Martin Postranecky | 18 Dec 02:55 2014

Peter Wescombe - obituary

17 Dec 2014

Peter Wescombe - obituary

Peter Wescombe was a diplomat who helped to save Bletchley Park from being 
developed into a housing estate

Peter Wescombe, who has died aged 82, was a diplomat, amateur 
archaeologist and – later in life – a driving force behind the Bletchley 
Park Trust, which saved the Second World War code-breaking establishment 
from being demolished and turned into a housing estate.

In 1991 Bletchley Park, conveniently located near a railway station and 
set in 55 acres of land, was thought to be worth (with planning 
permission) more than £3 million. When a plan was conceived to redevelop 
the site, Wescombe (who had had a house at Bletchley since 1960) joined 
forces with Dr Peter Jarvis, a retired GP, calling an impromptu meeting of 
the Bletchley Archaeological & Historical Society.

He later remembered : “Peter Jarvis and I walked despondently out of a 
council meeting, where, despite our pleading, it had been decided that 
Bletchley Park should be demolished to make way for 300-plus houses, a 
petrol station and a small supermarket. In May my wife, Rowena, and I met 
with Peter and his wife, Sue, at his house… to put forward an idea. We 
would ask BT, who owned the Park, if we could hold a 'farewell reunion’ on 
the site for the wartime code breaking staff simply to say 'Thank you’ for 
their magnificent achievements. They agreed.”

As Wescombe admitted, however, they “were not being exactly honest”: the 
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Martin Postranecky | 1 Dec 17:45 2014

MORE : Artistic licence : Alan Turing in 'The Imitation Game'

Letters to The Telegraph
Monday 01 Dec 2014

Private lives and open secrets at Bletchley Park

SIR – The descendants of Commander Denniston ( Letters, November 27 ) may 
perhaps take heart from the fact that the film The Imitation Game is so 
full of historical inventions that it must be regarded solely as 
entertainment. However, some of the inaccuracies go to the heart of the 
human story they have devised.

My father Peter Twinn worked closely with Alan Turing, sharing an office 
with him for many months. My father recalled that Turing’s homosexuality 
was well known at Bletchley and not considered an issue. He himself was 
once propositioned by Turing, but when he said that he was “not interested 
in that sort of thing” the matter was dropped without ill feeling, 
embarrassment or surprise for either party.

This throws grave doubt on the film’s thesis that fear of being “outed” 
was powerful enough to prevent Turing from exposing a Soviet spy and 
contributed to the pressure the mathematician was under. Once the urgency 
of the war was past, people returned to a more judgmental stance.

Stephen Twinn
Dorchester, Dorset

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Martin Postranecky | 27 Nov 11:44 2014

Bletchley Park commander not the 'baddy' he is in 'The Imitation Game' (fwd)

Letters to The Telegraph
Thursday 27 November 2014

The man who recruited Bletchley’s codebreakers

SIR – While the much-acclaimed film The Imitation Game rightly 
acknowledges Alan Turing’s vital role in the war effort, it is sad that it 
does so by taking a side-swipe at Commander Alastair Denniston, portraying 
him as a mere hindrance to Turing’s work.

We, his descendants, prefer to remember his extraordinary achievements in 
the First and Second World War, as well as his unstinting devotion to 
Britain’s security for more than 30 years. Cdr Denniston was one of the 
founding fathers of Bletchley Park. On his final visit to Poland in the 
summer of 1939, he was briefed by Polish mathematicians on the electrical 
equipment they had developed to break the German cipher machine, Enigma. 
The Enigma machine that Denniston took back to Bletchley ultimately 
allowed Britain to read the German High Command’s coded instructions. Such 
was the secrecy surrounding his work that his retirement in 1945, and 
death in 1961, passed virtually unnoticed, and he remains the only former 
head of GC&CS ( the precursor to the intelligence agency GCHQ ) never to 
have been awarded a knighthood.

It was he who recruited Turing and many other leading mathematicians and 
linguists to Bletchley, where he fostered an environment that enabled 
these brilliant but unmanageable individuals to break the Enigma codes. 
The GCHQ of today owes much to the foundation he created there.
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Martin Postranecky | 26 Nov 00:39 2014

Rewriting history....

