It played a crucial role in World War Two and is considered the birthplace of computing. Now, the struggling museum at Bletchley Park has been given a bailout by Facebook.
The social media giant has donated £1 million to the Bletchley Park Trust to support its work over the next two years. The trust has also received a £447,000 grant from the British government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The large Victorian country house, near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, was during the war the site of the British Government’s Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), the forerunner of today’s GCHQ. It was here that teams of specialists deciphered the codes of the German Enigma and Lorenz machines, allowing them to read secret enemy communications.
This achievement – the work of codebreakers such as mathematician Alan Turing, amongst many others – is estimated to have shortened the war by as much as four years.
Additionally, numerous examples of automatic decryption machinery were developed at the site, such as Colossus, considered the world’s first programmable electronic digital computer.
After the war, much of Bletchley Park’s activities remained classified, while large areas of the mansion fell into disrepair.
The trust was formed in 1991, and today the site is an independent museum open daily to visitors, who can explore the restored huts in which the codebreaking work took place, as well as various exhibitions, and the site’s extensive grounds.
Closed for four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum lost as much as 95% of its income, which is heavily reliant on visitors. Before the donation, it was estimated to end the year with a deficit of £2m, putting many jobs at risk.
Commenting on the news, Iain Standen, CEO of Bletchley Park, said, ‘Facebook’s donation highlights the ongoing legacy of pioneering technology developed here during World War Two.’
He added, ‘With this significant support, we at Bletchley Park can weather the current crisis and survive into the future, keeping the doors open for future generations.’
This is an article from the December 2020/January 2021 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.