Disharmony at Bletchley Park

There’s something rotten in the state of Bletchley, but exactly what is up for debate. A BBC News film crew brought – frankly, much-needed – light on internal disputes between the Bletchley Park Trust, which operates the bulk of the Park, and the CodesandCiphers Trust, which operates the National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) housed in Block H. Video footage of a long-time Bletchley Park Trust volunteer being apparently sacked secured the report a place on the national news, and has been responsible for more column inches than either party has ‘enjoyed’ in quite some time.

But what is actually going on?

First, a disclaimer: I’ve long been a supporter of both Trusts. I was responsible for – successful – efforts to raise funds in order for Bletchley Park Trust to buy unique Turing papers for public display, and I’ve often visited the Park; when I have done so, I have also visited the National Museum of Computing. For me, the two go hand-in-hand: the exhibitions on offer from the Bletchley Park Trust offer a key insight into the activities of the code-breakers during the war and an early look at the development of computers in general; TNMOC continues this story with its rebuild of the iconic Colossus machine, and brings the tale bang up-to-date with its collection of vintage and not-so-vintage computing devices.

To explain how relations between the two Trusts, which on the surface share the common goals of the preservation of history and providing public access to education, have become so poor – and, be aware, the animosity between the two is in no way new – requires a little history. Since the BBC aired its report on Friday, I’ve been speaking to Kevin Murrell of the CodesandCiphers Trust and Iain Standen of the Bletchley Park Trust, creating a list of agreed facts dating back to before TNMOC was ever founded – so, if you’ve got a spare few minutes, read on to see the background that no articles have yet reported.

  • In the early 2000s, a private collection of vintage computing known as Retrobeep was to be found in Bletchley Park’s Block H. Unfortunately, it was believed that the landowners – BT and PACE – planned to sell off the outer edges of the Park for residential development, including the land on which Block H stood.
  • Two volunteers involved in Retrobeep, Kevin Murrell and Tony Sale, sought to prevent the land being sold and applied to have Block H and Block D registered as Listed Buildings and thus protected from being demolished. The sale of other areas of land continued, and indeed have residential properties on today.
  • Using the listing as a delaying action, Murrell and Sale set up the CodesandCiphers Trust in order to turn the private Retrobeep collection into a charitable museum with official status. In 2005, The National Museum of Computing was founded and the Retrobeep name retired.
  • Bletchley Park Trust had planned to use Block H as its headquarters, but the CodesandCiphers Trust offered a £75,000 a year lease – agreed at a time of high rent and property prices and to last a 25-year period – to retain use of the building. This lease would also require the payment of utilities and service charges, with TNMOC estimating the average annual cost at over £100,000 per annum.
  • During the first few years of the lease, Bletchley Park Trust was unable to accurately assess the service charge and utilities owed by TNMOC due to issues including faulty electricity meters. Bletchley Park Trust would claim that TNMOC owed a £250,000 shortfall, a figure disputed by TNMOC. Both would later agree a lower figure, which has not been made public, to be paid by TNMOC no later than April 2014.
  • Bletchley Park Trust and TNMOC discussed joint ticketing, but could not agree terms. As a result, visitors paying the £15 entry fee to Bletchley Park are then requested to pay a maximum of £2 in order to see the Tunny and Colossus galleries, or £5 for entry to the whole of TNMOC. Previously, access to Tunny and Colossus had been free but TNMOC saw this as unsustainable while paying rent to Bletchley Park Trust.
  • Bletchley Park Trust reviewed the official tour with a view to reducing its time from 1h30m to an hour, by removing discussion of the Mansion’s architecture, the Leons, all private collections, and in particular the final portion of the tour which previously took in the Tunny and Colossus galleries at TNMOC. This was discussed with a panel of seven tour guides, who agreed to the changes – with at least one raising the proviso that a secondary tour, whether Bletchley Park Trust or TNMOC led, be offered covering Tunny and Colossus for those who want to continue on.
  • In December 2012, a letter is drafted which outlines these changes and in particular states “Guides will no longer take groups through the Colossus and Tunny galleries on this revised standard tour but can signpost TNMOC along with the shop, cafe etc from their finishing point on the oval.” This letter is distributed to all Bletchley Park Trust guides.
  • A reprint of the Bletchley Park Guidebook, available to purchase at entry or from the Gift Shop, removes any labelling for TNMOC and any other private collections or non-Trust exhibits on the rear map. TNMOC’s presence in Block H is mentioned in a single sentence on page 39, while Colossus is mentioned in historical context on pages 12-13 but with no hint it is available for viewing at TNMOC.
  • At the same time, selected private collections were contacted with a view to relocate to alternative buildings or leave entirely. Some left voluntarily rather than relocate. The Model Railway Exhibit from Hut 11a – built to house Bombe Machines during WWII – was outright asked to leave the Park, as was the Churchill Memorabilia Collection from the Teleprinter Hall. Plans for a ‘Community Museum’ that could house some or all of the above private collections were scrapped by Bletchley Park Trust as funding could not be found and nor was space available
  • With numerous new exhibitions, including the Harwell Dekatron restoration and a gallery on the history of software, visits to the whole of TNMOC have increased but numbers visiting the Colossus and Tunny galleries have fallen dramatically.
  • Bletchley Park Trust plans to build fencing which will separate the tenanted properties in the Park from the Trust-occupied buildings that form the Trust’s heritage tour, in order to pedestrianise the tour route and other guest thoroughfares. This will see Block H, and thus TNMOC, located outside the fenced region, with guests transitioning between the two through the Bletchley Park Visitor Centre.
  • Said fencing forms part of an £8 million plan for the Park, funded in part by a £4.6 million grant given to Bletchley Park Trust by the Heritage Lottery Fund. TNMOC receives no portion of this funding.
  • TNMOC relies entirely upon donations, gift shop sales and ticket sales to operate, and has received no funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and will not directly benefit from any of the proposed redevelopment plans or Bletchley Park Trust’s increased funding.
  • A Bletchley Park Trust volunteer tour guide was asked to vacate his post during the filming of a BBC News segment at the Park, bringing considerable publicity onto previously private disharmony between the two Trusts. The Trust states this was due to his repeated inability to stick to the official tour schedule.
  • Aired on Friday, the BBC News piece was removed from the website’s archive over the weekend but returned late Monday afternoon. Bletchley Park Trust denies making any request for its removal to the BBC. A radio piece on the same subject remains accessible through iPlayer, while the original televised report has been mirrored on YouTube.

Now, those are the facts on which both parties agree. Unfortunately, there are plenty of areas of disagreement – starting with what volunteer guides from the Bletchley Park Trust can and cannot do.

The Guides
According to the Trust, and highlighted in the letter of December 2012 provided by Iain Standen, while the tour no longer covers Tunny and Colossus – as well as other areas removed to shorten the tour, which was considered too long for elderly visitors – guides are actively encouraged to signpost TNMOC and the Colossus gallery at the end of the tour as continuing the story they have heard thus far. Several guides have, however, publicly indicated that they are expressly forbidden from doing so, and are instead to make no mention of TNMOC or Colossus.

