Tuesday 16 August 2011

Bletchley Park

To Bletchley Park for the Google summer party. Many years have passed since my last visit there.Then it was under threat of being bulldozed for a housing development. It is inconceivable now to think that the location for such a critical part of our national story was to be sacrificed to Messrs Wimpy or Barratt, but that is of course the British way. Just imagine a similar scenario in the USA or France.

Thankfully we came to our senses and the site was saved for the nation. A lot has changed since that previous visit but most importantly a lot has not. The Trustees have managed to retain the enthusiastic brown paper and string feel of the place. Not too many of the "interpretation centres", gift shops and heritagisation opportunities  that plague so many historic locations.

Google has recognised the enormous contribution Alan Turing and many other at Bletchley Park made to the information revolutions that are shaping and reshaping our world today. The company has been sponsoring some of the activities at Bletchley hence the location for its summer party. Amid the great, the good, the geeks and the Googleistas at the party there were a few of the remaining BP crew.  They are truly amazing people. Not just for what they did during the war --shortening it by two years seems to be the general consensus -- but what they didn't do after it. For decades the 10,000 Bletchley Park workers kept the secret of its operations. 10,000 to a man or woman. That level of loyalty and discipline is unbelievable in our leaky, twittery and self congratulatory world today.

Compare the "amateurs" of BP, the crossword compilers, the Cambridge mathematicians and Oxford linguists, the Welsh poets, Mayfair debs and Polish engineers with the "professionals" at the same time. In the Foreign Office think of Burgess and Maclean, in MI6 Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt, from the Cabinet Office, John Cairncross. Think even of our Royal betters -- the Duke of Windsor -- quietly spirited out of Europe to stop him passing any more secrets to his Nazi heroes.

In the rain of an English summer afternoon, with the sound of the tombola and 40s swing behind me, I sip my weak tea in honour of them.                

No comments:

Post a Comment