|Bletchley Park, England|
|Established||1938 as a codebreaking centre, and in 1993 as a museum|
|Location||Bletchley, Milton Keynes, England, United Kingdom|
Bletchley Park is an estate located in the town of Bletchley, in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England, and is run by the Bletchley Park Trust as a heritage attraction. The site currently houses the Bletchley Park Museum, the National Museum of Computing and tenanted office space and a number of other attractions.
During the Second World War, Bletchley Park was the site of the United Kingdom's main decryption establishment, the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), where ciphers and codes of several Axis countries were decrypted, most importantly the ciphers generated by the German Enigma and Lorenz machines. The place was known as "B.P." to the people who worked there. For the many members of the Women's Royal Naval Service (Wrens) who worked at Bletchley Park, their posting was to HMS Pembroke V.
Bletchley Park also housed a secret radio intercept station, and also a message sending station, although interception was soon moved to a location with better reception, and most of the "Bombes" were relocated elsewhere. "Station X", "London Signals Intelligence Centre" and "Government Communications Headquarters" were all cover names that were used during the war, and the latter (GCHQ) was adopted for the successor peacetime organisation that still bears this name.
The high-level intelligence produced at Bletchley Park, codenamed Ultra, provided crucial assistance to the Allied war effort. Sir Harry Hinsley, a Bletchley veteran and the official historian of British Intelligence during the Second World War, said that Ultra shortened the war by two to four years and that the outcome of the war would have been uncertain without it.
The site is now controlled by the Bletchley Park Trust. One of its tenants is a company called the Bletchley Park Science and Innovation Centre (BPSIC), which provides rental income for the Trust by providing office space and services to innovative, early stage companies. The BPSIC refurbished some of the historic structures and occupies part of the former code-breaker buildings. The National Museum of Computing, an independent voluntary organisation, rents space from the Trust to house its collection of historic computers. The museum is run by the Codes and Ciphers Heritage Trust (an independent registered charity) and is open to the public. It receives no Government or regional funding.
The lands of the Bletchley Park estate were formerly part of the Manor of Eaton, included in the Domesday Book in 1086. Browne Willis built a mansion in 1711, but this was pulled down by Thomas Harrison, who had acquired the property in 1793. The estate was first known as Bletchley Park during the ownership of Samuel Lipscomb Seckham, who purchased it in 1877. The estate was sold on 4 June 1883 to Sir Herbert Samuel Leon (1850–1926), a financier and Liberal MP. Leon expanded the existing farmhouse into the present mansion.
The architectural style is a mixture of Victorian Gothic, Tudor and Dutch Baroque and was the subject of much bemused comment from those who worked there, or visited, during World War II. Leon's estate covered 581 acres (235 ha), of which Bletchley Park occupied about 55 acres (22 ha). Leon's wife, Fanny, died in 1937.
In 1938 the site was sold to a builder, who planned to demolish the mansion and build an estate. Before the demolition could take place, Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair (Director of Naval Intelligence and head of MI6) bought the site. To cover their real purpose, the first government visitors to Bletchley Park described themselves as "Captain Ridley's shooting party".
The estate was conveniently located within easy walking distance of Bletchley railway station, where the "Varsity Line" between the cities of Oxford and Cambridge – whose universities supplied many of the code-breakers – met the (then-LMS) main West Coast railway line between London and Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow. Starting in 1938, Post Office Telephones laid dedicated cables, for numerous telephone and telegraph circuits, from the nearby repeater station at Fenny Stratford (on Watling Street, the main road linking London to the north-west, later to be designated the A5).
The first wave of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) moved to Bletchley Park on 15 August 1939. The main body of GC&CS, including its Naval, Military and Air Sections, was on the ground floor of the mansion, together with a telephone exchange, a teleprinter room, a kitchen and a dining room. The top floor was allocated to MI6. The prefabricated wooden huts were still being erected, and initially the entire "shooting party" was crowded into the mansion, its stables and cottages. These were too small, so Elmers School, a neighbouring boys' boarding school, was acquired for the Commercial and Diplomatic Sections.