The guide seen in floods of tears in the BBC’s filming was claimed to be removed as a result of ignoring that request. “They [Bletchley Park Trust] haven’t got a clue – they are ruining this place,” he told the news crew. “We [the guides] are all very upset about not being able to tell the story we want to.”

Although the Trust’s public policy is that guides are free to signpost TNMOC, Colossus, and the Computer Conservation Society-owned Bombe rebuild, some guides are claiming otherwise. Standen admits that the guide seen in the BBC report was “despite repeated requests, unwilling to deliver the tour in the agreed format; as a result we were no longer able to use his services as a guide,” although does not indicate how the guide varied from the agreed format.

Paul Evans, who has long acted as a volunteer guide for both Bletchley Park Trust and TNMOC, claims that fellow volunteers are actively discussed by Trust staff as “not fit for purpose.” A report in the Mature Times, written by an anonymous Trust volunteer, goes further and claims that Trust staff actively described modernisation plans as looking to “cull the old and infirm.”

The volunteers, the anonymous guide claims, are to be removed from their posts in favour of technology – multimedia guides, a combination of eReader and audio playback system currently being rolled out at the Park – and video clips hosted by paid, professional actors. “The intention is to eliminate any costs associated with volunteers,” it is claimed. “Highly trained and experienced tour guides will be replaced by minimally trained volunteers to cut out their travel expenses as they tend to come from further away, hardly a way to engage and motive the right people to give of their best.”

In short: while the Trust claims its modernisation plans are to be of benefit to visitors, its own guides – unpaid volunteers, it must be remembered, many of whom are experts in their field – see things very differently, leading to internal tensions that can explode as seen in the BBC’s report.

Joint Ticketing
The Colossus, available for daily viewing in Block H, is an integral part of the Bletchley Park story and handily bridges the gap between work done on devices like the Turing-Welchman Bombe and modern electronic computing. Previously taking up a 20 minute portion of the 90 minute Bletchley Park Trust tour, it’s a must-see exhibit for visitors – but one that fewer and fewer visitors are actually going to see.

Part of the problem comes from an inability for the two Trusts to agree on joint ticketing. The result is that visitors are asked to pay more on top of the £15 they’ve already paid to the Trust – something many have highlighted as a ‘bait-and-switch’ experience. Sadly, it’s also necessary: TNNOC’s whole funding comes from the £2 or £5 tickets – less for concessions – it sells to visitors, along with its small gift shop selection. It has received none of the Lottery funding given to Bletchley Park Trust, and receives no portion of the £15 gate money or any income from the popular on-site cafe.

The difference in income between the two Trusts is plain to see: publicly-accessible accounts for Financial Year 2012 show Bletchley Park Trust enjoying £3,837,438 income for an £834,583 net gain for the year, while the CodesandCiphers Trust filed just £331,162 in income for a net loss of £6,276 over the same period. The disparity in scale isn’t just financial, either: a large chunk of Bletchley Park Trust’s expenditure – £938,136 – is on paid staff equivalent to 42 full-time positions; the CodesandCiphers Trust, meanwhile, has a paid staff of just four who share a total staffing cost of just £20,866.

Bletchley Park Trust claims that TNMOC walked away from discussions on joint ticketing, which would see visitors buying a single ticket for access to both facilities with TNMOC receiving a portion of the cost; TNMOC denies this, stating that Bletchley Park Trust began adding new conditions to the agreement which were not germane to the matter at hand, and offered only a tiny fraction of the gate money. As a result, no agreement was reached – resulting in the split ticketing system both agree as an issue for visitors.

It has also been claimed by TNMOC that as one of the conditions of joint ticketing Bletchley Park Trust attempted to claim at least part ownership of the Colossus rebuild, on the grounds that it was constructed on Trust-owned property. This attempt, which Standen, who has only been in the role of chief executive these past two years, denies knowledge of, did not succeed. Last year, Bletchley Park Trust chair Sir John Scarlett addressed the issue in a public speech in which he attributed ownership of Colossus to TNMOC – although it is actually owned by Colossus Rebuild Limited with TNMOC holding a contract to display and run the device.

Advertising
No joint ticketing also means no joint marketing, and TNMOC has claimed that extends to its volunteers being banned from the Bletchley Park Trust ticket office. While it’s certainly true that the ticket office is staffed by Trust employees only and that TNMOC tickets must be purchased separately within Block H, Bletchley Park Trust has denied that it looks to exclude TNMOC and points to the existence of a – singular – poster in the office extolling the virtues of TNMOC.

Combined with the removal of TNMOC from the official guidebook’s map – whereas previous versions had it clearly labelled, with the logo of TNMOC hovering next to Block H with an arrow indicating its location – TNMOC clearly feels sidelined, and a part of the Trust’s modernisation plan detailed below is only going to make things worse.

The Fencing
Bletchley Park Trust claims that its plan to build fencing around its central buildings is part of a modernisation plan that seeks to improve the visitor experience, pointing to troubles visitors – elderly visitors in particular – have on areas with no pavement and narrow roads shared with cars. The fencing, the Trust claims, will keep cars and visitors separate to improve comfort and safety.

Sadly, the fence will not include outlying buildings – including Block H and TNMOC. As a result, as well as needing to buy a separate ticket when they get there guests will need to transition through the fence at the Bletchley Park Visitors Centre in order to reach Block H at all. TNMOC, naturally, feels that this is exclusionary and contrary to the bid placed in order to raise the Heritage Lottery Fund money for the works and will have a further detrimental effect on its visitor numbers. Its most vocal critics even have a historical counterpart for the plan: Checkpoint Charlie.

This is a tough one: during my visits to the Park, I’ve certainly had to dodge a car or two. The Park was never built as a museum; it was a working wartime facility, with many blocks being added on ad-hoc as requirements change. Pedestrianisation is, therefore, a good thing – but balkanisation isn’t.

TNMOC further claims that as part of its Heritage Lottery Fund bid, Bletchley Park Trust stated that the Colossus Rebuild was to be interpreted to the public as an integral part of the Bletchley Park story. TNMOC was not made aware of this, nor was it provided with a copy of the bid. It would later obtain a copy through a Freedom of Information Act request, bringing this claim – which flies in the face of building the fencing, removing Colossus from the tour and refusing joint ticketing – to light.

Conclusions
If you’ve read this far, then you’ve got a heck of a lot more background than any mainstream news report – or the press releases of both organisations – will offer. It breaks my heart to see the two Trusts at loggerheads, as I believe both are incredibly important to telling the story of British ingenuity both during the war and at the birth of modern computing.

Having reviewed the evidence – and I will be eternally grateful to both Iain Standen and Kevin Murrell for their time in discussing these matters with me – and having spoken to volunteers from both organisations, I believe that Bletchley Park Trust needs to review its position. Modernisation is good, but whizz-bang videos and pre-loaded Kindles can’t replace the passionate and knowledgeable expert volunteers that have given their time to the Trust over the years out of nothing more than a passion for the subject.

