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Hut Six

I have a mental blind-spot when it comes to geography. Hence this conversation, from Monday:

Tom: I have to go to Bletchley Park tomorrow. Does anyone have any idea where it is?

Anthony: It’s near Milton Keynes, I think.

Tom: Oh, right – near Bletchley, then?

Entire office: (general sounds of entirely justified mockery and abuse)

So, armed with this important information, off I went. And very depressing it was too.

I’m not a history buff, I haven’t seen the film Enigma nor have I read the book of the same name, but even so I’m aware of the role Bletchley Park played during the Second World War. Take, for example, Hut Six, where staff worked on decoding Enigma-encrypted messages. Behold this historic building as it stands today (well, yesterday):

Hut three isn’t much better, and the main mansion building itself also needs significant restoration work. In fact, despite the good news from yesterday’s press conference – IBM and PGP are donating $100,000 – Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing require, together, around £17 million.

When writing up a news article on Bletchley Park a week or two ago I contacted a handful of notables asking them to endorse the campaign to save the site. One, Stephen Fry, replied promptly with this perfectly quotable quote:

It seems astounding that the place behind one of Britain’s greatest ever achievements cannot be saved and memorialised. To me it is equivalent to letting Nelson’s Column fall down or Wellington’s victory arch crumble to dust. An outrage to think we have not the will nor the historical understanding to save it.

Which, I thought, was very well put, and quite correct. For what it’s worth there’s a petition here, and the Bletchley Park Trust accepts donations here.

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