25 Nov 2014

Rewriting history

From Braveheart to The Imitation Game, the tradition of Hollywood playing 
fast and loose with historical fact is ancient

By Guy Walters

Actors are used to playing other people – and not just on stage. Today’s 
Hollywood celebrities seem to be UN ambassadors one minute, novelists the 
next, and politicians every other Thursday. But there’s one role they love 
to play most of all – historian.

Whenever actors are interviewed about their roles in historical films or 
plays, they start talking about “all the research” they have done, and how 
their performances will help people “understand the true story” much 
better than if it were presented in some dull old book or musty lecture 
theatre. The latest celebrity to strut the boards as a Regius Professor of 
Modern History is none other than Russell Crowe, who we will shortly see 
starring in The Water Diviner, a movie about a man who travels to Turkey 
after the Battle of Gallipoli to try to find his three missing 

....Of course, this phenomenon of the actor-turned-revisionist historian 
is nothing new. But much to the chagrin of historians, it isn’t going 

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Martin Postranecky | 15 Nov 23:26 2014

Bletchley Park codebreakers 'dried their knickers on Hitler's Enigma machine'

12 Nov 2014

Bletchley Park codebreakers 'dried their knickers on Hitler's Enigma machine'

Elizabeth 'Betty' Balfour, 88, says that during night shifts at Bletchley the
Enigma machine was the only warm thing to dry her smalls on

Betty Bafour spent up to 10 hours a day sifting through reams of code and said
they were never told where their work had actually succeeded

By Agency

A Bletchley Park codebreaker has revealed that during the war she and her
co-workers used Hitler's Enigma machine to dry their knickers.

Elizabeth "Betty" Balfour, 88, joined the Wrens when she was 17 and was
handpicked to work on the top secret team under code genius Alan Turing.

She said women at the cypher school would dry their damp underwear on the huge
computers linked to the seized Enigma machine as they were the only source of
heat at night.

Her secret comes days before the release of the Imitation Game film starring
Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing.

Mrs Balfour said : "One thing I remember was that during night shifts the
Enigma machine was the only warm thing about, so we used to wash our smalls
and hang them around it to dry.

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Martin Postranecky | 15 Nov 23:22 2014

The Imitation Game : who were the real Bletchley Park codebreakers ?

14 Nov 2014

The Imitation Game : who were the real Bletchley Park codebreakers ?

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in The Imitation Game as Alan Turing, the genius
who cracked the Enigma code. But Turing wasn't alone at Bletchley Park

By Nigel Farndale

There are secrets and there are secrets. The work done during the Second World
War at Bletchley Park, a Victorian mansion in Buckinghamshire, was so secret,
the people who worked there didn't talk about it even to their parents, let
alone their husbands and wives. Some took the secret with them to their

No wonder Winston Churchill called the place his "goose that laid the golden
egg and never cackled". The "golden egg" was nothing less than the ability to
decode the secrets of the German war machine. Station X, as it was known, was
so efficient it could read coded messages from German generals on the
battlefield before they were even seen by Hitler in Berlin.

And the Germans never suspected a thing – which was not surprising, given that
they had invented the most complicated encoding machine the world had ever
seen. Enigma, as it was called, resembled a large typewriter with lights and
could, letter-by-letter, turn a message into unintelligible gibberish that
could be decoded only by using another Enigma machine.

Thanks to a series of lettered rotors, which were reset each day, Enigma
machines could be configured in 150million million million different ways.
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Martin Postranecky | 3 Nov 00:11 2014

Re: Colossus (fwd)

Forwarded from J. V. Field :

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 2 Nov 2014 22:42:19
From: J V Field <ubwc039@...>
To: Martin Postranecky <mp@...>
Cc: J V Field <jv.field@...>
Subject: Re: [BPARK] Colossus

Dear Dr Postranecky,

     As I cannot send items to the BP list, I append and item that 
youmgith iekto forward to it.