I also urge both parties to look again at joint ticketing; Bletchley Park Trust denies that it is looking to oust TNMOC from Block H, and if that’s the case then it has nothing to lose from agreeing a fair joint ticketing system with the CodesandCiphers Trust. Indeed, if TNMOC were to fold tomorrow Bletchley Park Trust would take a £100,000 annual hit to its finances – and while that may be peanuts to an organisation which pays a single member of its management staff between £70,000 and £80,000 a year, it’s money that could be spent improving the experience for all.

I would especially ask Bletchley Park Trust to look at the way it is communicating its goals and plans to its volunteers. Whether or not it’s true that guides are being removed from service by simply mentioning non-Trust exhibits or as a result of their age, that’s how the guides feel – and that feeling, previously bubbling under the surface, is now public. The Trust has benefited immeasurably from the expertise and manpower of its volunteers over the years; now its funding is finally looking more stable, it’s vitally important that their contribution isn’t overlooked in the name of modernisation.

In the days that followed the BBC’s emotive report, there were various calls to ‘boycott Bletchley;’ I’m not going to join the call to arms. Bletchley Park is an important piece of world history, and should not suffer. That said, I will be concentrating my future efforts to raise funds for The National Museum of Computing, as in doing so not only will I be helping to secure its future but, thanks to the £100,000 a year lease it holds with the Trust, I’ll be financially contributing to Bletchley Park’s future too.

If you want to join me in this, the TNMOC website has details of how to donate money or become a personal member along with opening times for the museum itself – which, if you weren’t aware, can be visited without paying the £15 gate charge to Bletchley Park Trust.

71 thoughts on “Disharmony at Bletchley Park

  1. Anonymous says:

    An interesting and thorough appraisal but no mention of Iain Standen’s smug gloating in the BBC interview when discussing asking the guide to leave his post. Numerous requests on the BP Facebook page for Standen to justify his vile attitude have gone unanswered

  2. Thanks for your insightful review. Yes, the real charm of Bletchley Park is the enthusiasm, deep knowledge and – sometimes – eccentricity of the volunteer tour guides. Their refreshing amateur spirit tells us more about how misfits once saved the world than modern technology ever could. I too am supporting TNMOC computing by becoming a member.

  3. Good to have an objective review of this messy situation, with the list of agreed facts. Colossus/Tunny is an essential part of the story of WW2 code breaking at Bletchley Park, and not to give it its due prominence is to mislead visitors and belittle those whose pioneering work in producing the world’s first electronic digital computer that was at all programmable. A suitable independent mediator is badly needed.

  4. Thanks the write up. Although I know tnmoc and bpark are different I have always visited them together and associated them as one and the same. My donations to bpark fund reflected this as I would not have been as big a fan if tnmoc was not there.
    Let hope this all gets sorted soon.

  5. Joel Greenberg says:

    I have spoken to a number of Bletchley Park volunteer guides and with their agreement, I am responding to the inaccurate information which is being posted on various social media and online websites, The following points are meant to address many of these inaccuracies:

    • The current BP tour format was put together by a team of volunteer guides over a year ago. It was trialled by the team, piloted by the wider guiding community and then formally rolled out. The original format included a visit to The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) to cover the breaking of the German Lorenz cipher and the development of Colossus. This was taking guides a minimum of 90 minutes to complete and in some cases, well over two hours. We felt that this was far too long for elderly visitors and families to cope with. By reducing the tour to 60 minutes, it also helped ease operational pressure by no longer walking large groups of visitors through buildings. The hope was that additional tour formats would be developed to cover other parts of the BP story such as the breaking of the Lorenz Cipher and Colossus.
    • No volunteer BP guide is prevented from telling the Lorenz/Colossus story at TNMOC. A number of volunteer guides schedule a BP tour in the morning and then a TNMOC tour in the afternoon. What we have all agreed is that visitors should be given a break after the 60 minute BP tour. All volunteer guides signpost TNMOC and tell visitors that they can see rebuilds of various machines used in breaking the Lorenz cipher in TNMOC galleries and point out that it is subject to a separate charge. We all want to give each visitor a consistent tour experience and an individual volunteer guide should not take it upon him or herself to extend the agreed format, to suit themselves.
    • Every visitor to BP can easily access TNMOC. The introduction of new fencing simply means that they take a different route to Block H where it is housed. Visitors arriving specifically to visit TNMOC, will take exactly the same route as they did before.
    • The regeneration project is clearly not modernising the wartime buildings and turning BP into a theme park as some people have stated. In fact, exactly the opposite is taking place. The iconic Huts 3 and 6 have been restored as close as possible to their 1940s look and feel with paint analysis used to replicate the wartime colour, 1940s floor boards sourced to replace rotten ones and bomb blast walls rebuilt as they were during the war. Several volunteer guides are advising on the accuracy of the proposed design of some of the rooms and the artefacts within the huts. The intention is to give visitors some experience of what it was like working in them during the war. Block C, the new visitor centre which housed Hollerith punch card equipment during the war, has been faithfully restored to its wartime glory with original radiators and metal windows retained and colours of steel girders matching the wartime look. It is our understanding that some modern technology will be used within the visitor centre and elsewhere to tell the story of BP. But then almost every museum and heritage site that one visits today is using new technology to enhance their visitor’s experience.
    • We accept that some volunteers do not like the changes taking place but the general consensus is that the vast majority do.

  6. Lynne says:

    Thanks for thoughtful review of the dispute.

    A comment on the plan to remove volunteer guides — how would one ask “whizz-bang videos and pre-loaded Kindles” a question about the premises? I have never yet been on a guided tour that questions were not asked by one or more of the guidees.

  7. Richard Billing says:

    Many thanks Gareth for a well written & balanced piece!
    I think that there is one particular question that needs answering, maybe put in the following context:

    Duxford Airfield is predominantly used by The IWM, indeed visiting members of the public pay an entrance fee to The IWM. However there are also many other organisations & businesses that use IWM Duxford & there appears not to be any of the issues there that seem to be apparent at BP?

    Amongst others, the following also use IWM Duxford:
    The Fighter Collection
    The Old Flying Machine Co.
    The Aircraft Restoration Co.
    Historic Flying Ltd.
    de Havilland Support Ltd
    Classic Wings Flight Training
    The Duxford Radio Society
    Apologies to any I have missed!

    So if this can happen at Duxford, I’m sure that it cannot be beyond the wit of man for BP to sort themselves out?

  8. Thank you, Gareth for uncovering hidden details that put the current sorry state of affairs into context.
    In writing my own news item, UK National Computer Museum Off-Limits At Bletchley Park, I was aware of some of this background and am really pleased that you have brought it into the open, and I have now added a link to your account.

    I was glad to see you will be fundraising for TNMOC in future. It is worth reminding everyone that
    TNMOC was recently given a generous donation of £1 Million to help its restoration fund on a matched funding basis it needs to raise an equivalent sum of money to access these funds. So at the moment every £1 donated to TNMOC is effectively worth £2.

