A long-running battle between rival charities promoting the legacy of Britain’s wartime code breakers has degenerated into a bitter dispute which has seen an elderly tour guide sacked and calls for a boycott of Bletchley Park.
The row centres on a controversial decision by the Second World War code-breaking complex to stop its tour guides from visiting the neighbouring National Museum of Computing (NMOC).
The museum houses a rebuilt Colossus machine – the world’s first electronic computer, designed and built together with the Tunny machine to crack encrypted messages between Hitler and his generals.
Major changes as part of an £8m modernisation programme to broaden the appeal and increase visitors to Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, have seen its guided tours cut from 90 minutes to 60 – with NMOC no longer on the itinerary.
Bletchley Park Trust insists “most” guides have “embraced” the changes, which were announced around a year ago, with “regrettably, one exception".
That exception was long-standing volunteer Tony Carroll, who resisted the move and continued to take people to the NMOC. He was sacked last week as a result.
The emotional reaction of the veteran tour guide – captured on television by a local BBC crew – has prompted the creation of a "Boycott Bletchley Park" group on Facebook.
“They haven’t got a clue – they are ruining this place,” he said on camera. “We are all very upset about not being able to tell the story we want to.”
Tim Reynolds, chair of the computing museum, said last night: “It beggars belief to see the Bletchley Park Trust pursue a policy of fragmentation.” He added: “The Bletchley Park conservation area has many buildings of enormous potential – some of which have been realised over the past ten years by organisations other than the Bletchley Park Trust. All stakeholders need to be appropriately represented.”
But a spokesperson for Bletchley Park Trust said: “The National Museum of Computing remains available to any visitor to Bletchley Park who wishes to visit it,” and it is “signposted” by guides at the end of the tour. As for Mr Carroll, he “continues to be a valued volunteer” and is now helping in the education department, they added.