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“ Bletchley Park, the codebreaking centre that helped to win the Second World War and launch the modern computer, is in danger of irreparable decay unless the Government steps in to save it. ” » read more

Dr. Sue Black

Welcome

Welcome to the saving Bletchley Park website. Thousands of people worked at Bletchley Park during World War Two to decode messages that the German forces transmitted, most notably by Hitler to the German high command. The cracking of the codes used, the use of the intelligence gained and the subsequent related actions of the Allies is said to have shortened World War Two by two years possibly saving 22 million lives. The critical importance of Bletchley Park in world history cannot be denied.

Bletchley Park is also the birthplace of the computer. The world's first programmable, digital, electronic computer: Colossus was invented and built at Bletchley Park during World War Two to speed the reading of encrypted German messages.

Bletchley Park is unique. It combines a key role in modern history along with being the birthplace of the computer. I cannot think of a place more worthy of our interest, our support and our government's support. Please join me in raising awareness of the fundamental importance of Bletchley Park and in saving Bletchley Park so that it will still be there for future generations to visit, appreciate and understand.

Dr. Sue Black

Dr. Sue Black
Head of Department of Information and Software Systems,
University of Westminster

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Monday, 27 June 2011

Bletchley Park is saved!!

IT IS OFFICIAL! BLETCHLEY PARK IS SAVED!!

 

Details below. I now blog at blackse.wordpress.com/, please join me there for updates. Thanks very much for supporting the campaign :)

I had a chat with Director of Bletchley Park Simon Greenish and Google External Relations Director Peter Barron recently about my three year campaign to save Bletchley Park and the position the Park is in now compared to the beginning of the campaign.

Three years ago I met Simon at the launch of the Women of Station X project which I had raised funding for, having found out that over 5000 women had worked at Bletchley Park I wanted to make sure that they had some recognition of their contribution. I gave a talk about the project saying why I thought it was important. Simon gave a talk after me about the current (2008) position Bletchley Park was in. He said that it may have to shut if funding were not found quite quickly to help with the upkeep. Huts were falling down, the mansion roof leaking, and much more, and the main income of Bletchley Park was the entrance fee from visitors to the park. Simon was worried that should visitor numbers drop at all for any reason the museum would have to shut:

"We are just about surviving. Money — or lack of it — is our big problem here. I think we have two to three more years of survival, but we need this time to find a solution to this," said Simon Greenish, the Trust's director.

I was horrified!

A few weeks later I was at a reception at Bletchley Park and did the obligatory (and highly recommended) group tour with one of the marvellous veterans. We stood outside the iconic Hut 6 and he described the major achievements of WW2 that had happened because of codebreaking that took place in that hut. I was astounded, and as he carried on talking became more and more upset thinking "If such amazing things had happened in this hut, why is it falling down?" I went away that evening determined to do something about the situation. Bletchley Park would not close if I had anything to do with it.

On the way home I spoke to my work colleague John Turner and anyone else that would listen, telling them that it was a disgrace. When I got home I emailed all the Heads and Professors of Computing (CPHC) in the UK (I was then a Head of Department) asking them to sign the No. 10 Downing Street petition to save Bletchley Park. Several hours later, a great many of them had done so :) I wasn't alone in my opinion. That gave me the confidence, with help from John Turner to write a letter to the Times newspaper, asking for the same. 97 Heads and Profs signed it in a couple of days. 

Thinking that we needed more publicity I emailed all the journalists I knew telling them I thought I had a story. 20 minutes later Rory Cellan-Jones phoned me to discuss the story. The next week I went up to Bletchley Park again to be filmed with Rory for BBC News and the Radio 4 Today program. The interviews went out on 24th July 2008, I got a call asking me to go live on BBC News 24 that day and was interviewed for the World Service and several other stations. I received over 100 emails of support within hours and a campaign was born which has taken over my life for the last three years.

I could write a book about all the things that I and many others have done over the last three years to raise the profile of and show support to Bletchley Park. Maybe one day I will ;)) but until then most of the highlights are on my campaign blog savingbletchleypark.org and my general blogdrblack.posterous.com, also just try stopping me from Tweeting about it ;)

I’ve met some absolutely wonderful people, too many to mention who have shown the campaign their wholehearted love and support. The campaign has changed my life.

So, back to my recent chat with Simon Greenish from Bletchley Park and Peter Barron from Google. We were discussing Google’s generous donation of $100,000 to Bletchley Park towards the purchase of the Turing papers and their wish to do more to help the Park.

I have long wanted to approach tech companies asking for ongoing corporate sponsorship for Bletchley Park. I’m always on the lookout for possibilities for help for Bletchley, from government, general public, media, anywhere and over the last year or so, especially since coming back from a trip to Denver to present the paper “Can Twitter save Bletchley Park?” and a visit to Washington DC, I’ve thought that companies, and especially tech companies may be interested in helping out. Of course, the fact that Google have already helped out has given me extra confidence that this will be the case.

Google and UCL are now going to support me to raise funds for Bletchley Park. I think this will take my campaign to a whole new level. We talked about the Turing papers and Google’s very generous offer to support me in fundraising for Bletchley Park. I will outline more of what I will be doing and hopefully blog about the successes that I have in future posts. What this means is that I will be looking to talk to and hopefully persuade companies that in supporting Bletchley Park they are supporting our heritage. Bletchley Park is the “Geek mecca” after all, the birthplace of the computer and the digital age.

So finally I get to the point of this post: I mentioned “Saving Bletchley Park” as part of this conversation and Simon said “…hold on, Bletchley Park is saved, there is no way we are going to shut now with all the support that we have. What we need to talk about now is Building Bletchley Park for the future”. I sat there with a big smile on my face :)

Bletchley Park is Saved Woohoo!!!

So, it is no longer about *Saving* Bletchley Park but about *Building* Bletchley Park. Hurray!!

Let's start Building Bletchley Park 

Wednesday, 02 June 2010

BCS Wiltshire

Last week I gave a talk about my campaign to a great audience in Swindon from BCS Wiltshire. Nick Miers was also there talking about the Enigma machine. A great evening was had by all and it was very heartwarming to receive such support from people for my campaign and for Bletchley Park. Thank you to the organisors and to everyone who came :))

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Information Pioneers

Several weeks ago I was part of a panel which chose five great people for the BCS Information Pioneers campaign. Click the image below to see what we say about who we chose and why.

Information Pioneers

We debated long and hard about who should be included and in the end the final pioneers chosen were: Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Hedy Lamarr, Sir Clive Sinclair and Sir Tim Berners Lee. It was a tough choice. Some of us really wanted Tommy Flowers to be included, but after long debate we all agreed on the final five.

Last night I attended the preview of the films of the pioneers that have been made by Red Kingdom. Ortis Deley, Kate Russell, Miranda Raison, Phil Tufnell and Dom Joly each present their pioneer in a three minute film. They are really cool. Have a look for yourself, decide who you think was/is the most important and cast your vote.

Kelsey and Sue

Above: with Kelsey Griffin, Bletchley Park Director of Operations

Info pioneers

Above: with Ortis Deley from the Gadget Show and Sarah Blow from GirlGeekDinners
 

Kate Russell has written a great blog post about the evening 

The campaign has been featured in several online newspapers:

Female IT pioneers celebrated

Here is what I said about Ada Lovelace and Hedy Lamarr being chosen:

I am delighted that BCS is highlighting and celebrating key Information Pioneers and am particularly glad that these two great women Ada Lovelace and Hedy Lamarr have been chosen. These great films show us that women have made really fundamental contributions throughout history, let's make sure that we encourage and support women to continue playing a key role in this exciting area.

Turing film which launches Chartered Institute for IT campaign

 This is what I said about Alan Turing:

“Not only did Turing play a key role in the code breaking work carried out at Bletchley Park during World War Two, he also made fundamental and insightful contributions to computer science and elsewhere. Last year’s very welcome,government apology highlighted his lasting contribution and acknowledged his persecution and abhorrent treatment as a consequence of being gay, at a time when homosexuality was illegal. Honouring Turing as an Information Pioneer gives us a chance to celebrate Turing’s life and legacy and promote him as a role model for information pioneers of the future.”

It has been an absolute pleasure being involved with the project, the subject matter is, of course, very dear to my heart. I really hope that the campaign gets people thinking about the technology all around them and the fundamental contribution that it now makes to our lives.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Can Twitter save Bletchley Park?

Today was an amazing day!!