  9. Frances Gumm says:

    So who actually owns Bletchley Park? BPT have the lease (and right to buy) the “main areas” but these main areas are surely only a small proportion of what was originally a 300 acre site?

    And surely Bletchley Park Capital Partners are involved in all this mess somewhere?

  10. Where does the Computer Conservation Society stand in all this? From my (visitor’s) perspective, its Bombe rebuild seems utterly central to the whole Bletchley Park experience, and yet the BP Trust now seems to be acting against the CCS’s remit of promoting the conservation of historic computers.

  11. Joel Greenberg says:

    To follow up to my post above and in answer to Lynne, there are absolutely no plans to remove volunteer guides from BP.

  12. Speaking as someone who knew nothing of this dispute it makes me deeply sad to read all of this. My father was part of the wartime intelligence gathering story as an RAF radio operator. One of his last outside trips was to Bletchley, to see all of those things with which he was so familiar. The people concerned in this dispute are behaving in a way which is disrespectful to the heritage, to their volunteers and visitors and to those to have contributed to their funding, knowingly or otherwise. They should stop trying to win their own little wars, and behave in a responsible manner to maximise the value of everything both tangible and spiritual at Bletchley. Just grow up!

  13. J. Daniels says:

    As a professional journalist with no dog in this fight, I can say that if you’re a “writer for hire,” this is a very poor example of your work, and I would not hire you. Your lede and headline are biased. You use weasel words like “apparently” and “claimed” — the latter without any attribution. Who’s making the “claim,” Gareth? This is usually a device poor reporters use to get in their opinion. I see you put a lot of work into this, but I challenge you to do better if you want to go beyond an unemployed writer to one with a steady job.

    • Gareth says:

      Hi, J. Daniels.

      Thanks for your feedback on my piece. First, to set your mind at ease: I’m a full-time journalist and author, writing for numerous websites and magazines and with a best-selling book under my belt. In other words: I’m far from unemployed.

      As for your stating I use “weasel words,” I can assure you I have tried my best to avoid such a journalistic crime. Where I say someone has claimed something, I tell the reader exactly who has claimed that thing. If you believe otherwise, please: I encourage you to provide specific examples, and have I overlooked something I will do my best to correct that.

      I do, however, take offence at your claim of a biased headline – unless, that is, you believe that all is harmonious within the confines of Bletchley Park? If you do believe so, J. Daniels, then I suggest you reread what I have written – this time to actually take in its content, rather than to pick a fight.

      Again, I thank you for your feedback.

  14. Many thanks Gareth, for an excellent analysis.

    Your conclusions are spot on, and I urge everyone to follow your lead and support TNMOC.

    The fact that the misguided actions of the senior people who now head up the Bletchley Park Trust are having such an effect on the number of visitors to the Colossus Gallery – which I had the privilege of lecturing in soon after it was completed last year – is very disturbing, as are the financial details and comparisons that you provide.

    I trust that organisations like Google, and the various public figures such as Stephen Fry, whose support has been so important to the Bletchley Park Trust, are made fully aware of the situation, and hope that they will in consequence bring enough pressure on the Trust to get it to mend its ways, though I have my doubts as to whether this will happen under the Trust’s present leadership.

  15. Gareth, I read your article with interest.

    I have been active in various volunteer organisations for many decades. What happens here I have seen happening before. It is quite simple: it is all about money.

    Organisations are set up by volunteers and flourish. Than the money comes in. Next, a “professional” has to be hired to manage the organisation and the money, because of the increase of responsibilities.

    This person recognises a possible goldmine and starts to let go people that might come in his way. He pays high wages to strategically commit people to his person. Another way to make money for himself could be to give third parties order to make audio visuals for the tours under the condition of a secret financial kickback to the one giving the order. So replacing volunteers by electronics is profitable in many ways.

    As I stated: I have seen this, a.o. happening in a Dutch national computing club that had 180.000 paying members at a time. Lots of money attract vultures.

    If you really want to know what is going on? Follow the money and write another article.

  16. Ric says:

    Despite the comments of Joel Geeenberg, there seems to have been a progressive exodus of volunteers from BP for some time. The radio museum and the enthusiastic and knlowledgeable volunteer who ran it were gone when I last visited and so were several other exhibits. After the BBC interview, and the CEO’s unashamed – ‘if you don’t like it , then leave’ statement, I think the Trust needs to reconsider its public image.

    Until now the well informed and enthusiastic volunteers were the best part of the visit, but for how long. They are now advertising for drama students to replace them.

  17. As you remarked, the tensions between the ‘official’ BP admin and the computing side of things goes back a long way – probably to personal tensions between Christine Large and the late Tony Sale.
    Tony Sale did a magnificent thing in the Colossus re-creation. He was virtually single handed and alone in the beginning and his role in that project cannot be overestimated. However, he seems to have been a man with severe lack of social skills. Both I and a friend (who had trained at BP during the war) suffered snubs from Sale. I suspect that more than half the reason why the BP admin could not cooperate better with the Colossus project and Codes-and-Ciphers group was due to his lack of negotiating skills. Nevertheless he deserves to be remembered and honoured for his devotion to the Colossus ‘rebuild’.

  18. Anthony C Davies says:

    Bletchley Park conflicts appear clearly against the real interests of many visitors and the preservation of awareness and understanding of important historical heritage. I hope that the’outrage’ expressed by many people will result in some improvements and compromises.
    However, at the risk of writing too much it is perhaps of use to mention that this kind of situation has become by no means unusual in our registered Charities:

    What seems to be happening at Bletchley Park looks like a symptom of the same things as at many other Charities, and is possibly an unintended side-effect of mistaken legal changes to try to ensure that the tax concessions of Charities are not misused by fake organisations pretending to be charitable.
    So, legislation now requires that Charities must demonstrate that what they do is ‘in the public interest’ – and so must not provide any special facilities or benefits that are of interest only to members or specialist groups.
    To achieve that often means employing a very well paid CEO, supported by a team of also well paid senior staff – and as a result most of the money paid by the public (which might be admission fees or donations or gift aid) is used up on the generous salary and benefits of the CEO and staff, leaving little or nothing for the Charity itself – which may then go bust, and the CEO and staff benefit from a gold-plated lifeboat to see them in comfort through the rest of their lives, perhaps never having to do a day’s work again. Plenty of examples, the Royal Institution where Faraday worked nearly lost their building by this route, one can see examples among some of the “Learned Societies” for engineering, etc., the British Legion and more – in some cases there might be actual fraud, in others actual fraud is hardly necessary, complying with the law is sufficient to wreck the Charity.
    Trustees have the legal responsibility to make sure that all is done legally at the Charity, and are subject to significant personal penalties should they fail – but since they are selected from the great and the good, are usually too busy to understand the intricate details, and may be selected for their ‘arms length’ status, with no actual stake in the Charity, they naturally take their advice from the highly paid CEO and staff.
    Likewise it is allowed for Charities to operate separate Trading Companies – these must run on conventional commercial principles, and therefore maximize their profitability with no regard for the interests of the Charity – so must not offer any ‘concessions’ to members or experts, because that might reduce profits. Ethical investments etc. cannot be considered.
    If such a Trading Company fails for a long time to deliver a ‘profit’ the Charity is supposed to take ownership of its activity, and so take responsibility for its ‘losses’, one more burden for the Charity itself to endure.
    Added to all that is a surfeit of ‘managers’ with no understanding of that which they are supposed to be managing, and it is hardly surprising that preserving our heritage is an optional extra which can be dispensed with via the nearest re-cycling skip. Calling such managers vandals or barbarians is therefore tempting, but that would be very unkind (to both vandals and barbarians)
    Whether anything like this is going on at Bletchley Park, of course I do not know, I have no direct evidence either way, but it is surely best that all involved have their eyes open to the variouus possibilities of what may really be going on.

