A RARE opportunity to get up close to a Second World War Enigma machine will be on offer at a County Durham theatre.

Dr Mark Baldwin has dedicated the last 25 years of his life to telling the fascinating story of the Bletchley Park codebreakers whose ingenuity played a crucial part in the Allies’ victory.

His illustrated talks have compelled people all over the world and, at 7.30pm on Friday, he will share his insights on Enigma, the allied codebreakers and German U-boats with audiences at the Gala Theatre, in Durham.

Dr Baldwin will bring with him one of the very few surviving Enigma machines, which the Germans used to encipher their secret messages. Members of the audience will enjoy a hands-on demonstration and will be able to examine the machine up close at the end of the talk.

“The importance of the Enigma machine and the work that went on at Bletchley Park cannot be underestimated,” said Dr Baldwin.

“The German forces thought their messages were completely secure, but our brilliant codebreakers were able to break the code and decipher not just a few, not hundreds but millions of secret messages. This was instrumental in bringing an early conclusion to the war. I would like to think the allies would still have won regardless but it would have taken another two years at least.”

Dr Baldwin’s own fascination with the Enigma codebreakers dates back to the early 1990s when he was running a second-hand bookshop in his hometown, Cleobury Mortimer, in Shropshire.

He said: “I was going through some books which I was going to include in one of our sales catalogues, and one of them was called Very Special Intelligence. It wasn’t clear what the book was about from the title, so I started reading it to find out. I soon discovered it was about what went on at Bletchley Park and I was hooked.

“At the time, the story was not as well known as it is today – there have been quite a few books, films and television programmes on it since then.

“I spoke to some of my customers about it and they didn’t know about it either, so I decided I had to do something about this. Since then, I have travelled the world telling the story of the amazing men and women of Bletchley Park. It has changed my life.”

Robin Byers, Gala Theatre manager, said: “The skills of those who worked at Bletchley Park helped achieve the freedoms we enjoy today. We are delighted to welcome Dr Baldwin to Durham to offer his fascinating insights into this remarkable story.”

Tickets are £15, £13 for concessions and £12 for Gala members. Contact 03000 266 600 or visit www.galadurham.co.uk.