Twenty five years ago, Bletchley Park was facing demolition. Last month’s opening of the newly restored Block C by the Duchess of Cambridge — including the discovery that her grandmother Valerie Glassborow had worked as a duty officer and managed the interception of enemy signals for decryption at Bletchley — cements its reversal of fortune.
|Photos copyright Shaun Armstrong|
Now reborn as one of England’s most evocative museums, Bletchley Park is a fitting place of pilgrimage for both history and technology fans alike. The extraordinary code-breaking feats that took place in its spartan wooden huts were crucial to the Allied victory, and helped lay the foundations for the computer age. We were honoured to have been invited to create this new film for the visitors centre:
Bletchley Park is where Alan Turing’s theories were first put into practice, in the Bombe machines used to break Enigma, operated by women like 93 year old veteran and grandmother of one of our colleagues in Google London, Jean Valentine. It was also home to Colossus, the world’s first electronic programmable computer.
As important as what was achieved at Bletchley Park are the lessons we can learn from the way it was done.
Bletchley Park was a melting pot of brilliant minds set free by an atmosphere of tolerance. Societal norms were swept aside because of extreme need and circumstances. What mattered was what a person could do — not their gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin or any supposed eccentricity. By removing these artificial constraints, Bletchley Park brought out the best in the fullest range of talent.
In this sense, Bletchley’s codebreaking success came not in spite of people’s differences, but because of them. It’s a compelling role model for the power of diversity that resonates still today.
Overall, at Bletchley Park thousands of talented people, more than half women, made heroic contributions that were kept secret until the 1970s. To borrow Keira Knightley’s line playing code breaker Joan Clarke in upcoming movie “The Imitation Game”: “Sometimes it’s the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things no one can imagine.”
Google has long championed saving Bletchley Park together with Dr. Sue Black, Stephen Fry, Sir John Scarlett and many others. We’ve donated money, hosted events, created videos to help preserve and promote its story, including this . But nothing beats the experience of visiting this hallowed place in person — it’s just 45 minutes by train from London Euston — do go if you can. We promise you will be inspired by these technical heroes and early founders of our industry.
Posted by Lynette Webb and Megan Smith, Google
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