J. V. Field

In reply to Bill Rodgeway

>  There were 10 Colossus computers.

  Yes. ScM got that right.

>Where were they located

   Block H, now the National Museum of Computing, and Block F, demolished 
by the GPO when it ownd the site, and now a car park.

> and how was the workload for each of them organised please?

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Bill Ridgeway | 2 Nov 22:58 2014


I've just been to the Information Age Gallery at the Science Museum.  There were 10 Colossus computers.

Where were they located and how was the workload for each of them organised please? (Did they each work on
different aspects of code breaking?)  Was a Bombe machine assigned to each Colossus and if not how many and
where were they located please?


Bill Ridgeway
Martin Postranecky | 25 Oct 00:11 2014

A memorial to Bill Tutte in Newmarket

The Bill Tutte Memorial

....Rather than create a traditional sculpture, perhaps of Bill Tutte 
hiking through the countryside (his favourite past-time), the renowned 
Cambridge sculptor Harry Gray has created a fine work of modern art in a 
setting by landscape designer Ramon Keeley. The installation resonates 
with references to Bill Tutte and his work. Six seven-feet high stainless 
steel panels pierced with holes represent the punched paper tape that the 
Lorenz messages were converted into to enable the deciphering process. In 
front of the panels, a 41-tooth rotor represents Tutte's breakthrough in 
determining the structure of the Lorenz machine. Inside the rotor is a 
quotation from the citation for Tutte's membership of the Order of Canada 
written in a way that is difficult to decipher. Six bollards resemble 
teleprinter tape passing over a spool and each bears Tutte's name on one 
side and encrypted messages on the other. Visitors are invited to crack 
the messages using a crib on the memorial information board, which also 
carries a QR code to take them to the website where the solutions are 

But that's not all. There is a Squared Square made by Leon Russell of 
Mildenhall to represent Bill's early fascination with mathematical 
puzzles. Only when standing in the centre of the Squared Square, 
reflecting the unique way he looked at the problem of reading the messages 
the paper tapes contained, visitors will see the full image of Bill Tutte 
emerge on the steel panels.  There are also tributes on the memorial 
benches to Capt Jerry Philips, one of Bill Tutte’s contemporaries at 
Bletchley Park, who before his death in 2014 campaigned tirelessly for 
greater recognition of Tutte’s achievement, and Tommy Flowers, the GPO 
telephone engineer who built Colossus to run the algorithms that Tutte 
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Martin Postranecky | 17 Oct 23:08 2014

OBITUARY : Patricia Davies

16 Oct 2014

OBITUARY : Patricia Davies

Patricia Davies was the last of the team behind Operation Mincemeat, the
subterfuge which allowed the Allies to invade Sicily

Patricia Davies played a role in Operation Mincemeat during the Second World War

Patricia Davies : 'We were all in on the plot. We were enthralled by the whole

Patricia Davies, who has died aged 93, was the last surviving member of the
clandestine group in Naval Intelligence that in 1943 launched Operation
Mincemeat, a brilliant subterfuge that significantly altered the course of the
Second World War.

The plan of Operation Mincemeat, as told by Ben Macintyre in his book of the
same name and in a BBC documentary, was to drop a dead body in the
Mediterranean off the coast of Spain and hope the Nazis would find it. The
body was dressed as a Royal Marines officer, and was attached to a briefcase
containing a series of official-looking but faked letters indicating an Allied
plan to push back against Axis forces in southern Europe by invading Greece
and Sardinia — and not, as expected, Sicily.

The Nazis took the bait : believing the false information to be true, they
diverted massive forces to Greece, enabling a successful Allied invasion of

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Martin Postranecky | 11 Sep 20:22 2014

The Mansion at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire (fwd)

Now online...

‘A Maudlin and Monstrous Pile’ : 
The Mansion at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire

by Kathryn A. Morrison

Transactions of the Ancient Monument Society

Ancient Monuments Society, London 
Book Condition : Very Good.
25 Page Unbound 
Illustrated Paper for Research Purposes 
Published in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society.
Bookseller Inventory # 803374