    Apologies for my over-long reply!

    2014 Jan 30th

  19. Eric Jacobson says:

    I’ve been visiting (from NYC) and supporting Bletchley and all that it includes (NMOC) for years. I knew Tony and Margaret Sale. Tony and all the volunteers did an absolutely amazing job in the Colossus re-build. I also knew the previous and current CEO’s.

    It should be obvious to all adults, that since Bletchley, Turing, et. al., is the site of the first programmable computer, therefore Block H with Colossus must be fully integrated within the scope of Bletchley Park. Change the fencing and fees to include everything. Offer shortcuts to those who want a shorter tour. Colossus and computing cannot logically be separated from the decrypt effort at Bletchley during the war, so why is it treated separately now?

    The current conflict is clearly very petty and diminishes the historical importance of Bletchley.

    I appeal to Sir John Scarlett to resolve this foolishness and fully integrate Bletchley. Perhaps go back to the Google chaps and buy and support the NMOC. It’s so trivial especially when compared to the monumental intellectual achievements made during the war.

  20. John Pettifer (Guide 2000-2005) says:

    Thank you Gareth for all this information. This is a great help in understanding the sad situation at BP.

    To add a little more of the background, in early 2004 it became clear the Trust was determined to vacate H block. At that time it housed the “cryptology trail” of extensive displays as well as the Colossus rebuild. Initially the whole area was closed to the public, with some (but not all) of the displays moved to a much smaller area in B block. However, after strong pressure from guides access to Colossus and a few other displays was restored via a side door.

    Tony Sale was “instructed” to move the Colossus rebuild, but Tony maintained this was technically impracticable, and in any case in H block it was on the actual site of one of the original machines. I believe it was essentially this “threat” to Colossus that led to getting H block listed and TNMOC being set up.

    Martin Evans (in his comment above) is quite right that the problems stem from “tensions” between the then Director (Christine Large) and Tony Sale. These go right back to the time of her appointment (c1998). However, I contend that Martin is quite wrong to place the blame on Tony. I would suggest that in any museum/charity the primary onus to deploy good “socials skills” must be on the paid “executive”, so as to exploit to the full the various talents and skills that volunteers may bring. Tony, of course had huge depth of knowledge and technical brilliance.

    PS Fully agree with Eric Jacobson’ post. Let’s hope Sir John is listening.

  21. Andy Brown says:

    Responding to the comment regarding the ‘radio museum’, The Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society (MKARS) was evicted from Bletchley Park at the end of 2012 after a residency of almost twenty years and an involvement stretching back considerably longer. It was MKARS members who, for example, set up The original Station-X exhibit, MKARS members who installed the ‘RKO Tower’ on top of B-block (which is still there), ran the demonstration radio station ‘GB2BP’ promoting Bletchey Park to the radio community around the world and many more. When the Society was first threatened with eviction, we put a detailed paper to the Trust setting out our case that radio in general and amateur radio in particular played a key role in the Bletchley Park story. The very muted response from Iain Standen was that they did not see radio as ‘core’ and that unless MKARS could identify a building, they did not have space for us. MKARS undertook a detailed site survey and proposed several buildings, via another paper to BPT, but this was rejected (we don’t believe that either paper get anywhere near the board). MKARS now meets in a community hall in Newton Longueville. To some extent the residency of MKARS was undermined by the establishment of the National Radio Centre (by the Radio Society of Great Britain) which is a story in itself. But MKARS greatly regrets its eviction from Bletchley Park and hopes one day to return (despite Iain Standen and BPT’s narrow vision for Bletchley Park) and to return the historic and world renown ‘GB2BP’ to the airwaves.

  22. Clare Mundy says:

    Having attended many of the excellent ‘Bletchley Park Winter Lecture Series’, which appear to have been a casualty of the new management, it was always apparent that what made Bletchley Park successful during the war was its focus on the task at hand. Although some incredible ‘characters’ were responsible for the work it was the task of code breaking that always took centre stage. The volunteers have embodied this spirit and have led to both Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing being sought after visitor attractions. In so many of the lectures it was obvious that working boundaries were kept to a minimum so that information could flow through Bletchley Park whilst maintaining a almost unbelievable level of security – what an achievement and only possible when the focus is a common goal. The current management would do well to learn from how it was achievable in that period.

  23. John Linford says:

    It does seem that the BP trust is behaving like a bully (“it’s our way or no way”). Their treatment of various important people/organisations, from Tony Sale through MKARS, to TNMOC would be unreasonable in any context but is downright disgraceful in the case of Bletchley Park given its unique place in history.

    That history absolutely embraces both radio communication (how on earth do they think the deciphered messages were sent/intercepted?) and Colossus/Tunny (arguably by far the most important contribution to code breaking).

  24. xexyz says:

    Really interesting article, and while you’ve evidently tried to remain impartial it does reflect badly only on one side of the argument. Chalk me up as another one who’s signing up as a member of the NMOC.

  25. Congratulations on an excellent and very thorough piece. What a shame that money and egos appear to be tearing this wonderful place apart. And what a thoroughly shameful way to treat those who have given their time and enthusiasm for free.

  26. I’ve just signed up as a member of TNMOC, I find it disgusting that they have to rely on such donations and voluntary support, for what is a vital part of this country’s heritage. Thank you for bringing further attention to this.

  27. Michael Buckley says:

    Perhaps we should be saying “HAVE THE POTENTIAL” to tear the place apart.
    Lets encourage constructive dialogue, and see if this can be avoided

    Mike B

  28. Mark Anthony says:

    As a long time supporter and visitor to Bletchley Park Its disheartening to see that when finally some mainstream financial interest in preserving and rebuilding what should have already been a key historical museum it is turning into what appears to be an ego project. I don’t know all the ins-and-outs (Although this article is very detailed) but to have the re-built colossus missing from a tour of historical Bletchley park is just astounding and extremely short-sighted. An opportunity to preserve the history of this site is in danger of damaging it beyond belief.

