Sheffield pupils are code breakers in an Enigma masterclass

Enigma War Machine, on show to pupils at King Edwards School
Enigma War Machine, on show to pupils at King Edwards School

Code-cracking youngsters gave spooks a run for their money as they unravelled riddles of the past.

World War Two ‘Enigma’ machines might have tormented British intelligence for years, but Enigma was no match for pupils at King Edward VII School in Broomhill.

The aspiring spies got to grips with the historic piece of equipment - used by the German military to keep their communications secret - during a day-long masterclass with University of Cambridge boffin Dr James Grime.

Mathematician Dr Grime brought a genuine Enigma device to the school to celebrate the launch of its computing GCSE.

The curriculum already offers a qualification in IT, but the new subject will teach children more about programming and software to arm them with the right skills for the digital age.

Teacher Samira Hussain, curriculum leader for computing, was keen to draw paralells between what makes computers of today work and the machines which kept cryptanalyst Alan Turing and his team of British code breakers at Bletchley Park busy.

She said: “It was the official launch of our GCSE, which we start teaching in September, and I wanted to show its historical context and how it links with the computing of today.

“I contacted Cambridge and they agreed to bring the machine along. It is the only one which still tours in the UK.

“The cracking of these machines helped to shorten the war – it was a massively important operation.

“It brought maths and history to life. The children learned about the implications it had and how the logic and methods used still apply to computing.”

Around 120 pupils from Year 8 to Year 13 took part in a lesson on the Enigma machines before having a go at inventing and cracking codes themselves.

Ms Hussain said: “They found it a bit of a challenge but also fun.

“Every so often the Government Communications Headquarters releases a code online and so many now are trying to have a go at cracking it.”

After the pupils enjoyed their lesson from Dr Grime, the school opened its doors for an evening event allowing members of the public to view the Enigma device.

More than 100 members of the community, including a number of Bletchley Park veterans now living in South Yorkshire, turned out and some travelled from Mansfield to see it. The school even received a letter from the town of Sheffield in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA, about the day.

Mrs Hussain said: “It was an excellent evening and generated a lot of interest.

“Some people contacted us who had worked at Bletchley Park and now live in Sheffield, or had lived here in the past. There was a couple who came and told us how they met there and what life was like. It was fascinating.

“It has been a fantastic experience for the school - both in teaching the pupils and building links between different generations.”