The Mission: “A spy has infiltrated Bletchley Park and is sending messages to their handler via a secret wireless access point somewhere in the grounds. Break wartime Germany’s top-level cipher, Lorenz, read location information, decode, plot and read grid references and bearings, find the access point and identify the spy!”

Saturday, August 10th, saw Operation Squirrel take place in our new home, Bletchley Park. This family fundraising event was run in conjunction with the Bletchley Park Learning Team. Operation Squirrel was a completely new activity designed and led by the Learning Team for Potential Plus UK. Pitched perfectly at children and parents alike, this was a “cracker” of an event!

The Radio and Clock teams of families worked to crack the Lorenz code using much the same methods as the codebreakers at Bletchley Park did almost 80 years ago. At that time the codebreakers broke the high level encryption with no knowledge of its creator and without even seeing a real Lorenz teleprinter cipher machine until nearly the end of the war, two and a half years after they began decoding its messages!  You can find out more about the Lorenz machine at:

Families worked together in groups, learning how to solve the ‘ghost’ code, apply it to an unknown message, then to try to decipher the coded messages quicker. The exercise gave a flavour of just how much number crunching as well as trial and error was involved. After some time to explore the surroundings and exhibits, families then used the method to decipher messages containing grid references and bearings. When plotted on a map, these led to an Electronic Dead Letter Box (EDLB) within the grounds of Bletchley Park. Once there, families used their own devices to log in, employing the deciphered password, and retrieved the message Agent Red Squirrel was trying to communicate.

Once again the Learning Team at Bletchley Park created a brilliant day out for our families, despite the stormy weather. Everyone was “blown away” by their experience!

Potential Plus UK is a focus group for the Skills Builder Partnership, a step-by-step framework, to help children and young people develop essential “soft skills” abilities in eight key areas:  Listening, Presenting, Problem Solving, Creativity, Staying Positive, Aiming High, Leadership and Teamwork.

Families (parents and children alike) were asked to catch other members of their team in the act of demonstrating Skills Builder skills and were awarded stickers for their Identity Cards. Operation Squirrel offered ample opportunity to demonstrate all eight skills – in particular, everyone showed high levels of teamwork, problem solving and positive thinking.

Skills Builder eight key skills Logos horizontal