History KS2: Codebreaking during World War Two

This short film explains how cracking Nazi Germany's coded messages helped win World War Two.

A veteran called Bernard talks about working for the RAF in their code-breaking division.

He heard about VE Day 24 hours before it was announced because he received the message as a cipher - he still has the paper with the message on.

The ‘Did You Know’ section explores the German encryption machine, the Enigma, and describes the fatal flaws that allowed mathematiciansto crack it.

Created in partnership with Imperial War Museums.

Teacher Notes

This short film could form part of the following maths lesson:

  • Pupils could complete some problem solving activities based on the Enigma code.

This would be part of the following section of the national curriculum in England:

  • Solve problems by applying their mathematics to a variety of routine and non-routine problems with increasing sophistication, including breaking down problems into a series of simpler steps and persevering in seeking solutions.

Additional fact for class:

  • Bletchley Park was the centre of British code-breaking during the war. Women were initially brought into Bletchley Park to provide administrative support. However, as the war advanced, women were increasingly recruited for their linguistics, physics and mathematical ability. Critically, women went from having their intellect dismissed, to ultimately playing a key role in code-breaking. Before the invention of electronic computers, “computer” was a job description, not a machine. Both men and women were employed as computers, but women were more prominent in the field.

Curriculum Notes

Suitable for teaching history at KS2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 2nd Level in Scotland.

This short film could also can be incorporated into different subjects as part of a cross-curricular lesson, especially when teaching maths at KS2 or 2nd Level.

More from World War Two:

Britain declares war on Germany
video
Rationing in the UK
video
Geography of World War Two
video
Geography of World War Two
video
How propaganda was used during World War Two
video
The Blitz
video
Machines of the military
video
D-Day
video
VE Day
video