Thanks to the amazing supporters that Bletchley Park and the campaign have Kelsey and I came to Denver, Colorado to present our paper "Can Twitter save Bletchley Park?" at the Museums and the Web conference 2010. The presentation went down really well with lots of support from the great people at the conference. The story of how we got here is well told by MSN's Matt Ball on the MSN Tech and Gadgets page today :))

MW2010

Thank you so much to these amazing people for donating the money to allow us to present today raising awareness of Bletchley Park across the museum community:

PJBryant

Andy Layton

Alexandra Gradosielska

Jas Dhaliwal

Mark O'Neill
georgiawonder
Kailua09
unclewilco
Richard Rixham
Michael Burek
Martyn Davies
Maggie Berry
Melanie Campbell 
Matthew Sylvester (@mssres)
Richard Gough
Rory Cellan-Jones
Alan Burkitt-Gray
John Poole
@spudbrain
@Eingang, OU/UniSussex Serious Gaming EduTech 
Jane
@sammachin
Gideon Williams
Nicholas Creswell 
@drmcewan
Mr Grasshead, Comandante Monkey, and dude 
 jimjar
Bradley Martin
Paul Clarke
Sarah Pearson 
Christine Arrowsmith 
@INFOSEC_Maven
Britt Warg
stefan
@patroclus
Mal
Karohemd
@pickwick
@NoLimitsAsia 
Elrik Merlin
Karlin Lillington 
Astrid Byro
Chris Foote (Spike)
Darryl Skeard 
Sarah Winmill 
@parsingphase 
@nmeth 
Peter Knight 
@jasew 
Marie Kinsey 
Miki Burgess
 @3djamie
Matt Ball 
J David Morgan 
Gregory Collins 
Andrew Back 
Hannah Dee 
Sue Houghton 
Alan Nolan-Davies 
Eli Ezeugoh 
Paul Thomson 
Chris Hart
Kerrin Mansfield
Pat Galea

 All of you have really helped to save Bletchley Park!!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Government Funding for Bletchley Park!!!

Well. It has finally happened!!!

 £250k government funding announced today for Bletchley Park. Hooray!!!!!!! Yippee!!!! Woohoo!!!!!

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported the campaign. There have been so many people involved that they are too numerous to mention, read my previous blog posts for details of some of those who have given their support to save Bletchley Park. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who has supported the campaign. Power to the people! Look what we did guys!!! :)))

Of course, it is not completely over...we do need to get this amount of money coming in each year for another four years while Bletchley Park get everything there sorted out from the potholes in the car park to the restoration of the fabulous codebreaking huts.But, this is a milestone, and a big one.

Thank you DCMS.

 Hut

Details below:

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw will visit Bletchley Park on Thursday to announce the allocation of £250,000 DCMS funding for urgent repairs at the neglected WW2 Codebreaking Centre.  The grant, which comes from the reallocation of under-spends elsewhere in the DCMS budget for 2009-2010, will allow the Bletchley Park Trust to tackle a variety of badly needed works on the ageing site including resurfacing pot-holed roads and car-parks and new roofs for iconic, at-risk, codebreaking buildings. 

Simon Greenish, CEO of the Bletchley Park Trust, welcomed today's announcement as hugely significant, saying:  

"This enormously-appreciated funding boost will not only enable vital repair and maintenance of this WW2 site for the benefit of our rapidly growing number of visitors, but it also represents endorsement by the DCMS that Bletchley Park is a place of national importance which deserves Government support.” 

Ben Bradshaw commended the work of the Bletchley Park Trust, saying: 

“The work carried out at Bletchley Park had a huge impact on the course of the war, and the museum does a brilliant job in bringing this alive for people of all ages.  But, having doubled its visitor numbers over the last three years, it urgently needs funds to keep it in good condition.  I am delighted to announce this grant which will help renovate the buildings and ensure that future visitors enjoy a really high quality experience when they come here.” 

The announcement comes after a previous landmark was reached by the Trust in October 2009 when the Heritage Lottery Fund announced a first round pass for the Bletchley Park Trust application for museum development funding and awarded £460,000 to work up detailed plans.  These will be submitted early to mid 2011 in a bid to secure the £4.1 million needed to realize the plans and subject to the Trust raising the £1 million needed for match-funding the bid.  The Trust will then work on raising a further £5 million to complete the development.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Ada Lovelace Day 2010

Well it's already Ada Lovelace day 2010!! That year went quickly :)

Thanks to a brilliant idea last year by the wonderful Suw Charman-Anderson people all over the world have pledged to blog about a Woman in Technology that they are inspired by. Just have a look at the fabulous map of #ALD10 contributors from all over the world.

Well, I've finally, after much prevarication, decided who to blog about: BCSWomen. There are more than one thousand women in tech who are members of BCSWomen and they inspire me individually and as a group, every day, to get out there and do my job. No matter whether we are facing problems at work or at home, the sort of things that we all have to face at one time or another, BCSWomen are there for each other. We support each other, encourage each other, share successes and failures together, and are growing older together. My heroines. The women who just get out there every day and make a difference. Thank you all for the support and encouragement you have given me over the last nine years. I couldn't have done what I have without you.

 

Ada Lovelace

#ALD10 @findingada

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Can Twitter save Bletchley Park?

Following on from a campaign on Twitter to raise money via a JustGiving page, enough money has now been raised to send Kelsey Griffin and Sue Black to the Museums and the Web conference to present their joint paper: Can Twitter save Bletchley Park? The paper was co-authored with Professor Jonathan Bowen of Museophile, a friend of Sue's. 

 Simon, Stephen, Sue, Kelsey @ Bletchley Park

 Kelsey and Sue are pictured above with Simon Greenish, Bletchley Park Director and Stephen Fry on Stephen's visit to Bletchley Park last year.

The trip will give them the opportunity to promote Bletchley Park to a US and international audience in April in Denver, Colorado. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

APPG for Bletchley Park

I heard last week that following a promise from MP Tom Watson last year an All Party Parliamentary Group on Bletchley Park will be set up this month. This is good news as it will provide a focal point for government ministers from any party to meet, hear about and discuss issues related to Bletchley Park. 

 Watch this space for more news :)

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

“Victory at Bletchley Park Day” - Fab funding announcement!!

Fabulous announcement this morning that the Heritage Lottery Fund have approved the proposal submitted by Bletchley Park a few months ago to upgrade the site :)))

Thanks *so* much to everyone that has helped and supported the campaign.

BUT  please remember that this is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.......

 

Bletchley Park still needs your help. On top of the HLF money it still needs £250k per annum operational funding for the next 5 years plus another £6 million funding. We must save Bletchley Park!!

Bletchley Park huts Bletchley Park hut Bletchley Park hut in bad state

Here is the official announcement:

Bletchley Park are to receive a Heritage Lottery Fund development grant

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has given the green light to the Bletchley Park Trust to work up plans to help transform Bletchley Park into a world class heritage and educational centre it was announced today. Development funding of £460,500 was awarded to help progress their plans.

More details at:

http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/news/docview.rhtm/592098

Monday, 21 September 2009

An apology from Gordon Brown

Friday 11th September 2009 was a red letter day for the Saving Bletchley Park campaign. Gordon Brown issued a public apology: he said that he is sorry for the "appalling" way World War II code-breaker Alan Turing was treated for being gay. More details are on the No. 10 Downing Street petitions website and the BBC report PM apology after Turing petition

 

Turing

I spoke on BBC Breakfast time, BBC Radio London and the Radio 4 Today program about the apology and the current plight of Bletchley Park. There was a lot of press and media coverage which was fabulous for the Park. Hopefully we are getting closer to a solution to Bletchley Park's financial problems. 

The National Portrait Gallery invited me to view their portrait of Turing which has been selected by Chris Smith MP as part of the Gay Icons exhibition. It is an excellent and very moving exhibition, and very highly recommended viewing.

The next notable event on the landscape is finding out around the end of September whether the Heritage Lottery Fund have approved Bletchley Park's recent proposal for funding. Let's all keep our fingers crossed for some more good news.....

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Government response a disgrace

10 Downing Street’s response – or lack of response – to the Save Bletchley Petition, signed by almost 22,000 people, is a disgrace and a slap in the face to the thousands of people that worked there. Bletchley Park not only saved countless British lives and shortened the war by two years, but it is also the birthplace of modern computing and a vital site in the UK’s 20th Century wartime and scientific heritage. If the Government truly acknowledge the contribution made as significant why are they failing to help secure its future?

The funds already allocated to the park will go some small way to fixing a tiny number of problems, but the whole site, and particularly the huts where the most important work was done, are in a dire state of repair. This setback will not stop us campaigning – despite this response, we still believe that investment in saving Bletchley Park would be hugely beneficial to the UK, in terms of saving incredibly important history, knowledge and fantastic stories for the nation.

Tuesday, 04 August 2009

The Women of Bletchley Park

Last week I went to Bletchley Park to speak at a great event entitled 'Women of Bletchley Park', organised by Suw Charman-Anderson as a follow up to Ada Lovelace day.

Jean Valentine #bpark Post Office

It was a fabulous day with the star of the show being the amazing Jean Valentine, Bletchley Park WW2 veteran as our guide.

Jean Valentine - women Bletchley Park

There is a video of Jean explaining the Bombes which she worked on on YouTube which gives you an idea of how interesting it was. But don't just take my word for it, here are some really great blog posts about the day which will give you a good idea of what it was like:

“The geese that laid the golden eggs – but never cackled.” by @liliaceous

"Finding Ada at Bletchley Park" by @LaurieJ

"Finding Ada - The Women of Bletchley Park" by @pernickety

BCSWomen film Bletchley Park cinema Hut 6 #bpark

The film that we watched in the Bletchley Park cinema on the day is "The Women of Station X" which was produced by BCSWomen. There is much more information available about the Women of Station X also on the BCS website and a report from ZDNet "Recognizing Bletchley's unsung heroines" at the official launch in March 2008.