Both of the two German electro-mechanical rotor machines whose signals were decrypted at Bletchley Park, Enigma and the Lorenz Cipher, were virtually unbreakable if properly used. It was poor operational procedures and sloppy operator behaviour that allowed the GC&CS cryptanalysts to find ways to read them.
The intelligence produced from decrypts at Bletchley was code-named "Ultra". It contributed greatly to Allied success in defeating the U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic, and to the British naval victories in the Battle of Cape Matapan and the Battle of North Cape. In 1941, Ultra exerted a powerful effect on the North African desert campaign, against the German army, under General Erwin Rommel. General Sir Claude Auchinleck stated that, but for Ultra - "Rommel would have certainly got through to Cairo". Prior to the Normandy landings on D-Day in June 1944, the Allies knew the locations of all but two of the 58 German divisions on the Western front. Churchill referred to the Bletchley staff as "The geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled".
When the United States joined the war, Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to pool resources. A number of American cryptographers were posted to Bletchley Park and were inducted and then integrated into the Ultra structure, being stationed in Hut 3. From May 1943 onwards there was very close cooperation between the British and American military intelligence organisations. Conversely, the existence of Bletchley Park, and of the decrypting achievements there, was never officially shared with the Soviet Union, whose war effort would have greatly benefited from regular decrypting of German messages relating to the Eastern Front. This reflected Churchill's concern with security, and his distrust of and hostility to communism, even during the alliance imposed on him by the Nazi threat.
The only direct enemy action that the site experienced was when 3 bombs, thought to have been intended for Bletchley railway station, were dropped on 20–21 November 1940. One exploded next to the despatch riders' entrance, shifting the rear end of Hut 4 (the Naval Intelligence hut) two feet on its base. As the huts stood on brick pillars, workmen just winched it back into position while work continued inside.
Commander Alastair Denniston was operational head of GC&CS from its formation from the Admiralty's Room 40 (NID25) and the War Office's MI1b in 1919, until 1942. On the day that Britain declared war on Germany, he wrote to the Foreign Office about recruiting "men of the professor type". Personal networking was used for the initial recruitment particularly from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Aberdeen. Reliable and trustworthy women to perform administrative and clerical tasks were similarly recruited by personal contacts. This has been characterised as recruiting "Boffins and Debs". or "Dilly’s Fillies" (for Dilly Knox), and the indexing section where many of the women worked was called "The Deb’s Delight". Churchill is supposed to have said to Denniston after a visit: "About that recruitment – I know I told you not to leave a stone unturned, but I did not mean you to take me seriously."
Cryptanalysts were selected for various intellectual achievements, whether they were linguists, chess champions, crossword experts, polyglots or great mathematicians. GC&CS was ironically referred to as "the Golf, Cheese and Chess Society". In one instance, the ability to solve a Daily Telegraph crossword in under 12 minutes was used as a test. The newspaper was asked to organize a competition, after which each of the successful participants was contacted and asked whether they would be prepared to undertake "a particular type of work as a contribution to the war effort". The competition itself was won by F H W Hawes of Dagenham in Essex who finished in less than eight minutes.
New entrants were given a basic grounding in codebreaking at the Inter-Service Special Intelligence School set up by John Tiltman. Initially at a RAF depot in Buckingham, it moved to an ex-Gas Company showroom in Ardour House, 1 Albany Road, Bedford, which was known locally as “the Spy School”. 
Working in three shifts or "watches" over 24 hours was inaugurated by the Air Section in Hut 10 under Josh Cooper, and soon became universal. The shifts were 4 p.m. to midnight, midnight to 8 a.m. (the most disliked shift), and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Staff had a six-day week, and rotated through the three shifts. Thirty minutes was allowed for the meal in the middle of the shift. After three weeks they went off at 8 a.m. and came back at 4 p.m. so did sixteen hours on the last day. The irregular working hours affected worker’s health and social life, and the private homes nearby where most staff were billeted. The work was tedious and required concentration, so some "girls" collapsed and required extended rest; staff got 1 weeks leave four times a year.
