Bletchley Park snubbed by Brit govt, no love for birthplace of computing

The wonderful, historical, underfunded Bletchley Park site shows no sign of being funded as a public museum by the British Government. Bletchley was the site of the effort to crack Axis codes during WWII and is the birthplace of modern computing and cryptography. It is the nerd equivalent of the pyramids at Giza or Stonehenge, and it's falling apart.

"We have no plans at present to associate it with the Imperial War Museum," Lord Davies said. "The House is all too well aware of the significance of designating any area in association with a museum of that rank, but I want to give an assurance that Bletchley Park will continue to develop under the resources made available to it."

Bletchley Park, home to UK code-breakers such as Alan Turing is being preserved as a museum, but has been facing a funding crises of late. It was recently awarded around £600,000 by Milton Keynes Council and English Heritage, as well as a further £100,000 by IBM and PGP...

"My Lords, I declare an indirect interest in that my father was a beneficiary of the Ultra intelligence derived from the work done by the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, and others," the Viscount said. "To go a bit further than what other noble Lords have proposed, does the noble Lord not think that Bletchley Park should be turned into a full-scale national museum on the same terms as the Imperial War Museum or many of our other national museums?"

UK Snubs Support For Home of WWII Enigma (via /.)


  1. I visited Bletchley Park a few weeks ago after reading about it here on BoingBoing, and it was the best museum I’ve ever been to. No contest.

    This is a shame.

  2. While Enigma is of undoubted historic pertinence, I don’t thing that the buildings, chairs, tea caddies etc at Bletchley are.

    Put the reconstructed enigma machine & everything else of interest in the war museum…

  3. I visited Bletchley a few weeks ago, a great day out highly recommend.

    I don’t agree that the site itself isn’t significant – it only seeing everything in context that you get a real idea of what it must have been like when it was operational.

    Scandalous the govt won’t contribute more money which is desperately needed.

  4. @PMH – it’s not the enigma machine but Colossus that was rebuilt at Bletchley by Tony Sale and co.

  5. It’s a great place and partly responsible for the Allies, okay, okay, Britain winning the war. It’s just typical that one of Britain’s finest technological achievements (apart from microwaves, radar, light bulbs, vacuum flasks, rubber tyres, radio, tanks, the aeroplane etc etc etc) has been downplayed. Tony Sale has done really well and when he showed us round I got a real sense of what a hothouse the place must have been.

  6. To put it into context for US readers (albeit an entirely biased context):

    Bletchley Park is/was our Los Alamos. Alan Turing was our Oppenheimer.

    I’m no war expert, and I’m sure it’s silly to compare code cracking to discovering nuclear weapons. But at the same time, it’s just as true that WW2 couldn’t have been won without Bletchley Park. (And I gather that the atmosphere at the two places was similar.)

  7. I think geeks should put their money where their mouths are and give a bit of financial support to Bletchley Park themselves. The house is lovely, and it’s for hire. My cousin got married there.

    What better place could there be for a tech security conference than Bletchley?

    On the flip side, Bletchley’s (volunteer) marketing team appears not to be very good. If there’s anyone out there who could lend them some marketing nous, I think they could really use it. I expect a lot of people will shout at me for slagging off the volunteers, but it’s an issue a lot of small volunteer-run organisations have. Marketing is a lot more difficult than people think.

  8. @shadowfirebird

    Shortened the war, yes. Couldn’t have won the war without it-no.

    When I visited Bletchley in 2002, I was shocked by the condition the place was in, too.

  9. “…the nerd equivalent of the pyramids at Giza or Stonehenge…”

    Hyperbole, much?

    The buildings are undoubtedly of interest, but suggesting they are on par with two of the world’s greatest ancient architectural and cultural monuments is preposterous.

  10. Otoh, the British govt. is planning a museum for the birthplace of the security camera!

  11. Unfortunately, I don’t think the British government will ever give this site its proper due. If this place is fully funded and recognized for its role in winning the war, then more people will take note of the people and equipment involved. People will learn about the suspicious nature of Turing’s death. People will ask questions. Entertainment isn’t supposed to generate thought. Educational entertainment, like museums, aren’t supposed to generate questions. They are designed to definitively answer the questions.

    All of them.

    So, anything that brings light to the embarrassing notion that they whacked a guy because his sexuality made him an intelligence/security risk is likely a poor choice to bankroll.

    In the way of proper disclosure I must state that I think the brilliance that went on in Bletchley gave us what we needed to win the war. And even then, it was hard. Without Turing and his clan, however, I’m pretty sure that this conversation would be verboten, if not in German.

  12. Also, I’m the first generation American on my dad’s side. The members of that family before me for quite a few generations were German.

  13. Thanks #15 for the information on donations.

    I visited Bletchley Park a few years ago because my wife and I had really like Cryptonomicon (another geek shibboleth). They have some really dedicated volunteers that could use a little help and funding to keep the place operational. On our trip they had not only many exhibits dedicated to code breaking, but also some that placed everything in the context of the war – how people lived, the sacrifices the British people made. It really is something they should be very proud of.

    The awful treatment of Turing after the war shouldn’t hinder this effort. Perhaps adding support for the museum could be recompense of a sort.

    Because of the typical British “we don’t discuss it” mentality much of the importance of the place still probably isn’t as recognized as it should be. It would be a shame if the history that occurred their was not preserved.

  14. In a trip across Europe a few years ago that started with attending a friends wedding in Britain the only place I went out of my way to visit (because I’d done as much of the tourist thing as I wanted across Britain twenty years ago) in Britain was Bletchley Park.

    It is an immensely important focal point of history and the impact of modern technology on our lives. The guides at the time (go now while people who were there during WW2 are still around to tell their stories) talked about their funding problems and how they suffer because the blue bloods in charge of histroic places in Britain don’t care about anything that isn’t associated with their families.

    Bletchley Park is of more interest and importance than much of the pretty antiques in Britain but is un-appreciated by those who do not understand it’s place and confuse age with importance.

    I live in New Zealand and coincedentally while visiting a freind this week found they were planning a European tour – without prompting from me they made the point that Bletchley Park was a must see. Only one of three places they highlighted in Great Britain.

  15. I visited years ago coincidentally after also reading Cryptonomicon. It was the most engaging/exciting/personal museum experience i’ve ever had. My favorite part had to have been looking around a modest, yet incredible exhibit of plane wreckage and airmen-related paraphernalia set up by a local in a neighboring community. At one point, I became engrossed in a framed article of a British soldier that had been shot down behind enemy lines and eluded the Germans for 11 days (a record, if i recall correctly). When I looked up? There I was face to face with that same man. He was so lovely and proudly told me all about his experience. It was a real brush with living history. An amazing opportunity.

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