It was a great day, and many thanks to all involved, but, on a sobering note, I took a photo of Hut 6, the hut that I stood outside last year when I was interviewed by the BBC at the beginning of my campaign one year ago. It looks a lot worse than it did last year. Time is running out! We must save Bletchley Park!!! Please donate, talk to everyone you know, write to your MP, support the campaign in any way you can. Thank you.

#BFPA #BPARK #FINDINGADA #BCSWOMEN

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

More Campaign Success!

More good news....following my meeting with Phil Willis MP recently he has tabled an Early Day Motion on Bletchley Park :) Please encourage your MP to sign it.

You can email your MP though the WriteToThem website, it only takes two minutes of your time, so please if you are a UK resident do it now.

If enough of us email we will make a difference.

Thank you

Friday, 10 July 2009

Campaign success!

I've got lots to report....last month Chris Lee from New Media Knowledge recorded "Twittering Bletchley Park"a podcast of me talking about using social media in the Saving Bletchley Park campaign. I also talk in general about Bletchley Park and why it should be saved, do give it a listen.

I had an interesting meeting with Professor Barry Cooper who is Chair of the 2012 Alan Turing Year Centenary Committee where we discussed possible events for 2012. Mind you there is an impressive line of events already lined up.

Sue Simon

The Director of Bletchley Park, Simon Greenish and I were invited to the Europython 2009 conference in Birmingham to give a keynote talk about Bletchley Park on July 1st. We were given a very warm welcome from a great group of people. It was my first talk to such a big crowd, about 450 in the audience! But I think it went well :)

Click on the photo of me above to go to a video of the talk, Simon Greenish talks first about the history and plans for Bletchley Park. My sections starts at around 15 minutes. At the end we unveil an Enigma machine on stage....the audience loved it and were asking questions for about an hour afterwards :)))

Last weekend I gave an invited talk at the Opentech conference in London, this time about women in tech. I had a nice surprise when I introduced myself. I said as part of my intro that I campaign for Bletchley Park and got a round of applause and some cheers. Popular support for Bletchley Park and the camapign is growing :)

I spoke to some very interesting people at the conference, both speakers and audience. During one of the breaks I had a lovely chat with Tom Watson MP. I asked him what he could do to help save Bletchley Park. To my astonishment he said that he would set up a cross party parliamentary group on Bletchley Park. Go Tom! What a great guy :)

TheBBC

This week I had a long standing appointment to see Phil Willis MP to talk to him about Bletchley Park and the campaign. He proved to be another great guy, because after talking to him for just 5 or 10 minutes he said that he will table an Early Day Motion on Bletchley Park!  What a result!

 Enigma

Tom Watson and Phil Willis, two guys in government who really are doing a great job :)

Finally: great news announced today! All surviving Bletchley Park veterans are to be given medals for their service. Great that the recognition of the contribution made by these fine people is finally being recognised :) 

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Why I'm ashamed to be British!

It is a bad day for the Save Bletchley Park campaign today :(

I recently wrote a short comment piece for the Telegraph newspaper which I encourage you to read, on "Why I'm ashamed to be British".

Today, having just listened to the Lords' questions I am also embarrassed. The wonderful Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall asked Lord Davies of Oldham "...what support the UK government will give to the restoration and development of Bletchley Park." Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall was joined by Lord Clement-Jones, Lord Eden of Winton, Baroness Trumpington, Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Lord Selkirk of Douglas and Lord Lea of Crondall in asking for substantial funding to support Bletchley Park. 

In a nutshell the reply from Lord Davies of Oldham was that the government are already doing enough. What utter rubbish! You can see the discussion on the UK Parliament TV channel here starting at around 5.50 minutes. It is also in text form here on Hansard. There is fantastic support from the Lords, with several saying that they have strong connections to Bletchley Park, but the government position is clear: some money has been given to Bletchley Park by English Heritage and Milton Keynes council and that is it. What a disgrace! I am absolutely and utterly disgusted. What is the point of us having a House of Lords if their opinions are brushed aside like this?

If you are similarly annoyed and based in the UK, please write to your MP. Here is a draft letter.

If you have the time, a letter in your own words is more effective, it takes a little longer, but has a much bigger impact. Letters don't need to be long, one paragraph is enough. If you could add a short paragraph about what Bletchley Park means to you, that would be great! Send your letter to your MP at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

You can find out who your local MP is here

If you are not in the UK please sign the international petition and talk to anyone you know who may be able to help put pressure on the UK government.

Thank you so much! We must save Bletchley Park!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Stephen Fry visits Bletchley Park

Today was an absolute Red Letter Day for me and for Bletchley Park :) On February 4th I blogged about Stephen Fry very kindly tweeting:

 #bpark You might want to sign the Save Bletchley Park petition. Read @Dr_Black 's reasons why on http://is.gd/ikEh - BP won us the war!

Stephen Fry
 
and today took that one step further. Stephen Fry visited Bletchley Park and tweeted the highlights to his almost half a million followers on Twitter! 
 

 
After Stephen had agreed to visit Bletchley Park for the day I had, as instructed, (but only just) managed to keep it a secret, that's not bad considering a) it was probably two months of me keeping my mouth shut and b) it was going to be an exciting day that I, frankly, had only dreamed of truly happening. I had managed not to tweet or anything about Stephen's visit to make sure that he could have a relaxing day
walking around BP and getting the real Bletchley Park experience: it kind of grows on you as you wander around the site, meeting the remarkable people and hearing the incredible stories, sometimes from people who actually worked there during WW2!



So, this morning I got up said goodbye to my lovely family and started the journey up to BP. When I was on the train to London I noticed a disturbing tweet from Rory Cellan Jones aka @ruskin147 saying that he was on his way to Bletchley Park! I was outraged and made sure I told him so when we met up (sorry Rory!) Once we got to BP I told Christian aka @documentally off as well for tweeting about Stephen's visit. It turned out that he was just winding me up, nothing new there ;) Then, as we were waiting for Stephen to arrive, and after me telling everyone off, Stephen sent a tweet saying that he had just arrived at Bletchley Park! Needless to say I managed not to tell Stephen off! ;) 
 
 
 
Over lunch we all had a chat about everything and Simon showed Stephen an Enigma machine. You can see a video of that here.
 
 
 
After lunch Stephen unveiled the new griffins at the front of the mansion house and we then we had a great time touring BP and talking to many of the fabulous people that work there, like Tony Sale seen above demonstrating Colossus. 75% of the fantastic staff at Bletchley Park work there as volunteers.
 
 
 
We also met a lovely lady, Dorothy Richards nee Blake, seen below and talking to Stephen Fry here, who worked at BP during WW2 and was on her first trip back since the 40s. There are still over 1000 BP veterans alive, remarkable people who we could, if funds were available, record their fascinating memories. Wouldn't that be great? I've heard many interesting and exciting stories since I've been involved and I've only met a few of these amazing people.
 

   
If you search on Twitter for #bpark you will find a trail of the day's happenings, Stephen Fry so obviously enjoyed himself and was of course extremely knowledgeable and very quick to pick up everything that he had not known beforehand. A genuinely lovely person and now a great supporter of Bletchley Park.
  
Thank you so much @stephenfry you made my day and that of everyone at Bletchley Park. I think Bletchley Park will hopefully be safe now that you are involved. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

 

Friday, 03 April 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Today is Ada Lovelace day. Thanks to a brilliant idea by the wonderful Suw Charman-Anderson people all over the world have pledged to blog about a Woman in Technology that they are inspired by. I've been thinking long and hard since the challenge was laid down and have finally decided who to blog about. There were so many to choose from, famous women like Steve Shirley and Wendy Hall both of whom are fabulous role models and truly wonderful people. I've been very fortunate to know both of them. I have met so many women through my work setting up and running LondonBCSWomen and then BCSWomen who are absolutely fabulous and much as I'd like to, I can't mention them all because it would just take so long. But in a way, isn't that great....there are *so many* fabulous women in technology, that I know, that I don't have time to write about them all. But you know who you are girlfiends....and you all inspire me every day, even now eleven years after setting up the first group. How time flies :)

 

Ada Lovelace

One great woman that I would like to mention quickly is Aliza Sherman, I met her in Brussels in 1998 and she inspired me to eventually set up BCSWomen. Thanks Aliza :)

I also must mention that I have also been inspired by female colleagues and students at both London South Bank University and my current workplace, the University of Westminster. There are many great female computer scientists around......but we need more.

The woman in technology that I am blogging about today is someone that I found out about at Bletchley Park. She was born Aldrina Nia Vaughan, latterly known as Dina St Johnston.

Dina set up the  UK's first software house in Brickendon, Hertfordshire in February 1959. She left school at 16 (like me ;)) and got a job working with the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association in London. At the same time she studied four nights a week at Croydon Polyechnic. She passed her exams and wanted to go to Royal Holloway and Bedford College but because most places at that university were reserved for ex-service people and the remaining places went to men she was unable to gain a place. She therefore went to Sir John Cass College and took and external University of London degree in mathematics.

