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24 July 2008, 15:25

Academics call on government to save Bletchley Park

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A group of leading academics and computer industry figures has called on the government to save Bletchley Park, the wartime home of Britain's codebreaking efforts. In a letter to The Times, the group says that the work done at Bletchley Park played a significant part in winning the war, and that "we cannot allow this crucial and unique piece of both British and world heritage to be neglected in this way". Bletchley Park currently receives no government funding, and its buildings are in a state of decay.

Bletchley Park was originally a country house, but was taken over shortly before the outbreak of World War II to be the home of the Government Code and Cypher School, the forerunner of today's GCHQ. There, Alan Turing and hundreds of codebreakers decyphered German Enigma traffic, allowing the Allies to know the Axis forces' plans and counter them. Estimates of the importance of the codebreakers' work varies from shortening the war by three years, to being the only reason the Allies won.

After the war, the work done at Bletchley was considered so sensitive that everyone who worked there was sworn to silence, and most of the machines developed, including Colossus, one of the first digital computers, were destroyed. The site was turned into a training school, fell into disrepair and was nearly sold off for development in 1991.

The Bletchley Park Trust, which runs the site, has been so strapped for cash that it has resorted to selling broken roof slates from the site to raise money. The site does not qualify for National Lottery funding, and was turned down for a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. The letter asks "Is it too much to ask that Bletchley Park be provided with the same financial stability as some of our other great museums such as the Imperial War Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum?"


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