18 October, 2005

Bletchley Park Mailing List

The Bletchley Park mailing list has thrown up some interesting bits of news in the last few days. First up was a link to a Telegraph article on the finding of the original Zimmermann Telegram decrypt. The story's a little too involved to go into here in any detail, but the gist is that during World War I, Germany got caught red-handed scheming against the United States by British codebreakers. When this was made known in the US, public opinion shifted, catalysing the entry of the United States into the war (we're told). If so, then it's quite probably the most influential single piece of decipherment in history. The news is that GCHQ have managed to unearth the original decrypt which was presented to the American ambassador in London. (A different version of the decrypt is pictured here). I was also interested to read that GCHQ have an anonymous "official historian" who's working on a secret history of the organisation.

The second bit of news is an update on the Colossus rebuild, headed by Tony Sale. According to Sale, the Psi wheels are working; previously, I gather, only the Chi wheels were operational. This means that the Colossus rebuild can now emulate the Lorenz cipher machine and decrypt ciphertext into plaintext on machine, although just one character at present! Apparently, when the Motor wheels are hooked up, the rebuild should be able to perform a standard WWII procedure whereby the Colossus was used to decrypt the first few characters of a message to check the settings on the wheels.

Thirdly and finally, it seems there's some more news at Bletchley Park. Rather than being open all year round, they are now closing for winter (at least for normal visitors), from 1st of November 2005 to 1st April 2006. Quite a shame, really. The Trust are also selling off land and leasing part of Block D to property developers English Partnerships in order to raise money. There's rumours of a change in director, too.