In 1953 she moved to Elliot Brothers and was sent to attend the Cambridge summer school on Programming in 1954. Her programming skills soon drew her to the attention of the computing division. She worked there for a further five years before setting up her own company: Vaughan Programming Services (VPS). Please read 'An appreciation of Dina St Johnston (1930-2007) Founder of the UK's first Software House' by Simon Lavington for more details of her life and achievements. She sounds like a feisty woman, she remained an active programmer until 1996, I really wish I had met her.

I would like to know more about Dina St Johnston, do let me know if you have any information you can share about her, I haven't found much in a brief web search. 

Many thanks to Lin Jones @linjones on Twitter, volunteer guide at Bletchley Park for giving me the journal paper mentioned above after a discussion about Dina St Johnston last Saturday. I must remember to blog about the rest of our very interesting conversation sometime soon.

So, Happy Ada Lovelace Day everyone! Let's celebrate women in technology, do please consider blogging about a women in technology that you know.I would love to read it :)

Ada Lovelace Day tags: AdaLovelaceDay09, #ALD09

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Pixelh8, Imogen Heap and the Bombe

Last Saturday I finally took my family to Bletchley Park on the occasion of my wonderful twin sons, Sam and Ollys' 23rd birthday. We had a fabulous day with a special surprise champagne party in Station X organised by two great people: my daughter Emma and Kelsey Griffin from Bletchley Park. Here are Sam and Olly in Station X:

 

We went up to Bletchley Park as part of the London Flickr group's trip there which was organised by Billy Abbott or @cowfish as he is known on Twitter, a cool dude :)

In the evening we went to Pixelh8's Obsolete? gig which was really cool :) Pixelh8 is an up and coming talent who I'm sure we are going to hear a lot more from. He uses sounds from old computers to make some fab music. We also got to meet Imogen Heap, an extremely talented musicial genius who was there for the evening too. Here's a pic of us after the gig:

The gig was featured on the BBC's Look East programme, you can see quite a few of the London Flickr group front left in the audience :) We were further back on the right. 

Last week was a great week for Bletchley Park with the lovely John Harper and the Bombe rebuild team winning an award from The Institute of Mechanical Engineers for their fabulous work. It is highlighted in the coverage today by the Mail on Sunday: The Wider View: Nazi codebreaker which shortened the Second World War by two years and in the local press the MKNews War veterans gather to see Bombe machine honoured

Oh and I almost forgot! I was interviewed live on BBC News 24 on 24th March (quite a nerve racking experience!) about women in computing for Ada Lovelace Day #ALD09. A day to celebrate women's contribution to tech, the fantastic idea of Suw Charman-Anderson. My blog post for the day can be seen below. Before I started campaigning for Bletchley Park last year I was a campaigning to improve the situation for, and increase the amount of women in, computing. I set up an online network for women in computing in 1998 called London BCSWomen and an international version in 2001 called BCSWomen. I chaired BCSWomen until last June.

I was also amazed to find that ITPRO magazine had suggested their Top Ten IT Women Role Models and included me at number 8! Wow! 

Finally....thanks to Kelsey for this reminder: also this week BCS President Alan Pollard opened the new and exciting 3D theatre which shows in pictures how the famous German Enigma machine worked and how Alan Turing’s Bombe machine was used to crack the code. It also shows how the museum's fully operational replica of the Bombe was built.

Monday, 23 March 2009

TNMOC receives £100k!!

Great news this week as the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park receives it's biggest ever donation :)

Fabulous news!!

  Tony Sale shows Stephen Fry Colossus

Lovely pic of the wonderful Tony Sale showing Stepehn Fry (also wonderful of course ;)) the rebuilt Colossus housed in TNMOC.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Bletchley Park wins Building with Pride!

Fabulous news: Bletchley Park has won Wickes Builing with Pride competition!

People have been voting for the last two months for the builing that they are most proud of in the UK, the fact that Bletchley Park has won means that people all over the country care about Bletchley Park, that's such great news :)

More on the story from the local newspaper The Milton Keynes Citizen.

Also today a great blog post from Rory Cellan Jones, the BBC technology correspondent on our use of social media to engage everyone with the plight of Bletchley Park. It's entitled Bletchley Park's Social Media War.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

3 Counties Radio, Building with Pride and Station X

A great week for Bletchley Park! Milton Keynes residents voted to match the funding that English Heritage promised last December. this is great news because it means another £600 000 for Bletchley Park. There's a full write up on the BBC news website and in the Independent Neighbours give Bletchley a cash lifeline.

Also last week I went to a talk at UCL by the wonderful Captain Jerry Roberts. Jerry worked as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park during WW2 and had some very interesting stories to tell. One thing that he emphasized was the fact that the three key people that worked at Bletchley Park that made fundamental advances, namely Alan Turing, Bill Tutte and Tommy Flowers have recieved little recognition for what they did. Most of us have heard of Alan Turing, but very few of us have heard of Tommy Flowers or Bill Tutte, and considering what they did in terms of enabling WW2 to end they got very little thanks. Jerry told us in no uncertain terms that he thought it was not too late to do something about this. Here's my tweet. I agree. What do you think?

Also...last week all of us Bletchley Park aka #bpark Twitterers voted for Bletchley Park as the Building we are most proud of on the Building with Pride website. It was neck and neck with The Needles on the Isle of Wight and the Cavern in Liverpool. I'm hoping that we did enough to win, but The Needles put up very stiff competition. The results will be announced this week,so keep an eye ion Twitter for the results, I'll tweet as soon as I hear anything.

 

Today was a busy and exciting day too. An interview for me on BBC Three Counties Radio (listen from about 35 minutes) and My first StationX social media cafe experience at Bletchley Park. To get to Bletchley Park in time I had to get up at 6.30am! Easy for some, but not the easiest thing for me to do:) Anyway, due probably to being excited about today, I had no problem getting up in the middle of the night ;) and got to Bletchley at about 9am with plenty of time to spare before my interview. I was only slightly stressed before the interview, so am obviously getting used to it now. A far cry from my first live radio interview, last year I think, when I thought I was going to die from heart failure beforehand. Amazing how you can get used to anything really :) In fact listening to my interview for the first time this evening, I really enjoyed it...hey! I'm becoming a dab hand at this stuff!

     @panavision @loudmouthman

Thanks very much again to Clive Flint for the photos. see his Flickr set for more.

StationX was wonderful. Organised by the fabulous Christian Payne: @documentally on Twitter, it was great to meet up with so many other geeky people. We all had a good chat, some of us were interviewed by Christian and we had a fantastic geeked out tour of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing. @panavision was our guide along with @linjones, both of whom are volunteer guides at BP. @Loudmouthman astounded with his deep geekness, @sizemore was cool and composed as always, good to see @steaders and @cliveflint again and of course @bletchleypark :) Great also to meet @PaulDJohnston and @TowcesterNews who has written a great blog about it here. Another great day at Bletchley Park, I'm sure there will be more to come.

BTW: If you haven't signed the petition to save Bletchley Park yet, please do it now, we need to get to number 1! 

Sunday, 08 March 2009

Please write a letter to your MP

Thanks very much to Chris Campbell who has produced a draft letter that we can all use in the UK to send to our MPs.

If you have the time, a letter in your own words is more effective, it takes a little longer, but has a much bigger impact. Letters don't need to be long, one paragraph is enough. If you could add a short paragraph about what Bletchley Park means to you, that would be great!

Send your letter to your MP at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

You can find out who your local MP is here

Thank you!

Thursday, 05 March 2009

Is Twitter saving Bletchley Park?

Things are really starting to take off now, it's getting very exciting! I've been speaking to people about Bletchley Park since last July when I went on a tour there, and if you read all my blog posts below, you will see how, gradually, the campaign has picked up. There are so many things going on and offers from so many people to do things that what I write about here is only the tip of the iceberg :)

In the last couple of weeks I have had a piece in the Telegraph entitled "Save Bletchley Park: Why I am ashamed to be British" which has had 135 comments from the public added, really great to see so much public support :) I have carried on sending the occasional tweet on Twitter to raise awareness and ask people to sign the petition, which is climbing higher and higher on the number 10 website. Will it reach number one? I hope so.

People on Twitter have been absolutely fabulous and extremely supportive of the campaign, I actually think that Twitter in a way will save Bletchley Park. If you would like to follow Bletchley Park themselves on Twitter you can do that here: http://twitter.com/bletchleypark

Since starting to campaign on Twitter in January many wonderful people are spreading the word by retweeting and getting involved themselves. See below for my blog post about the visit to Bletchley Park with Mike Atherton, Christian Payne and Jamillah Knowles, three great people who have really helped take the campaign forward. Some tweeters are happy to carry forward the campaign message on their own, for example Lewis Shepherd CTO at the Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments at Microsoft who very kindly said that he would talk about the campaign to save Bletchley Park at last month's Microsoft's Techfest.  How cool is that?!

In the last few weeks I've spoken about Bletchley Park at events and conferences like Amplified09, Extreme Tuesday, the Tuttle Club, Twestival and Software Craftsmanship 2009 where Jason Gorman the conference organiser implored everyone to help save Bletchley Park. Thanks Jason!

sueamplified09

Amplified09 #40 Bletchley Park - Dr Sue Black will be with us to chat around the Save Bletchley Park campaign. Something close to the heart of all geeks.