  29. I was caught in the crossfire of this dispute as a visitor to the site a few years ago. Before I got there, I was told that I could visit TNMOC without paying a separate entrance fee. But when I arrived, there was no way to get to TNMOC unless you knew exactly where you were going without a map (in other words, you’d need to have been there before) and you were willing to sneak over to block H and not even pause to look at the rest of the Park on your way in or out. Visitors were being made pawns in the ongoing dispute and being made to feel disrespected before they even got to the attractions.

    That said, I loved the Colossus rebuild (and the Bombe rebuild), and I took a video of the Colossus impressively chugging along as part of my narrative of my visit: http://mariehicks.net/blog/?p=4

  30. My wife and I visited Bletchley Park in 2001 a few days before the Sept 11th attack on the World Trade Center (we were on vacation from the US). We happened to choose the day of the annual codebreakers reunion, and were treated to an extraordinarily interesting series of events and displays. The highlight of our visit was an up close and personal tour of the Colossus rebuild by (I believe it was) Tony Sales. I am trying to locate the series of photos I took of all angles of the rebuild so I can donate them to the appropriate Trust.

    After such a memorable visit were we got to see the entirety of BP that was then available to the public, it is so distressingly heartbreaking to see this treasure literally being torn in two by competing groups. Bletchley Park would be no more than a dot on the map if it had not been for the technological breakthroughs of devices like the Colossus and Tunney. Similarly, these computational wonders would be no more than just that if it had not been for the intensely human efforts of information gathering and intelligence analysis that took place in the rest of Bletchley compound.

    If the Allied intelligence services had been at the same cooperative odds during World War II as the Bletchley Park Trust and the CodesandCyphers Trust are today, the outcome of the war might have been very very different.

  31. Andy M says:

    I can’t imagine going to Bletchley Park and not visiting TNMOC. What would be the point.
    Now that I understand they separate, the arrogance of the BP CEO could easily persuade one to only visit TNMOC.

    Do you think “J Daniels” is Iain Standons alter ego?

  32. The ‘long tour’, which seems be under attack by BPT and others here, was actually the major memorable feature of my two trips to Bletchley Park over the last five years. Why? – because by taking that time, the tour was able to provide a comprehensive guide and not a dumbed-down one. I found this refreshing, particularly in this day and age where detail regularly seems to be an unimportant and inconvenient nuisance.

    The credit for this enlightened approach clearly belonged primarily to the tour guides.

    Someone else here mentioned the odd eccentricity, which I also noticed, but it didn’t detract from the quality of presentation in any way. Indeed, in a way, it rather enhanced it.

    Needless to say, I am like many others, greatly saddened by what is happening.

    By the way, I was quite shocked at the attack by J Daniels on your piece Gareth. I re-read it a couple of times and just couldn’t see anything in it that applied at all – rather the opposite. If we had more detailed and even-handed reporting like yours, it would go a long way to improving the current abysmal standard of the press in this country. You have my grateful thanks for that.

  33. Craig Sawyers says:

    I was linked to this by a volunteer friend, and have read the account and all the replies.

    First off, to put this in context I restored the Lorenz SZ42 cipher machine to full functionality around a decade ago. The SZ42 ciphers was the reason for invention of Colossus.

    The restoration took around 6 months at one or two days per week, for which I drove from South Oxfordshire (where I live) to BP, all at my own cost. After a complete machine survey and electrical schematic, I organised remanufacture of the mains transformer, the selenium rectifiers, rebuilt various other parts, and cleaned and regreased all the mechanisms. After 60 years of inactivity, it finally leapt into life. A real red letter day.

    The historical relevance of this machine cannot be overstated. It was captured near Berlin, where it had been driven from Normandy. Given the very few SZ42’s built, there is a very good chance that this particular machine was the one that transmitted the message, cracked on Colossus, that that Allied ruse that they were going to attack Calais had been successful.

    Tony Sale, who I found to be charming and massively knowledgeable individual, then organised a Cipher Challenge with the Heinz Nixdorf Computing Museum in Paderborn. A military transport took the SZ42 out, and I travelled out to host the German side. The goal was to transmit real wartime messages from Germany from the SZ42 using the local ham radio club, using the correct WWII transmitting power and modulation scheme. The Challenge was for someone to intercept the messages and break them before they were received at TNMOC using period receiving apparatus and broken by Colossus.

    Unfortunately, my German colleagues powered the machine up before I arrived and somehow blew up the mains transformer. They recovered the situation by having an external transformer wound in 24 hours and patched it in – so we could proceed with the challenge.

    I then had the (machine-internal) transformer re-rewound, but before I could fit it, Tony Sale suddenly and very sadly died, and then all hell broke out between the Trust and TNMOC. So all the bits for the repair are on the top of my wardrobe, collecting dust.

    Alas the SZ42 has now been appropriated by BP (the machine is on loan, with the CEO of BP as the named trustee, I believe).

    And there it languishes. It is totally out of context with Colossus, and TNMOC’s display cabinet for it is empty. TNMOC’s requests for its loan for the 70th Colossus celebration on Wednesday last were refused, so the few remaining Colossus operators who attended could not see the SZ42.

    So – if BPT have any ounce of honour, they ought to return the SZ42 to TNMOC. I can then repair the fault on the machine, and it can then be viewed fully working alongside Colossus. One of only two complete SZ42’s on the planet, and the only functioning one.

    And thanks for bearing with a very long message!

    Craig Sawyers

    • Michael Buckley says:

      Well this seems unbelievable, but I have no reason to doubt its authenticity.
      Around what dates did these happenings take place?

      One has to wonder what the purpose of this all is,’cos the general public who pay for admission are not benefiting, are they?

      Can the text be repeated on another internet group, please?

      Thanks

      Mike

  34. david says:

    i echo craig sawyers remarks. myself and dorothy clarkson repaired both typex cypher machines for BP but neither of us were able to repair the Lorenz, until craig turned up, he did a brilliant job and i took part in the cypher challenge in 2007 along with 3 colleagues of the milton keynes amateur radio society who received the transmissions. its such a shame that craig isnt allowed to repair it.

  35. Andy Brown says:

    As much as I have sympathy with John Alexander’s plea, I don’t think that the answer is to try to turn the clocks back at BP. The issue, it seems to me stems from BPT’s strategy for Bletchley Park which is to create an enclosed museum on the site with a solely WWII theme, to the exclusion of all else and all others. It is exacerbated by the crushing arrogance of the current administration at BPT which appears to view itself as the only legitimate party on the site, when in fact, they are one of an (albeit decreasing) number of resident parties, who all share a legitimate interest in the Park and in securing its future (TNMOC being the most obvious). BPT should be working in cooperation with those partner organisations. Indeed, partnership working and securing an agreed plan for the Park ought to be regarded as a prerequisite for any organisation claiming to represent the best interests of the Park as a whole. Instead, what we have is BPT carrying on as though its vision is the only vision and forcing out organisations who it doesn’t regard as ‘core’ (like MKARS and MKMRS) or aggressively isolating those it cannot push out (like TNMOC) in a cynical attempt to seize the upper hand and further its own narrow ambitions. The Bletchley Park story is about more than the Bletchley Park Trust and its WWII museum. That story includes all of the groups who came together and cooperated to save the park. It includes the history of the Diplomatic Wireless Service, for example, and of all the organisations who occupied the park after the war through to its closure and, thankfully, to its resurrection. Bletchley Park has a wonderful, varied and inspiring story to tell. A story that, in pursuit of their ‘vision’, BPT are gradually destroying. That is what needs to be stopped in my opinion. Before it is too late.