Some 9,000 people from the armed services and civilians were working at Bletchley Park at the height of the codebreaking efforts in January 1945, and over 12,000 (of whom more than 80% were women) worked there at some point during the war. A relatively small number of men were also employed on a part-time basis, typically for one shift each week (e.g. Post Office employees who were experts in Morse code or the German language). Among the famous mathematicians and cryptanalysts working there, the most influential and the best-known in later years was Alan Turing who is widely credited with being "The Father of Computer Science".
Sustained breaking of an enemy's ciphers can be a very fragile business. The Germans progressively increased the security of Enigma networks, which required additional cryptographic developments by GC&CS. A major setback was caused by the German Navy introducing the four-rotor Enigma used for communicating with U-boats. This change temporarily stopped the ability to read this network from February to December 1942.
Even a small improvement in operating policies or procedures could have set back the deciphering process by months, or even permanently. Knowing that the slightest suspicion by the Axis powers that their ciphers were being broken could lead to such a change, the authorities at Bletchley Park were extremely concerned about security. All staff had to sign the Official Secrets Act (1939), and were instructed that they should never discuss their work outside their immediate section. A May 1942 personal security form stated:
- Do not talk at meals ...
- Do not talk in the transport ...
- Do not talk travelling ...
- Do not talk in the billet ...
- Do not talk by your own fireside ...
- Be careful even in your Hut ...
The strict adherence to these constraints, and to the requirement never to ask about anyone else's work, was well accepted in a country where there were many wartime posters stating Careless Talk Costs Lives. Not until F. W. Winterbotham's book The Ultra Secret was published in 1974 did ex-Bletchley Park staff feel free to reveal something of their wartime work. Deaths before that time meant that many parents, spouses and children were never told more than that it was secret work for the Foreign Office or one of the armed services. Even 70 years later, some people still regard themselves bound to remain silent.
There was an ever-present danger that some ill-considered military or other action by the Allies might alert the enemy to the possibility that their codes were being broken. Had this happened, they would undoubtedly have introduced changes in policies and procedures, and even equipment. Such changes could have rendered previous methods of codebreaking insufficient, with serious implications for the conduct of the war.
There was a separation between deciphering the messages, and sending out intelligence derived from them. In the case of non-naval Enigma, deciphering was performed in Hut 6, and translation indexing and cross-referencing with existing information, in Hut 3. Only then was it sent out to the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), the intelligence chiefs in the relevant ministries, and later on to high-level commanders in the field.
A similar situation existed for naval Enigma messages. Deciphering was in Hut 8 and translation in Hut 4. Verbatim translations were sent solely to the Naval Intelligence Division (NID) of the Admiralty's Operational Intelligence Centre (OIC) supplemented by information from indexes as to the meaning of technical terms and abbreviations, and cross-referenced information from a store of knowledge of German naval technology.
Hut 4 also decoded a manual system known as the dockyard cipher. This sometimes carried messages that were also sent on an Enigma network. Feeding these back to Hut 8 provided excellent cribs for breaking the current naval Enigma key.
Initially, a wireless room was established at Bletchley Park. It was set up in the mansion's water tower and given the code name "Station X", a term now sometimes applied to the codebreaking efforts at Bletchley as a whole. The "X" denotes the Roman numeral "ten", as this was the tenth such station to be opened by the Secret Intelligence Service. Due to the long radio aerials stretching from the wireless room, the radio station was moved from Bletchley Park to nearby Whaddon Hall to avoid drawing attention to the site.