Thanks very much to Clive Flint for the photo, another great supporter of Bletchley Park from Twitter :)

I've also had meetings with some great guys from BT that I met on Twitter, I'm hoping to hear from them again soon ;)

Captain Jerry Roberts is giving a talk about his experiences at Bletchley Park at UCL next week. After sending a tweet out about, it all seats were booked and the waiting list filled up too. I'm really looking forward to that, it is great that Jerry is getting the recognition that he deserves, he is a great man :) He in turn is very keen to get recognition for Tommy Flowers and Bill Tutte who worked at Bletchley Park. I'm sure he will be talking about them next week.

Ooh, just remembered: I also set up a Save Bletchley Park group on Linkedin three weeks ago and invited all of my 560 Linkedin contacts to join! So far there are 217 members and several people contributing to some interesting discussion.

So, you see, things are really happening....even PR people have started to notice the campaign! ;) Here is Steve Taylor, Director of Media and Marketing at Sue Ryder Care guest blogging about engaging an audience and online marketing: 

  Does it work? Just take a look at the trail of excellent support generated on Twitter by Bletchley Park for instance to see how you can engage a large group for no cost. That’s another ‘code’ they’ve cracked.

Hehe, very good.

Thanks so much to the hundreds or maybe thousands (now :)) of people who are talking to their friends, relatives and colleagues about Bletchley Park and coming up with their own ideas for projects that will help with the campaign. Please encourage everyone you know to join the campaign by: signing the petition, writing to their MP (draft letter for you to use coming soon), joining twitter and following @Dr_Black and @BletchleyPark for updates and talking to everyone about it. It is a crucial/significant/fundamental part of our heritage. Have I forgotten anything? Oh yes:

BLETCHLEY PARK MUST BE SAVED!

Please do what you can. Thanks :) 

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Stephen Fry Tweets "Save Bletchley Park"

On the evening of 3rd February I decided to send a tweet or two to Stephen Fry asking him if he would tweet about saving Bletchley Park, I went to bed afterwards and forgot all about it.

At 10am the next morning I got an email saying that I had received a direct message from Stephen Fry. He said that he had sent out a tweet to all his followers! I checked Twitter to find this:

Monday, 02 February 2009

Bletchley Park Goldmine

Met up with a fabulous person yesterday, his name is Brian Oakley. Brian is a CBE, was BCS President in 1988 and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Essex. He is best known as the Chairman of the committee that was responsible for implementing the government program of fifth generation computing research that followed the Alvey report in the 1980s.

I first met Brian when he showed Fran Allen, Caroline Wardle, Phyllis Starkey MP and me around Bletchley Park last September. Brian was an absolutely fantastic guide, his knowledge of BP is absolutely immense and he is completely committed to saving Bletchley Park and has been for some time.

  briansue

Brian has an equally amazing wife, Marion, who made us the best cake I have ever tasted in my life, no joke , it really was (please don't tell my friend Ilaria, because up until now, her cakes were the best ;-))

I had been meaning to get in touch with Brian since last September and embarassingly have only just got around to it. Anyway, we had a really wonderful afternoon together discussing Bletchley Park amongst many other things, Brian and Marion have four children and ten grandchildren who sound absolutely wonderful too!

Brian has produced many documents relating to Bletchley Park over the years  including a database of people who worked there  and a month by month account of what happened at BP during WW2. I'm hoping that we may be able to get some of the amazing information that he has spent many years compiling online. Watch this space for details......

BTW: I found this interesting link whilst Googling Brian: The 360/195 is dead

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Blogging 4 Bletchley

Had a really enjoyable evening this evening talking to the Extreme Tuesday club about being a geek and saving Bletchley Park. Many thanks to the wonderful Jason Gorman for coming up with the Blogging 4 Bletchley idea and then organising it. I hadn't really thought that much about being a geek before, but the signs were there for me from an early age: not many friends and used to spend all my pocket money on maths textbooks ;-) Hmmm.

Anyway, as I was saying, there were some great people in the audience with some good questions and ideas and a really interesting discussion afterwards. I'm looking forward to many great things from the blogging/tweeting community in terms of Bletchley Park. They are a force to be reckoned with.

If you have a blog, please do start Blogging 4 Bletchley: read all about Bletchley Park and start telling people why you think it should be saved, and of course do get in touch if you want any more information.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Remember Tommy Flowers

BBC Pods and Blogs aka Jamillah Knowles came along with us last week when we visited Bletchley Park. Jamillah has produced a fabulous podcast from Captain Jerry Roberts talk at UCL and those of us who were at BP last week. Listen to it from the BBC Pods and Blogs page

Interview

One of the students who was at Captain Jerry Roberts talk last week has blogged about it, which led me to find many others who have blogged about Bletchley Park. Many people really care about the place and for good reason. 

If you haven't signed the 10 Downing Street petition to save BP already, please do so now.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

New Hope for Bletchley Park

What a fabulous day! I went to Bletchley Park last Wednesday with Mike Atherton, Jamillah Knowles  and Christian Payne. They are better known to those who use Twitter as @Sizemore, @Jemimah_Knight and @Documentally.

First we had a meeting with Simon Greenish: Director of Bletchley Park and Kelsey Griffin: Director of Operations at BP.

Christianetal

L to R Christian, Mike, Kelsey, Sue

A video clip shot by Christian, shows us introducing ourselves and Simon talking about BP. We then had a grand tour led by Kelsey, taking in the Mansion House, Station X (well almost, it was locked, but we stood outside ;-)). We then went to the BP Post Office and Toy Museum. I was amazed to see a book that I read when I was six years old in the Toy Museum...made me feel rather old! Apart from that it was fabulous ;-) very evocative with something there for everyone to have a look at. That's the first time I've been in there and actually, I can't wait to go back and have a better look. We met the people who set up and run the Toy Museum who were really lovely and also I was introduced by them to the Director of the Bethnal Park Toy Museum as she just happened to be visiting. 

Toymuseum  

Next we had a look at the vintage cars and the boat museum, and then moved on to the cottages where some of the top code breakers worked. Next was the National Museum of Computing (NMOC) which is of course Mecca for a geek like me. I could spend all day in there. Do have a look at the photographs taken by Mike, Christian and Jamillah in the new Flickr group of all of these parts of BP, they must have taken about 1000 photographs between them! Bletchley Park have set up a Flickr group so that anyone with photos of BP can put them online for all to enjoy, another great idea from the group :-) BP also now have a prescence on Twitter: you can follow updates about what they are doing by following @bletchleypark.

 

From the NMOC we went to have a look at the furnace where all of the paper used for writing down the codes/decrypts etc. was burnt every day, as Christian said "like the forerunner of the modern day shredder". It felt like a very symbolic place to me because I can just imagine the people working there assigned to the job walking down there every night with the paper used that day, burning it in the furnace (on land unfortunately no longer owned by BP) and there already being messages coming through which needed to be deciphered for the next day. The position of the wheels on the Enigma or Lorenz machines was changed every day and the code cracked afresh each day.  

Next was the Bombe rebuild, and the exhibits in that block, finishing up in the BP shop which has many interesting and varied products for sale, better than your average gift shop. We ended with Jemimah interviewing us for her BBC Pods and Blogs spot. As she interviewed Mike and Christian I walked over to the lake and spent 10 minutes thinking about all of the people that worked at BP, most sadly no longer with us :-( The 10 minutes reflection really made me think that BP should become a living museum, just imagine if when you visit you really get a sense of what it was like there during WWII. You arrive at the entrance and are questioned by a sentry and not allowed in until you show the correct ID, there are people sitting by the lake who will talk to you about their jobs running the Bombe and Colossus machines, someone in the role of Alan Turing walking or riding aorund on his bicycle, happy to answer questions about his involvement and life there. How cool would that be for kids visiting? Well, and adults too of course.

It was an absolutely fabulous day, and very exciting to see and hear about all of the things that Mike, Christian and Jemimah know that BP can use to help get a whole new audience involved with BP. As I had hoped, it's not because people don't care that BP is not properly funded, although of course that is true for  some. I think it is because not enough of the people that care know the reality of the situation. I left with a real sense of hope that we had taken a massive step forward with the campaign. Mike and Christian are fantastic, they are wonderful people that really care about the important things in life, I feel very honoured to have met them and spent a day with them. The same goes for Jemimah. None of them had to be there, they very kindly came along to see what was going on and to see if they could help out. I believe that their input will over the next few months make a dramatic difference to Bletchley Park, and look forward to see how their influence and input plays out.

Do keep checking back here to see what progress has been made and do have a look at www.twitter.com and follow @bletchleypark, you'll be glad that you did.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer

Attended an absolutely fascinating talk today by Captain Jerry Roberts at University College London. I was accompanied by Mike Sizemore, Jemimah Knight and my lovely friend Judy Corbalis.

