Neighbours give Bletchley a cash lifeline

Site of Allied wartime code-breaking operations receives £600,000 boost

By Amol Rajan
Saturday 14 March 2009 01:00

Bletchley Park, site of the code-breaking efforts of Allied Forces in the Second World War, has been granted a funding lifeline after residents in Milton Keynes answered a challenge from English Heritage.

The Buckinghamshire mansion, which some historians credit as being the birthplace of the modern computer, needed extra cash for the "essential backlog of maintenance and urgent repairs".

In November last year English Heritage awarded the centre £300,000 for repairs to its roof and demanded a similar expression of commitment from other organisations.

Simon Thurley, the chief executive of English Heritage, said: "When we announced our initial £300,000 grant last year for urgent roof repairs to the Grade II-listed mansion, I laid down the gauntlet by pledging another £100,000 each year over three years if matching funding could be found.

"Bletchley Park is of enormous historical importance and played a vital role in the Allies winning the Second World War. A large part of the activity that secured the freedom that Europe now enjoys took place here, and this is why English Heritage is so keen to help."

The failure of appeals last year to both the National Lottery and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation prompted Milton Keynes Council to conduct a public consultation with local residents. The council was inundated with pledges of support, with 73 per cent backing a contribution to the preservation of the site – which otherwise may have been bulldozed and replaced with a shopping centre or housing estate.

The £600,000 boost will be used to renovate the mansion, now converted into a military museum alongside the National Museum of Computing, and preserve for antiquity the rooms and equipment used during the war. Fundraisers are still looking for several million pounds for further restoration, but greeted news of the council's lifeline with enthusiasm.

"The impact of Bletchley Park on the Second World War was absolutely enormous," said Simon Greenish, director of the Bletchley Park Trust. "There is no other site in the world where the impact on the war was greater than here. Historians say that Bletchley Park shortened the war by at least two years and historians are notoriously cautious about what they say."

The mansion was home to many of Britain's finest minds, as well as a machine named Colossus Mark II, reputed to be the world's first computer.

At the height of the war, code-breakers interrupted the encrypted, personal messages of Adolf Hitler. One message in particular, in which the Führer revealed that he considered the D-day invasion simply a cover to conceal a bigger invasion elsewhere, proved decisive in securing Allied victory. America's wartime President, Franklin Roosevelt, posted several of the best minds in the US to Bletchley, where UK agents worked on German ciphers while Americans concentrated on those from Japan.

Bletchley Park's central place in computing history prompted the electronics firm IBM and the encryption firm PGP to donate £57,000 to the site last year.

To make a donation to Bletchley Park, visit

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