  36. Craig Sawyers says:

    Dates were:

    Cipher challenge during which the mains transformer blew: Autumn 2007
    Tony Sale died: August 2011
    Standen appointed: January 2012

    • Michael Buckley says:

      wE HAVE BEEN GIVING BP A HARD TIME, and they probably deserve it! BUT they do seem to be trying to run an interesting site with these three events this year. Mind you it does seem a bit commercial having actors on site, or is it just volunteers dressed up?

      Living the Secret World

      Visitors to Bletchley Park will be transported back to February 1941 this half term. Actors will create Living History by talking to visitors while remaining in character, taking them deep into the story of the men and women who cracked codes at the Government Code and Cypher School’s top secret HQ. The grandfather of the actress cast as the Wren (Women’s Royal Naval Service) was a Bombe Maintainer, giving her a personal connection to the Bletchley Park story.

      Sarah Harding, Director The Bletchley Circle
      Sarah Harding: “I hope she will smile, feel recognised and proud.”

      The Bletchley Circle Director Sarah Harding has told about her mother’s secret war work. Sarah says “One of the first things my mother ever taught me was to spell my name, in Morse.” Dorothy Harding, nee Thompson, was a Wireless Operator/Morse Slip Reader at Bletchley Park 1943-1945. Now, Sarah hopes her mother has enjoyed the series. In an exclusive interview with the Bletchley Park Podcast, she said “I hope she will smile, feel recognised and proud.”
      Betty Webb

      Michael Portillo also hails Bletchley Park’s secret heroes

      Michael Portillo has described the “blanket of secrecy which was rolled out across the nation” during World War Two as “fundamentally important.” He said during filming of Great British Railway Journeys at Bletchley Park “It was a fight for survival.

      Christy Campbell
      Bletchley Park Presents: Christy Campbell

      The first in a string of eminent speakers in Bletchley Park’s 2014 lecture series, Bletchley Park Presents, will be author and journalist, Christy Campbell, on Sunday 20 April. His talk, The Park and Peenemunde, will explore the role of linguists in the success of the Government Code and Cypher School. Christy says “Bletchley Park people were not all maths swots.” Tickets are £20, including entry to Bletchley Park..

      1940s Boutique – Bringing wartime glamour to Bletchley Park

      New for 2014, 1940s Boutique will bring a dose of glamour and style to Bletchley Park from the era of eyeliner stocking seams and the jitterbug. Tickets are on sale now for the first day-long experience on Saturday 15 March. Hair stylist and make-up artist, Sarah Dunn, will show how to recreate iconic styles including the famous victory rolls as well as make-up to match

      • Andy Brown says:

        Sorry, but what has this got with Gareth’s piece Michael? With respect I hardly think that copying and pasting BPT’s newsletter here adds very much to the debate. Don’t you think that referring to the furore that followed the BBC piece as “GIVING BP A HARD TIME” is just a slight understatement? And to set the record straight, the issues are with Ian Standen and the Bletchley Park Trust not ‘Bletchley Park’ (the whole site and all those organisations that together make or, until Standen evicted some of them, made, Bletchley Park). There would be no reason to give ‘Bletchley Park’ a hard time.

        • Michael Buckley says:

          ANdy, only to show that there are two sides to the argument, and that BP are looking to the future with this sort of activity.

          Now if we agree or not about its suitability one needs to know about it, hence the use of the BP publicity material.

          I am NOT sticking up for the CEO, quite the reverse in fact, but let us try and give him some credit if we can!

          My version of the truth is that all these activities could be taking place with all the former exhibits still there, giving increased value to everybody

          I see there is another posting which seems to indicate that some of the former displays were not worth “the hut they were in” Some pictures of hut 11 would be interesting to know what we are talking about. Which display is it that has drummer boys?

          Mike

      • Andy Brown says:

        Am I alone in seeing BPT’s insistence on referring to themselves and the part (I think slightly less than half?) of the site that they actually operate as ‘Bletchley Park’ might be symtomatic of the problem? As a matter of interest, which parts of the Park do BPT actually own and/or manage? (I genuinely don’t know). But I don’t think it includes E, H, and G blocks, the old canteen in Wilton Avenue, the RSGB’s radio centre or TS Invinsible? Not sure about D block? It would, perhaps, be helpful if people understood that the whole park is infact managed by a number of different organisations, including BPT.

  37. Howard C says:

    The last time I was at the park I was told that the Canteen on Wilton Ave and G blocks had been sold.
    I feel that the BP trust should reopen talks with TNMOC and get something sorted out regarding a single entry ticket that benefits both organizations, because at the moment I feel ashamed to be a “Friend of BP” because of the way they are behaving.
    I believe that some of the private collections at BP were a detriment to the site as whole and not part of the core WW2 story or anything to do with code breaking. I understand the why they were thre in the first place and to be honest if they were still on site I could chooose not to see them
    The Lorenz exhibit in block B should have a sign that points the way to H block so people can go an see Colossus, never mind which trust it belongs to! its part of the story and very much is core!
    The new exhibition in Hut 11 is a poor indicator of what is to come in the refurbed C block. As nice as replica light fittings are and mock nicotine stained walls the presentation of some story boards on Bombe size frames with toy drums to set and plugboards in them do not a exhibition make.The only good thing about Hut 11 is the video.
    I hope the new block C and the restored huts go a long way to telling parts of the story that are missing or merely touched on.
    e.g,
    the Polish story
    Jeffry’s sheets
    Elmers School
    The Americans and BRUSA
    The Fusion Room
    Typex
    the roles of the women codebreakers ie Mavis Lever, Margaret Rock,Joan Clarke etc
    the work of John Tiltman, Dilly Knox and others
    The Purple machine that came from the states
    this is not an exhaustive list but there is so much more to tell I do hope that the BP trust start to tell the story and not airbrush out the bits they don’t like or cant control