Jerry Roberts

Captain Jerry Roberts shows us one of the valves used by Tommy Flowers when building Colossus

Jerry is an amazing speaker. He told us many stories about his time at Bletchley Park including the time when he deciphered and translated a message that ended with the signature: 'Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer'. How incredible must that have been? Amazing. Jerry told us the story of Tommy Flowers who invented the first computer at Bletchley Park: Colossus, Bill Tutte who cracked Tunny and of course Alan Turing. It was a fabulous afternoon shared by German and History students from UCL who sat quietly with their mouths open throughout the whole talk. We were all hanging on Jerry's every word....with good reason. I'm looking forward to the next talk Jerry gives in March, again at UCL. Many thanks to Professor Suzanne Kord from UCL for organising the talk for her students and very kindly allowing us to attend.

Now to tomorrow, I'm so excited as I'm off to Bletchley Park again. This time with Mike and Jemimah and also Christian, all better known to those on Twitter as @Sizemore, @Jemimah_Knight and @Documentally.

Mike got in touch with me last week after following a link from my Twitter profile to this blog and then reading about the campaign to get Bletchley Park properly funded. He told me that both he and Christian who are both social media gurus, really want to do something about the lack of funding for Bletchley Park. They have done an amazing job already over the last couple of days of promoting the cause, and I think that what they are going to do tomorrow when we are at BP is going to make a massive difference. I can't wait to see how tomorrow goes.....watch this space....

Monday, 08 December 2008

Mavis Batey on CBS news

Fabulous coverage of Bletchley Park on US TV Channel CBS news today:

WWII Code Breaking Compound Crumbles


Mavis Batey is interviewed by CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar about codebreaking, and Simon Greenish the Director of Bletchley Park shows us the inside of one of the huts, something I have not seen before. 

Simon Greenish says that it has been a record year for visitors this year with 70 000 regular visitors plus 5 000 schoolchildren. With all the publicity that Bletchley Park is getting I'm sure that numbers will keep increasing :-)

Sunday, 16 November 2008

A great lunch and plans for the future

Was invited to Jerry and Mei Roberts' place for lunch and to meet Jack Copeland author of the book 'Colossus'. Although I haven't read the whole book (I'm ashamed to say) I have dipped in and out of it, it is an absolutely fascinating read and highly recommended. Jack and Jerry very kindly signed my copy :-)

After introductions were over we had a good chat about BP. Jerry is absolutely amazing, he led one of the shifts in the testery at BP during WWII and at 80+ is still going strong. Jack has amazing knowledge of what happened at BP and codebreaking from both a theoretical and historical point of view. We had a very enjoyable conversation and then started thinking up ideas for ways to raise funding and awareness for/of BP. I wrote up a list of exciting ideas and actions. Watch this space for progress.......

JerrySueJack

 

Thursday, 06 November 2008

Exciting news!

Exciting news this morning, Bletchley Park have received a £330 000 grant from English Heritage which will be used to undertake urgent repairs to the roof of the mansion house. Discussions are also in progress regarding a further £600 000 from English Heritage over the next three years.

This is fabulous news and exactly the type of funding for which we have been campaigning.

Simon Greenish, Director of Bletchley Park says 'I think this has come out of the publicity this year with your contribution being a major factor.' :-)

More details are on the BBC website this morning:

New lifeline for Bletchley Park

and in today's Times newspaper where our letter appeared last July:

Government grant to save Bletchley Park

The news is starting to be picked up across the media:

Bletchley Park recieves £330 000 English Heritage grant Bucks Free Press 6th November 2008

Bletchley Park gets £330k lifeline The Register 6th November 2008

Thanks everyone so much for your support, this is great news, and hopefully just the beginning of substantial funding for BP. 

EHF - BP

Simon Greenish, Director of Bletchley Park with Sir Francis and Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage at Bletchley Park this morning

The story is linked from the BBC homepage, showing how important they think it is:

 BBC homepage 6-11-08

and it is front of the BBC Technology page today:

BBC Technology front page

Tuesday, 04 November 2008

Media update

Received a call from Jerry Roberts to say that the BBC are coming back to interview today him along with Jack Copeland, author of the book Colossus. This is great news as the more stories from BP that are broadcast the more people in general will realise what a massive role it played in the shortening and winning of WWII. Hopefully then more people will realise the importance of BP and join the campaign to save it for posterity.

 Jerry said that the BBC are going to run a program about Tommy Flowers, the man who designed Colossus.

 The campaign and awareness of BP seem to be gaining critical mass, as time goes on more and more people seem to be coming on board :-)

 

Friday, 19 September 2008

Fran Allen visits Bletchley Park

Another exciting day. Fran Allen: the only female Turing award winner is in the UK to speak at a conference and wants to go to see Bletchley Park.  Professor Caroline Wardle from Queen Mary College and I have organised a trip for today. Joining us at BP are Phyllis Starkey the local MP for Bletchley and Mavis Batey one of the few surviving codebreakers. 

Mavis and Fran

Mavis (L) tells Fran (R) and the group all about her experience working at Bletchley Park. 

We had a fabulous day guided around by Brian Oakley whose knowledge of BP was amazing.

All at BP by lake

From L to R: Brian Oakley, Caroline Wardle, Fran Allen, Phyllis Starkey MP, Sue Black, Frank Carter

 All at the Bombe

From L to R: Caroline Wardle, John Harper, Phyllis Starkey MP, Fran Allen, Sue Black, Brian Oakley, Frank Carter.

John Harper and his team have rebuilt the Bombe.

 

Tuesday, 09 September 2008

Money for Bletchley Park

Great news! IBM and PGP corporation have donated money to The National Museum of Computing at BP :-)

Was invited to the press event at BP along with some of the Professors of Computing who signed our letter to the Times. Hopefully other companies will now follow suit...

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Captain Jerry Roberts

Was invited to see Captain Jerry Roberts and his wife Mei for a chat about BP. They made me and my daughter Leah extremely welcome, and we talked for at least two hours about BP and Jerry's involvement there. Jerry was a shift leader, linguist and senior codebreaker in the testery at BP, an extremely important position.

Jerry said that he had decided to dedicate the rest of his life to highlighting the importance of BP and the people that worked there. I resolved to help find someone to help him to write about his experiences at BP and to try to get some media interest in him and the story he has to tell.

After only having met 2 hours before we parted firm friends. I am so lucky to have met or talked to some really incredible people through my campaign. 

Jerry Roberts and Sue Black

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Bletchley Park hits the news

Wow! What a day. I woke up at 4.30am stressed with the thought that I was going to be interviewed live on BBC News 24 later that day. I did an interview with Radio Five live at about 7.50am and then made my way up to Westminster to the BBC studios. 

On arrival I did my first ever studio radio interview with the BBC World Service and then got myself ready for a live TV interview. I sat waiting to go on opposite Feargal Sharkey from the Undertones. He sang one of the greatest songs of my teenage years: Teenage Kicks, I still feel excited by it every time I hear it, even now. I wanted to tell him that but was so nervous that I couldn't remember the name of the song! Feargal was then called to go on and I actually started calming down a bit. After about 10 minutes it was my turn and I went through and did the interview. I decided when miked up and sitting in the chair that I was going to enjoy it, because if I was stressed I would look stressed on TV. I think it worked, although when I came out I had no idea what I had said.

SueBlackBBCJuly2008

I had lunch with Andy Clark who is Chair of Trustees of The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) at Bletchley Park. We had a really interesting discussion and I found out more about the recent history of Bletchley Park and why it is in the state that it is now.

In the afternoon I did another Radio interview with BBC Radio Wales. This time they had a female veteran being interviewed with me, she was really interesting and great fun. I am really humbled when I talk to those that worked there. Their work, which was very hard work over several years, sometimes seven days per week, contributed to the freedom that I and my family and friends enjoy today. 

Thursday, 24 July 2008

A letter in the Times

Saving the heritage of Bletchley Park

We cannot let Bletchley go to rack and ruin


Sir, The work undertaken at Bletchley Park during the Second World War in breaking German wartime codes played a significant part in winning that war and securing our future. The work included the decryption of messages enciphered on the German Enigma machines and the breaking of the German “Fish” High Command teleprinter ciphers. Bletchley Park also played a significant role 65 years ago in the design and development of Colossus, one of the world’s first programmable electronic computers. It is therefore fitting that the world’s first purpose-built computer centre should be home to the National Museum of Computing.

Over the years, Bletchley Park has survived building redevelopment (1938), an air raid (1940), the destruction of sensitive material and information (post-1945) and more recently (1991), a second attempt at demolition and redevelopment. That Bletchley Park has survived to the present day is due to the foresight of Milton Keynes Borough Council, which declared the park a conservation area in February 1992, and the formation of the Bletchley Park Trust just three days later.

The trust currently runs this gem charitably, receiving no external funding. Although there has recently been some progress in generating income, without fundamental support Bletchley Park is still under threat, this time from the ravages of age and a lack of investment. Many of the huts where the codebreaking occurred are in a terrible state of disrepair.

As a nation, we cannot allow this crucial and unique piece of both British and world heritage to be neglected in this way. The future of the site, buildings, resources and equipment at Bletchley Park must be preserved for future generations by providing secure long-term financial backing. Is it too much to ask that Bletchley Park be provided with the same financial stability as some of our other great museums such as the Imperial War Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum?

