Clamour grows to save Bletchley Park

By James Macintyre
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:20

A campaign to save Bletchley Park, the legendary site where code-breakers toiled in secret to hasten the defeat of the Nazis and end the Second World War, is launched by The Independent today.

A coalition of public figures, politicians and veterans bound up in its history is supporting the campaign to save the park, which is maintained by a charitable trust.

Large parts of the park are in a state of advanced decay, with its iconic wooden huts – in which the elite recruits worked – rapidly deteriorating. It is estimated that £10m is needed to save the site for future generations – and transform Bletchley into a world-class visitor centre to immortalise one of the most extraordinary episodes in Britain's history.

The country's most brilliant minds – from mathematicians to crossword experts – were recruited to work at the centre located on the "Varsity Line" railway between Oxford and Cambridge universities, from where many of the code-breakers came.

The team, led by the cryptographer Alan Turing, eventually cracked the Enigma code, thought to be unbreakable by the Nazis. After the war, Winston Churchill had all records of Bletchley destroyed in order to prevent the Soviet Union from gaining its intelligence.

Everyone involved with the centre, also known as Station X, remained silent about their work, even to their own families.

It was only after the 1970s, and the release of a book about Bletchley called The Ultra Secret, that the role of the code-breakers became known.

Robert Harris, whose 1996 bestselling novel Enigma raised international awareness of Bletchley, threw his weight behind the campaign yesterday: "Bletchley is a historic site of world significance," he said.

"It was famously vital in enabling Britain to survive in 1940-41, and then for the Allies to triumph in 1945. But more than that, as the birthplace of the computer, it was one of the three crucibles – with Peenemünde in Germany and Los Alamos in the US – in which the modern world was forged. It stands for the triumph of intelligence over barbarism. We would let down not only the generation who worked in Bletchley, but our children's generation, if we failed to preserve it for posterity."

Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader, said: "Good minds at Bletchley helped save their generation from evil. Now this generation must help save it."

Mavis Batey, 87, who worked at Bletchley and was responsible for decoding a message that saved a British convoy said: "The worst suggestion I heard was that we should preserve the country house and tear down all the wooden huts because they are rotten and unsightly.

"They may be unsightly, but that is where history was made. If they just took a little of the millions they are spending on the 2012 Olympics, they could save this site."

David Balm, 87, who in 1941 left HMS Bulldog on a rowing boat and boarded a German submarine to retrieve an Enigma machine along with a series of codes, said last night: "King George IV said the capture of the Enigma and the codes was the most important thing that had happened so far in the war. It would be a great shame to lose Bletchley Park."

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