Subsequently, other listening stations – the Y-stations, (such as the ones at Chicksands in Bedfordshire, Beaumanor Hall, Leicestershire (where the headquarters of the War Office "Y" Group was located) and Beeston Hill Y Station in Norfolk – gathered raw signals for processing at Bletchley. Coded messages were taken down by hand and sent to Bletchley on paper by motorcycle couriers or, later, by teleprinter. Bletchley Park is mainly remembered for breaking messages enciphered on the German Enigma cypher machine, but its greatest cryptographic achievement may have been the breaking of the German on-line teleprinter Lorenz cipher (known at GC&CS as Tunny).
The majority of the mechanically enciphered messages subjected to cryptanalysis at Bletchley Park were the product of some variation of the Enigma cipher machine. Five weeks before the outbreak of World War II, in Warsaw, Poland's Biuro Szyfrów (Cipher Bureau) revealed its achievements in decrypting German Enigma ciphers to astonished French and British intelligence. The British used the Poles' information and techniques, and the Enigma clone sent in August 1939, to greatly increase their, previously very limited, success in decrypting Enigma.
The bombe was an electromechanical device whose function was to discover some of the daily settings of the Enigma machines on the various German military networks. The functional design was produced by Alan Turing with an important contribution from Gordon Welchman, and the engineering was by Harold 'Doc' Keen of the British Tabulating Machine Company at Letchworth. Each machine was about 7 feet (2.1 m) wide, 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) tall, 2 feet (0.61 m) deep and weighed about a ton.
At its peak, GC&CS were reading approximately 4,000 messages per day. Because of the danger of bombes at Bletchley Park being lost if there were to be an aerial bombing raid,  dispersed bombe outstations were established at Adstock, Gayhurst, and Wavendon. Later the Wavendon and Adstock bombes were moved to Stanmore and Eastcote, though the Gayhurst site was retained. The few bombes left at B.P. were used for demonstration and training purposes only. 
Luftwaffe messages were the first to be read in quantity. The German navy had much tighter procedures, and the capture of code books was needed before they could be broken. When, in February 1942, the German navy introduced a version of Enigma with a fourth rotor for messages to and from Atlantic U-boats, these became unreadable for a period of ten months. Britain produced modified bombes, but it was the success of the US Navy bombe that was the main source of reading messages from this version of Enigma for the rest of the war. Messages were sent to and fro across the Atlantic by enciphered teleprinter links.
The Lorenz on-line teleprinter cipher (SZ40/42) codenamed Tunny at Bletchley Park, was even more complicated than Enigma. It was introduced in mid-1942 for messages between German High Command and field commanders. With the help of German operator errors, the cryptanalysts in the Testery (named after Ralph Tester, its head) worked out the logical structure of the machine despite not knowing its physical form. They devised automatic machinery to help with this, which culminated in Colossus, the world's first programmable digital electronic computer. This was designed and built by Tommy Flowers and his team at the Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill. The first was delivered to Bletchley Park in December 1943 and commissioned the following February. Enhancements were developed for the Mark 2 Colossus, the first of which was working at Bletchley Park on the morning of D-day in June. Flowers then produced one Colossus a month for the rest of the war, making a total of ten with an eleventh part-built. The machines were operated mainly by Wrens in a section named the Newmanry after its head Max Newman.
Italian signals had been of interest since Italy’s attack on Abyssinia in 1935. During the Spanish Civil War the Italian Navy used the K model of the commercial Enigma without a plugboard; this was solved by Dilly Knox in 1937. When Italy entered the war in 1940 an improved version of the machine was used, though little traffic was sent by it and there were “wholesale changes” in Italian codes and cyphers. Knox was given a new section to work on Enigma variations, which he staffed with women, 'Dilly's girls'; including Mavis Lever who made the first break into the Italian naval traffic. She solved the signals revealing the Italian Navy’s operational plans before the Battle of Cape Matapan in 1941, leading to a British victory. Although most BP staff did not know the results of their work, Admiral Cunningham visited BP in person a few weeks later to congratulate them.