The letter along with signatories is on the Times website

 

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A busy and exciting week

Here is my email to CPHC:


Dear all,

It has been a very busy and exciting week :-)

I was interviewed at Bletchley Park on Monday by Rory Cellan Jones, the interview will be on the Today Programme on Radio 4 tomorrow morning and possibly on BBC 1pm and 6pm news depending on what else happens tomorrow. I am also going to be on Radio Five Live at 6.50am tomorrow morning (ouch!) and BBC news 24 at 11.30am.

The letter that my colleague John Turner very kindly wrote will be in the Times tomorrow and is already on their website. I was asked to choose 5-6 names from the 97 to put in the newspaper so have chosen those that I am hoping will have most resonance with the general public, many thanks to those six people. All signatories names are included on the Times website, but unfortunately, apart from the six aforementioned, they are there without titles or affilations, apologies for that, I have asked the Times to rectify this, so maybe they will change it.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article4385384.ece

I really hope that we have included everyone that emailed us in the list, if not my apologies, it has been really hectic over the last few days. Also apologies to Professor  Lawrence Paulson, for some reason the 'Professor' has disappeared from your  'signature'.

Thank you all so much for your support for the campaign, it has been absolutely overwhelming, and I think that because of your support we may now actually get somewhere with this....and something fundamental may happen. I'm really becoming quite confident that we do now have a good chance of getting some serious funding :-)

Please talk to everyone you know who may be interested in the campaign, I'm hoping to appeal to the general public tomorrow to raise awareness amongst those that know very little about Bletchley Park, to get them onboard, to help them to realise that this is part of our heritage, all of us. We need to preserve Bletchley Park so that our children and grandchildren know and understand about the massive effort put into cracking the codes and winning WW2 and also the history of computing in this country.

I hope that I can get the message over well tomorrow, thanks again so much for your support everyone, you have really made a difference.

Best regards

Sue

Monday, 21 July 2008

An exciting phone call

Was working at home planning to meet up with Professor Caroline Wardle from Queen Mary College for a working lunch to discuss a trip to Bletchley Park for Fran Allan: the only female Turing award winner who had taught Caroline at University in the States.

Got a call from Rory Cellan-Jones saying that he was going up to BP to shoot some film and record something for the radio, would I be interested in being interviewed at BP for radio and possibly a piece for TV too? Was I interested?! Called Caroline who kindly agreed to meet me earlier than planned and then got the train up to BP.

Was interviewed there by Rory for TV and radio.  I had thought I would be nervous, but actually I wasn't. As I stood looking at the huts I just felt really annoyed that nothing was being done to save them.

Friday, 18 July 2008

The BBC are interested!

To my great surprise got a call from Rory Cellan-Jones and Mark Ward at the BBC. Had a good chat with them, they were both lovely and really interested in doing a piece about BP. Fabulous!

They suggested that the Letter to the Times from CPHC should go in next Thursday, they could not tell me why it had to be next Thursday.....if they did they would have to shoot me ;-) Exciting stuff. I agree that the letter can go in next Thursday. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Talk to the BBC

After getting such a great response from the Council for Professors and Heads of Computing to the letter which will appear in the Times sometime soon I decided to email my contacts in the media to see if they were interested in picking up the story. I emailed Rory Cellan-Jones at the BBC amongst others and amazingly he got back to me almost straight away!

I chatted to Rory about BP and why we had to do something now to save it, I didn't feel that he was that interested... 

Monday, 14 July 2008

The Council for Professors and Heads of Computing

Emailed the The Council for Professors and Heads of Computing:

From: Dr Sue Black
Sent: 14 July 2008 17:51
To: CPHC
Subject: Saving Bletchley Park

Dear all,
 
Many thanks to the very many of you who along with me signed the Bletchley Park petition recently. As Simon Greenish, the Director of Bletchley Park pointed out to me, the Bletchley Park petition now ranks higher on the popularity list than the petition asking for a knighthood for Bruce Forsyth. Excellent news, well done everyone ;-)
 
This email is a bid to take the campaign one step further. I went to Bletchley Park this month taking in a wonderful guided tour of the site. Whilst absolutely amazed by the history and the interesting and exciting stories of the fabulous work that went on there during WWII I was horrified to see the state of some of the huts where the codebreaking took place. One hut in particular is falling apart and has a blue tarpaulin nailed over one end (small photo attached), to be honest I found it quite distressing.
 
I came home determined to do more. So, I am appealing to you again to help me continue with the campaign to save Bletchley Park.
 
Pasted below this email is a letter drafted by John Turner, a colleague of mine at the University of Westminster, which I would like you to read and 'sign' if you agree by replying to this email with your name and affiliation. We will send the letter along with signatories to the Times newspaper in approximately ten days time. If you know of any computing pioneers or others whose signatures you think may add weight to the campaign please do feel free to forward this request.
 
Apologies for taking up your time with another email on this subject, but I believe that, not only is this a cause worth fighting for, but also that time is of the essence, a hut from the 1940s covered in a tarpaulin is not going to last for ever.
 
Best regards
 
Sue

 

Tuesday, 01 July 2008

Bletchley Park visit

Went to a reception at Bletchley Park with my colleague from the University of Westminster John Turner who is also a passionate supporter. We had an interesting tour of the site. Although delighted to have a good look around the site I was quite shocked at the state of some of the huts which appeared to be almost falling down. One in particular was covered at one end by a blue tarpaulin to keep out the rain. I took a few photographs.

Hut

Pink Hut

We saw the Colossus and Bombe machines which have been rebuilt over the last few years by two remarkable men: Tony Sales and John Harper supported by teams of enthusiasts, their dedication is amazing and an example to us all. We also got to see an Enigma machine and had a talk from the artist who has created a marvellous sculpture of Alan Turing.

John Harper and Sue Black with the Alan Turing Sculpture

 John Harper, Alan Turing and Sue Black     

Sue Black/Enigma machine

          Sue Black and the Enigma machine

We had a really interesting and educational visit to Bletchley Park, but on the way home I could not get  the picture of the hut with the blue tarpaulin out of my head. I have to do something to ensure that it and the other huts along with the rest of the site are saved .....

Your comments Your comments



Closed for new comments

(Like per Charles Nove below), my mother was a BP girl, working in an RAF 'hut'. My father was in RAF Intelligence seconded to the War Office and co-operated with Prof. Reggie Jones on various scientific projects to defeat the Nazis. He visited BP a few times and may have first met Mum there. Certainly, they married in 1942, and the rest, as they say, is history. ( Well, mine anyway! )
Giles Daubney, on Sun June 05, 2011, 00:17
As part of a multinational group, we were given a tour of the Park, its huts and a lovely chat but one of the staff who helped build Colossus. This is a page in history that must be preserved by the British people as one of the finest hous for you and the Commonweaslth and the world. Good Luck Sue.
Ron Belanger, on Mon November 15, 2010, 15:51
Well done, Sue, for getting this publicity going. As everyone else is no doubt saying, this is the most incredibly disgrace. I dont do Twitter, so I was wondering about Face Book? Have you started an area, or shall I do one to link back here?
Dr Nina Baker, on Tue April 06, 2010, 11:31
The fact that those who have died have not been honoured is purely symptomatic of a government that is only doing what they have because they have been embarrassed into it! The veterans don't need a badge - they deserve a MEDAL for what they did!!!
Fraser, on Thu November 12, 2009, 19:21
I just booked my tickets for the comedy benefit in aid of Bletchley Park on Nov 3rd. Only a few seats left, by the looks of it. www.boffoonery.com
Joe Beck, on Tue September 01, 2009, 16:07
The Foreign Office recently announced an award for those who have worked at BP. However it only applies to those still alive not to those who have died! This discrimination is unjust. Should you agree with me suggest you write to:
GCHQ, Hubble Rd. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 0EX.
I understand they are open to suggestions such as a certificate for all exBPs.
Derek Wilkins, on Sat August 08, 2009, 23:34
Does there exist any kind of roster of who worked there in WW2 ?
A relative was there but in what capacity I don't know.
Stan, now-expat, on Thu July 23, 2009, 18:16
Bletchley Park was unknown to me unitl some friends in the Lewis Carroll Society invited us there for a Bank Holiday event in August 2007. We were visiting from California; WWII was fought by our parents.

To discover the history of the place, its great significance in the war, the exhibits of the Enigma machines, the Bombe, and to watch the Colossus operating while Tony Sale described the rebuilding from surplus obsolete telecom equipment based on a few wiring diagrams and photographs, and to walk where Alan Turing walked was thrilling.

I hope that the National Codes Center can be saved and prosper. Everyone with an interest in cryptography and computing should join me in donating to this cause whatever amount you can. Our personal contributions wont save Bletchley Park but they will demonstrate public interest and this is significant to politicians and patrons as they weigh the many claims for assistance.

