Government refuses to upgrade wartime code-breaking site Bletchley Park – which had a visit from actor and techno-phile Stephen Fry
The UK government has pushed back on requests that a historic site used by Britain’s top code-breakers during World War II should be elevated to the same status as the Imperial War Museum.
Responding to a question from Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall, whose parents met while stationed at the Bletchley Park site during the war, the deputy chief whip of the House of Lords, Lord Davies of Oldham said that while the government was keen to support the site, there would be no moves to link the site to the Imperial War Museum.
“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.
The issue of whether the Bletchley site should receive the same status as the Imperial War museum was raised by Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, who also admitted to an interest in this site.
“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?”
The Viscount added that Bletchley was not only important from the perspective of its contribution to the war effort but was also instrumental to development of the computer industry. “As has been alluded to, the work was of vital importance to what happened during the war and was the foundation of the entire computer industry in this country, which is now a worldwide phenomenon,” the Viscount said.
The world’s first electronic computers, the Colossus machines, were developed for use at Bletchley. The computers were used to crack the Lorenz code used by senior members of the German military.
Actor, broadcaster and Twitter-phile Stephen Fry visited Bletchley last week. “Excited as a kitten: just arrived at Bletchley Park. About to tour the place where Enigma was cracked, where Alan Turing worked *faint*,” Fry Tweeted.
Fry took time to speak with former staff at the site and to study the devices on show including the famed Enigma machine. “Yer actual Enigma Machine. Yrs truly touched and keyed and played. Gaspworthy,” Fry Tweeted.
The UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) recently compared its Internet monitoring plans to the work of code-breakers during the second world war, in response to criticism that it is snooping on the web.