North Africa and the North Atlantic both hinged on timely Enigma decrypts (or not, as in the case of the 6-months intelligence blackout in the north Atlantic, after the German Navy changed rotors on their U-boat Enigma machines).

    Like you, I'd like to own an Enigma, but they're considered priceless. I wonder if someone will do a 3-D printed reproduction someday?

  2. Many thanks for the link to the documentary. :)

  3. Some days, a plain ol' typewriter is an enigma machine judging by what comes out of mine:-) They made a film about Alan Turing (Dougray Scott) a few years ago, "Enigma", which my partner's mum was an extra in! Even non-knitter I noted the period knitwear featuring in The Bletchley Circle.

    1. <- more reading material about the enigma ;-)

  4. Welcome to the Enigma fanclub! They are marvelous machines! Hard to get though, but if you keep your eyes open you might actually find one somewhere. I once met the people of Cryptomuseum and got to touch one of these machines during a lecture. It was the best thing ever happening!

    If you like these, Bletchey Park and books, you must read Cryptonomicon one day.

  5. Where do I find this show? I am also a sucker for anything that comes out of the UK because it is such awesome quality TV. This show sounds extremely exciting and I will have to find it. Thank you for the review.

    online phd uk | guidelines on social science research by Dora

    1. Here are two options for watching online: and It is also available on DVD (these are all US links; I'm not sure where you are or what the availability is in other countries.