On entering World War II in June 1940, the Italians were using book codes for most of their military messages. The exception was the Italian Navy, which after the Battle of Cape Matapan started using the C-38 version of the Hagelin rotor-based cipher machine, particularly to route their navy and merchant marine convoys to the conflict in North Africa. As a consequence, JRM Butler recruited his former student Bernard Willson to join a team with two others in Hut 4. In June 1941, Willson became the first of the team to decode the Hagelin system, thus enabling military commanders to direct the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to sink enemy ships carrying supplies from Europe to Rommel's Afrika Korps. This led to increased shipping losses and, from reading the intercepted traffic, the team learnt that between May and September 1941 the stock of fuel for the Luftwaffe in North Africa reduced by 90%. After an intensive language course, in March 1944 Willson switched to Japanese language-based codes.
A Middle East Intelligence Centre (MEIC) was set up in Cairo in 1939. When Italy entered the war in June 1940, delays in transferring intercepts to BP via congested radio links resulted in cryptanalysts being sent to Cairo in July and August. A Combined Bureau Middle East (CBME) was set up in November, though the Middle East authorities made “increasingly bitter complaints” that GC&CS was giving too little priority to work on Italian cyphers. However the principle of concentrating high-grade cryptanalysis at BP was maintained. John Chadwick started cryptanalysis work in 1942 on Italian signals at the naval base 'HMS Nile' in Alexandria. Later he was with GC&CS; in the Heliopolis Museum, Cairo and then in the Villa Laurens, Alexandria.
Russian (Soviet) signals had been studied since the 1920s. In 1939-40 John Tiltman (who had worked on Russian Army traffic from 1930) set up two Russian sections at "Wavendon" (a country house near BP) and at Sarafand in Palestine. Two Russian high-grade army and navy systems were broken. Tiltman spent two weeks in Finland, and got Russian traffic from Finland and Estonia in exchange for radio equipment. In June 1941 when the Soviet Union became an ally, Churchill ordered a halt to intelligence operations against her. In December 1941 the Russian section was closed down, but in late summer 1943 or late 1944 a small GC&CS Russian cypher section was set up in London overlooking Park Lane then in Sloane Square.
An outpost of the Government Code and Cypher School had been set up in Hong Kong in 1935, the Far East Combined Bureau (FECB). The FECB naval staff moved in 1940 to Singapore, then Colombo, Ceylon, then Kilindini, Mombasa, Kenya. They succeeded in deciphering Japanese codes with a mixture of skill and good fortune. The Army and Air Force staff went from Singapore to the Wireless Experimental Centre at Delhi, India. In early 1942, a six-month crash course in Japanese, for 20 undergraduates from Oxford and Cambridge, was started by the Inter-Services Special Intelligence School in Bedford, in a building across from the main Post Office. This course was repeated every six months until war's end.
Most of those completing these courses worked on decoding Japanese naval messages in Hut 7, under Col. J. Tiltman. By mid-1945 well over 100 personnel were involved with this operation, which co-operated closely with the FECB and the US Signal intelligence Service at Arlington Hall, Virginia. Because of these joint efforts, by August 1945 the Japanese merchant navy was suffering 90% losses at sea.
In 1999, Michael Smith wrote that: "Only now are the British codebreakers (like John Tiltman, Hugh Foss and Eric Nave) beginning to receive the recognition they deserve for breaking Japanese codes and cyphers".
The huts were designated by numbers; in some cases, the hut numbers became associated as much with the work which went on inside the buildings as with the buildings themselves. Because of this, when a section moved from a hut into a larger building, they were still referred to by their "Hut" code name.
Some of the hut numbers, and the associated work, are:
In addition to the wooden huts there were a number of brick-built blocks.
At the end of the war, much of the equipment used and its blueprints were destroyed. Although thousands of people were involved in the deciphering efforts, the participants remained silent for decades about what they had done during the war, and it was only in the 1970s that the work at Bletchley Park was revealed to the general public. After the war, the site belonged to several owners, including British Telecom, the Civil Aviation Authority and PACE (Property Advisors to the Civil Estate). GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), the post-war successor organisation to GC&CS, ended training courses at Bletchley Park in 1987.
