Bletchley Park (Sue Black and Simon Greenish)

Tags: europython2009, europython

Bletchley Park is one of the most important sites of the 20th century as it had a huge impact on the world of today as it reduced the second world war with about two years, probably. The amount of lives saved is huge.

For the first time, code breaking became industrial. The world’s first computer (colossus) was made here. The British government quite sensibly hushed everything up and it was only in 1975 that the story came out. As an effect, the site remains unchanged from the world war two era, which is quite unique.

They’ve managed at last to have a balanced budget, but it is extremely tight. They run with a skeleton staff. And there are big maintenance tasks to be done. Simon showed some of their plans and the accompanying funding plans.

Eben-Emael fort, captured by the Germans at the start of WW2

Sue Black got involved with Bletchley Park after a university meeting there and when she discovered that half the people working there in the war were women. She didn’t know as there wasn’t even money for a couple of proper displays explaining the history.

Another problem was the appalling state of many buildings, which shocked her. She started to email around her colleagues for support. A lot of famous university people responded and signed a petition to save Bletchley Park. An email to the BBC sent her phone ringing 20 minutes later. A couple of days later she was filmed for news bulletins and a couple of other programs. The BBC stuff raised awareness, eventually resulting in some money from English Heritage and the local government.

Sue tried out twitter (@dr_black and #bpark and @bletchleypark) to see whether social media could save Bletchley Park. The fun thing for her was that people approached her instead of her having to seek people out. She met a couple of them at Bletchley Park and things started rolling since January: blogs, websites, presentations. And there’s a monthly meetup at Bletchley Park for social media users. There’s been a song written about it. A new exhibition. A comedy benefit night. A website on saving Bletchley Park

At the end of the presentation they showed a real Enigma machine. Wow.

Question: why did they keep so much secret for so long? He asked it himself of some mathematics professors and they told him some of the work they did then is still codebreaking.

Question from me: Are you paying attention to the work done by Polish people for breaking the code? There is a memorial at Bletchley Park commemorating the extremely important help given by Polish mathematicians, especially at the start of the war. And there’s a yearly Polish day where the Polish ambassador is also invited.

Enigma 3-rotor machine logo

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My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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