Best of luck.
Richard Carpenter, on Thu March 12, 2009, 02:23
Good news:

Following a vote by local residents, Milton Keynes Council has agreed to pay £100,000 a year for three years, matching a pledge by English Heritage.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/beds/bucks/herts/7937155.stm
Huma, on Wed March 11, 2009, 17:54
During the Second World war a secret base was setup in Canada, nestled on the north shore of Lake Ontario called Camp X which was a secret agent training site which included the " Man Named Intrepid"
The site was largely ignored for years and what remains today is a couple of flag poles and a plaque. The buildings, tunnels, equipment etc etc are all gone, vanished.
People regret the decision but it is too late.
Bletchley Park and the work by Alan Turing should not be ignored. and it would be sad to see the location be abused by the establishment as Alan Turing was in the 1950's
Glenn McKnight, on Mon February 23, 2009, 14:51
My mother, Marguerite Frances Harris was a W.R.E.N. and worked at BP during WWII and kept the secret well...I was so proud of her and know that those were some of the most exciting and "alive" times of her life. I'd love to hear if anyone remembers her...sadly Mum died in Tucson, Arizona in 1995 and I didn't have a chance to talk to her very deeply about those days
Paul Harris, on Tue February 17, 2009, 20:25
As a Chicago-based journalist and historian, ten years ago I visited and then publish in several magazines the amazing story of the greatest intelligence breakthrough in history. Here is both an outdoor and indoor museum that is being shamefully ignored. Soon, it will be gone.
Saving BP is saving history, British history. To view the published features go to WWW.Historyarticles.com and click on the two features,
1) BLETCHLEY PARk, 2)ENIGMA (describing Alan Turing.) Jerome M. O'Connor
jeromeoconnor@aol.com WWW.Historyarticles.com
Jerome M. O'Connor, on Tue February 17, 2009, 15:51
Bletchley is a site of international importance and as such should receive any funding necessary to restore and maintain it. It is no less important than any prisoner of war camp or other WW2 interest site.

The National Heritage and indeed the European Community equivalent must donate to ensure it's survival.
Russell Phillips, on Tue February 17, 2009, 11:30
Happy to sign. My Aunt worked throughout her war at Bletchley Park. Could never tell her parents or her brother and sisters what she did. A lonely war I suspect.
Pondlife, on Tue February 17, 2009, 06:52
I lived in Bletchley for over 30 years and spent 3 years at Bletchley Park when it was breing used as a Teachers Training College, I am fully behind your campaign to save a unique part of British history.
Ron Middleton, on Tue February 17, 2009, 03:53
Just saw the piece in the onlineTelegraph, and immediately signed up. Here in Boston MA, the Museum of Science has a small display dedicated to BP...it's of such international importance. Good luck !
Richard, on Mon February 16, 2009, 22:12
Is there any way for those of us in America to help? I could send money, but is there a more tangible way to help? I noticed the petition is only available to British Citizens...As a former student of World War II, and as a current employee of a technology company - I've long known of Bletchley Park. In fact, in my last working visit to London, I specifically took an afternoon to visit Bletchley -even bought a souviner mug with "enigma" on it!

Let us know....

Yours,

A.J. Murray, FSA Scot
A.J. Murray, on Mon February 16, 2009, 19:57
I absolutely and entirely agree with you Sue, but you are dealing with a government who lack integrity and have only a superficial interest in anything 'British'. We are witnessing the destruction of our national heritage and culture, we're on a downhill spin and I doubt that any amount of protests and petitions by genuine, caring British people will make any difference.
David Mills, on Mon February 16, 2009, 19:08
Spent time at BP training at the CAA 20 years ago. Wasn't until over 10 years later that I got to realise the simprtance of all those derelict wooden huts! I hope the powers that be and the public have the sense to save what is a very important part of our heritage.
Nick B., on Fri February 06, 2009, 14:01
My mother was a Bletchley Park girl during the War. Good luck with all you are doing. Keep that history alive!
Charles Nove, on Wed February 04, 2009, 23:56
Given that last year, we are trying to raise public awareness of WW1 & WW2 and through different displays and exhibitions with the 'speak to and learn from the veterans' I think that it is an important part of our history that has got to be kept. Also, it may make the gov't re-think where our money goes and actually put it into something useful for a change.
BabsnRay, on Wed February 04, 2009, 17:15
Flabbergasted is right, I can't believe a site like BP isn't already protected. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. I've signed of course and will be passing the details on.
Sheryl La Bouchardiere, on Wed February 04, 2009, 15:07
My mother worked in a related military-support role, just down the road and "knew _something_ was there" (at Bletchley) - so cool. I feel BP's place in our world today is terribly underrated and the UK Gov should recognise BP as much as it does other key wartime monuments. I dropped into BP in 2002 to visit someone who rented an office there and was awestruck by it's modest presence. Good luck to all involved. -AB
Alan Bristow, on Wed February 04, 2009, 12:45
Has Britain no respect for its history? This is single most significant undertaking of any armed conflict. This IS history. For heavens sake Gordon, forget slipping the sly fiver to the investment bankers and invest in Britains (and the free worlds) heritage. This is something all Britons and allied countries should be immensely proud of!
David Goll, on Wed February 04, 2009, 12:06
Flabbergasted this is happening - all the millions being handed out to greedy/inept bankers, and something that epitomises what is actually great about this country left to rot.
Vince, on Wed February 04, 2009, 10:43
Bletchley Park is so important for so many reasons. What a travesty it would be if it were allowed to rot away.
Chris Dick, on Wed February 04, 2009, 10:17
It is a pity that the international community cannot participate in the petition!
David Link, on Wed February 04, 2009, 09:17
I dread to think what our children's children will say about the generation who allowed THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE COMPUTER to disappear!
Mary Mendoza, on Tue February 03, 2009, 06:33
Bletchley Park was a key in the defeat of Nazis efforts to invade this country and dominate the world, it is the least that this country can do to preserve what little remains of that invaluable establishment for future generations to see just what happend in this country during WWII
johnmcleod, on Wed January 28, 2009, 21:35
I have the honour to work at BP as a Tour Guide and it is enough to make any sane person weep to think of the hundreds of millions the Government wastes in useless Quangos and buerocracy and for a fraction of that BP could be saved for posterity!!!
Linden Stead, on Sun January 25, 2009, 20:56
I went to see Bletchley Park a few years ago when I was visiting a friend in Milton Keynes. It was a great experience. This park should be preserved for its role in computing, cryptography, and of course in WWII. I hope that its role will become better known to the public and it will come to be seen as something to preserve. I live in the Netherlands, and I think the park is important to everyone in Europe, not just the UK.
Ann, on Sat January 24, 2009, 12:11
On behalf of Bletchley Park Trust - many thanks to Sue Black et al for this tremendous support. Can I please encourage you all to visit BP for a wonderful day out. Visitors account for 50% of our income and is only 10 for an annual season ticket.
Kelsey Griffin, on Sat January 24, 2009, 12:07
Dear Sue, Your blog is excellent! we enjoyed reading it. Many thanks for that. Many thanks too for your hard work for B.P. Well done!
May, on Fri January 23, 2009, 10:45
With all due grace, I implore all who make a living in IT to forget a small luxury today (that Ice Cream, or Latte) to send via PayPal 5 Pounds (currently less than $8. USD) . Your contribution will help people understand your work.
Tcat Houser, on Mon December 08, 2008, 15:27
In 2004, as President of the IEEE, we recognized Bletchley Park as an historical milestone and provided a plaque to celebrate the event. Worth saving. Couldn't sign petition since not UK.

Arthur Winston
Arthur Winston, on Sat December 06, 2008, 00:51
I don't know what the politics of this might be, but in campaigning, I would lay equal stress on the historical aspects of Bletchley, and the potential of the Computer Museum part. I think it might help emphasise both the educational and entertainment aspects of the site. Just my 2p.
Conrad Taylor, on Mon December 01, 2008, 10:54
It is terrific that English Heritage have recognised the value of Bletchley Park. I hope that this investment will trigger a plan to bring Bletchley Park back to life so that future generations can learn about the extraordinary events that took place in and around the mansion.
Simon Singh, on Tue November 25, 2008, 16:49
So pleased to hear of the English Heritage grant - at least the roof of the main building will be sound. Shameful, though,that Bletchley Park still not deemed worthy of direct Government aid. Well done, Sue Black, for achieving so much media attention.
Angela Shepherd, on Sat November 15, 2008, 17:18
My father, Professor Donald Michie, worked at Bletchley Park with Alan Turing and others cracking codes and developing the first computer. He would have been delighted by the progress made in saving this historic site, as am I. I hope this is only the beginning of the support that its role deserves.
Professor Susan Michie, on Thu November 13, 2008, 10:03
Congratulations! Dr Black's efforts have not been in vain.
Bletchley Park can be the inspiration for the coming generations as the seat of technology creation that is British.....Where all good things begin.
Patricia Miller, on Thu November 06, 2008, 13:41
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7710966.stm - great news!
Trish Fraser, on Thu November 06, 2008, 10:28
I think its wonderful that people are finally starting to recognise the value of this place..... Its a national treasure and should be preserved along with all the other important parts of our history. I have over 150 students visiting Bletchley Park this week and they would all like to add their support as well :)
Gavin Peake, on Thu November 06, 2008, 00:57
I cannot think that there is another country on this planet which would take the view that somewhere as important as BP does not merit public funds!

WHAT DOES IT TAKE to get
Governments to grasp reality?
James E. Siddelley, on Wed November 05, 2008, 15:03