  38. Andy Brown says:

    To respond to Howard’s point about some of the private collections being a ‘detriment’ to the Park. I can only speak about my personal experience as a member, Chairman and now President of the Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society (MKARS). For almost twenty years MKARS built, maintained and demonstrated to the public a radio station (eventually in B-block) known as ‘GB2BP’ (the station’s call sign). As well as promoting BP to tens of thousands of amateur radio enthusiasts, MKARS also used the station to demonstrate radio in general and, in particular morse code and data transmission to visitors which, by the way included many visiting parties of school children (it was often the first time that many school children had seen morse being transmitted – imagine their excitement at being able to have ago!). The objective was to explain (and to demonstrate) the part radio played in the BP story (the code that was was decrypted at BP was invariably received by radio and the intelligence that was gleaned transmitted back to forces in the field by radio). MKARS also provided input to many events at BP – in its final year at BP, for example, MKARS received enigma encrypted morse signals from GCHQ, for decryption using the Park’s Bombe machines, as part of Cheltenham Science Week. While it was in B-block, MKARS included an exhibit explaining the part that radio amateurs played in the war effort (many of the Y-station operators were radio amateurs and many more still were recruited to the Radio Security Service. During the war 268,000 RSS decrypts were issued by Bletchley Park, with a peak of 282 a day in May 1944. Of these 97,000 were in Abwehr hand cipher and 140,000 enciphered on the Enigma machine). The work of the RSS is not widely known about by the public and some of us believe passionately that this story should be told and that the (very) obvious place to tell it is Bletchley Park. During our time at BP MKARS received no direct funding for any of our exhibits or activities at BPT. All of our efforts were funded by MKARS members, both financially and through their time and hard work. Because of the complete absence of funding by BPT, MKARS was not always able to develop displays to the standard it would have wished (somebody described our exhibit as a collection of dusty old radios operated by equally dusty old men in another blog. At times, both are probably fair comment, to be honest). But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that, had BPT made even modest funding available, MKARS could have provided a world class exhibit telling this wonderful and important story. Instead we were uncerimoniously thrown out of BP altogether within about twelve months of Mr Standen coming into post – the justification being that we were “non-core” (complete rubbish, of course, how could radio possibly be non-core to the Bletchley Park story?). So my point is (and I am sorry that it has taken me so long to get there – I feel ridiculously passionate about MKARS and BP) that yes, some of the private collections may not have been to the kind of standard that we would all want to see displayed at BP. But perhaps that might have been rectified if, instead of waging a war of austerity against them (and yes, it did sometimes feel like that) and then summarily throwing them out, BPT had worked with them – and provided some funding – to help them raise their game. So why didn’t they?

  39. Howard C says:

    Perhaps when I used the word ” detriment” I was mistaken, however my thoughts on the exhibitions at BP that did not fit were more aimed at the model railway, the model boats, the projected picture trust, the toys and some of the stuff that used to be upstairs in B Block. On my first ever visit to BP in 2012 I met an Australian visitor who thought that the upstairs of Block B was the contents of someones attic. I also thought the Churchill collection was not so much out of place but just a large unorganized collection of anything that had Churchill written on it. I agree that Churchill has a place in the Bletchley story but the the collection had no structure. I understand that the collections were helpful to BP in the past and the reason for them being there. The only radio exhibit that was ever open on any of my 8 visits to BP since 2012 was the one in hut one.

  40. Andy Brown says:

    Yes, sadly MKARS was evicted from B-block (where we had our public station) in 2011. It is only fair to accept your comment that even when we were in B-block the station was only usually on the air at weekends, bank holidays, during BP special events and to receive school parties. This was because most of us (volunteers) had jobs to go to during the week. But again, had BP management been working with us and positively supporting us, perhaps that could have been addressed. In the latter years of our residency it did, honestly, feel like we were not wanted (which is what I mean by a war of austerity). And indeed, this was proved to be the case when we were finally evicted from the site altogether at the end of 2012. I would imagine (although I don’t have any direct experience) that the same might apply to the Churchill collection. Unfortunately, it seems to me that many of the collections at BP (i.e. those that were either seen as non-core or whose owners would not surrender them, wholly, to BPT) were left to languish by BPT and, not surprisingly, withered on the vine. Your mention of Hut 1 and the Diplomatic Wireless Service, spy radio, morse and teletype etc collection run by David White is another case in point. David is an MKARS member who has been supporting BP since the very beginning – he set up Station-X for example – and worked for the DWS at both Bletchley Park, I believe, Hanslope Park and around the world. While again, the collection was not displayed in a ‘modern’ fashion, most of those who ever visited it while I was there were absolutely captivated by the atmosphere of the place and by David’s amazing knowledge and life experience. David is a quiet and humble man who has devoted the latter part of his life to building, staffing and explaining this collection to many thousands of visitors to BP. His collection is absolutely unique in the world. A truly priceless collection which people travelled from the far corners of the world to see. He will be embarrassed, I’m sure, if he ever reads this – but Mr White should have been seen, by BPT, as a gold-plated asset. Instead of which bis collection is now at risk. Speaking purely personally, what is happening to the Hut 1 collection breaks my heart – sincerely. With regard to the Model Railway society, the toy collection etc the important point here is that these groups and collections all contributed to saving BP for the nation and, while I accept that they might not be ‘core’ to the wartime BP story, they were certainly a part of the overall BP story. When I first became involved at BP (around 10 years ago) the plan was that in addition to the main museum there would be a community museum on the site – which would include collections from local community groups that had had links to the Park over the years. This was an exciting project and, even as late as the tenure of Simon Greenish as CEO, MKARS was being told that there would be a place for it and many of the other groups, within the community museum. Indeed, this was part of the reason why we did not kick up a fuss when we were booted out of B-block. I personally attended a meeting with Simon, a representative from the Heritage Lottery fund or it might have been English Heritage (I’m afraid that I didn’t keep notes and can’t now remember) to discuss MKARS’s specific proposals for our part in that museum. But, with Iain Standen’s appointment, the community museum proposals appeared to die an almost instant death and nothing was ever heard of them again. I wonder why? Such a museum should, it seems to me, have been a cornerstone of the overall strategy for BP, in that it would have created a much more diverse experience for visitors, provided a long-term home for some wonderful collections and almost certainly avoided the disgraceful culling of people and collections seen over the last two years (the resulting damaging PR).

    • It seems to me that one constructive way to reduce the disharmony at BP – particular in relation to The National Museum of Computing, would be for all interested parties to agree to appoint an independent mediator. But who might persuade them that this is a good idea? Might the local MP, Iain Stewart play a part? I am not one of his constituents, but do those who are, know whether he is interested in Bletchley Park, other than his recent pronouncement welcoming the pardon fro Alan Turing?

  41. Howard C says:

    It would appear that TNMOC has asked BP trust chair to consider using an independent mediator to try and sort out the dispute.

    • Michael Buckley says:

      Hopefully they will make a positive response as, from the circulating photographs the gate and fence are already going up – dont they totally ruin the appearance of the place?

      With a positive response both parties could work together in harmony and the fenced entanglements p- never part of BP – can come down again. Presumably TMoC have a vested interest in this, also, as they also need income to keep going, unless of course, BP want to see their building empty – seems unlikely!

      Michael

  42. Andy Brown says:

    That, may very well be, part of the problem. I suspect that what BPT want is Colossus etc and are willing to go to any lengths to get it, including isolating the TNMOC, thus cutting off an important part of their income stream. Why else erect the Bletchley fence? Their explanation for it is so obviously false that its laughable. If they wanted to pedestrianise part of the site then a few bollards would have done the job, without isolating visitors from TNMOC.

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