The local headquarters for the GPO was based here and housed all the engineers for the local area together with all the support they needed. The Eastern Region training school was also based in the park and later part of the national BT management college which was relocated here from Horwood House. There was also a teacher-training college.
By 1991, the site was nearly empty and the buildings were at risk of demolition for redevelopment.
On 10 February 1992, Milton Keynes Borough Council declared most of the Park a conservation area. Three days later, on 13 February 1992, the Bletchley Park Trust was formed to maintain the site as a museum devoted to the codebreakers. The Trust is volunteer-based and relies on public support to continue its efforts.
The site opened to visitors in 1993, with the museum officially inaugurated by HRH the Duke of Kent, as Chief Patron, in July 1994. Christine Large was appointed Director of the Trust in March 1998. On 10 June 1999 the Trust concluded an agreement with the landowner, giving control over much of the site to the Trust.
In October 2005, American billionaire Sidney Frank donated £500,000 to Bletchley Park Trust to fund a new Science Centre dedicated to Alan Turing. On 1 March 2006, the Park Trust announced that Simon Greenish had been appointed Director Designate, and would work alongside Large in 2006, taking over on 1 May 2006.
In May 2008 it was announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had turned down a request for funds because the foundation only funds Internet-based technology projects. Since Bletchley Park receives no external funding, it is in dire need of financial support. Simon Greenish, the Bletchley Park Trust's director said:
We are just about surviving. Money – or lack of it – is our big problem here. I think we have two to three more years of survival, but we need this time to find a solution to this.
On 24 July 2008 more than a hundred academics signed a letter to The Times condemning the neglect being suffered by the site. In September 2008, PGP, IBM and other technology firms announced a fund-raising campaign to repair the facility.
On 6 November 2008 it was announced that English Heritage would donate £300,000 to help maintain the buildings at Bletchley Park, and that they were in discussions regarding the donation of a further £600,000.
Early in 2009, Milton Keynes Council went to a public vote as to whether they should provide funding and responding residents voted overwhelmingly in favour.
In July 2009, the British government announced that personnel who had worked at the park during the war would be recognized with a commemorative badge.
In October 2009 the Heritage Lottery Fund announced a first round pass for the Bletchley Park Trust application for museum development funding and awarded £460,000 to work up detailed plans. These will be submitted early to mid-2011 in a bid to secure the £4.1 million needed to realize the plans and subject to the Trust raising the £1 million needed for match-funding the bid.
In October 2011, Bletchley Park was awarded a £4.6m Heritage Lottery Fund grant which will be used "to complete the restoration of the site, and to tell its story to the highest modern standards.", on the condition that £1.7m of 'match funding' is raised by the Bletchley Park Trust. By June 2012 it had successfully raised £2.4m to unlock the grants to restore Huts 3 and 6, as well as develop its exhibition centre in Block C.
The main collection of objects relating to the wartime codebreaking effort are in the Block-B Exhibition Centre. These include the rebuilt bombe, and the Enigma collection. It also contains Stephen Kettle's 1.5-ton, life-size statue of Alan Turing, which was unveiled at Bletchley Park in 2007. It was made from approximately half a million pieces of Welsh slate, having been commissioned by the late American billionaire Sidney Frank.
The park is also home to a number of other exhibits.
In 2008 the museum signed a 25-year lease for the park's Block H to establish this national museum on the history of computing. The two trusts are separate legal entities.
In April 2008 the General Manager of the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) announced that the society was moving its "public headquarters", including its library, radio station, museum and bookshop, to Bletchley Park. Although the RSGB intended to open the "RSGB Pavilion" at the Park in late summer to early autumn 2008, the building allocated to them was beyond economical repair and they decided to construct a new building at a different location in April 2010. The National Radio Centre was officially opened on 11 July 2012 by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communication and Creative Industries.
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