back to article UK spooks STILL won't release Bletchley Park secrets 70 years on

Spooks are still withholding the vital codebreaking secrets of Bletchley Park some 70 years after its boffins first cracked the Nazis' encrypted transmissions. Even though Bletchley has not been an active military facility for more half a century, GCHQ is still refusing to release algorithms which were used to decode Second …


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      1. Deryk Barker

        Re: Zuse Z3

        Well, Zuse restarted work on the Z4 in 1949 and sold one in 1950 to EFTH in Zurich, where it was in use until the early '60s.

        So I'd say "small circle of German scientists" was exaggerating the case somewhat.

        1. jphb

          Re: Zuse Z3

          Zuse's Z4 is now on display in Munich. It is, I believe, the third oldest computer in the world and the oldest complete machine. Unfortunately, so I've been told, nobody knows how to adjust the relays so it sits there in silent splendour. As GPO old timers will know, for long term reliable operation electromechanical relays require skillful mechanical adjustment. And fortunately when TNMOC came to restore the WITCH (which I enjoyed programming in the 1960's) retired GPO engineers were available.

          Incidentally I find it really sad that there seems to be some silly spat between TNMOC and the Bletchley Park Trust. I've also got some nice photos of the Colossus rebuild which I took when I first visited TNMOC a few years ago before it was moved to its present rather gloomy home. Not sure whether, in the present state of affairs at BP, I could pass them on.

          1. Lars Silver badge

            Re: Zuse Z3


            "Konrad Zuse (German: [ˈkɔnʁat ˈtsuːzə]; 22 June 1910 – 18 December 1995) was a German civil engineer, inventor and computer pioneer. His greatest achievement was the world's first functional program-controlled Turing-complete computer, the Z3, which became operational in May 1941. Thanks to this machine and its predecessors, Zuse is often regarded as the inventor of the computer.[1][2][3][4]

            Zuse was also noted for the S2 computing machine, considered the first process-controlled computer. He founded one of the earliest computer businesses in 1941, producing the Z4, which became the world's first commercial computer. From 1943[5] to 1945[6] he designed the first high-level programming language, Plankalkül.[7] In 1969, Zuse suggested the concept of a computation-based universe in his book Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space).

            This from the Wikipedia in English. Are you loosing your dick because of this, or did you ever have one.

          2. TNMOC peter

            Colossus location

            "I've also got some nice photos of the Colossus rebuild which I took when I first visited TNMOC a few years ago before it was moved to its present rather gloomy home."

            Colossus is in exactly the same place as when Tony Sale started the rebuild... being over 5 tonnes and miles of wiring it was not possible or practical to move it. What has happened is the room has been completely re modelled around it allowing visitors to see a full 360 degree view of the machine.

      2. Lars Silver badge

        Re: Zuse Z3

        The Americans would claim the first computer was made in the USA. I think the Russians had claims too, so this is normal "my kids are better than your kids". (I am for Zuse on this). And "a feat regarded as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of World War II" sounds a bit like "The world series" in the USA.

        There is a lot of this in most countries, ask a Britt about the propeller, but so what, always remember that my kids are better than yours.

    1. Deryk Barker

      Your point a) is fairly self evident and Colossus was used almost exclusively (at least at first) for wheel setting not wheel breaking, which was still done by hand. (Donald Michie figured out an algorithm for Colossus to do that too.)

      b) yes, although I'm not sure what your point is here - yes, had the Germans maintained strict signals discipline (Lorenz or Enigma) the outcome, or at least the duration, of the war might have been very different.

      c) Does anybody consider relays electronic? They're electro-mechanical and Zuse's machine is frequently cited as the first electro-mechanical programmable computer.

    2. TheArdvaark

      A slight correction.

      May I slightly correct the post writtenn by Rustident Spaceniak.

      a) Colossus was designed by Tommy Flowers of the Post Office Research Establishment at Dollis Hill in London. He did this as he had been asked to go to Bletchley Park to see if he could improve another machine that was there called Robinson (or Heath Robinson as it was nicknamed). This machine was designed to find the pin positions (patterns) and wheel start positions of the first 5 Lorenz wheels. After that information was determined the patterns and start positions of the remaining 7 wheels could be calculated manually. The problem was that Robinson was not realiable and Tommy Flowers decided he could not improve it but had a better idea, and the result of that was Colossus.

      b) A German operator, on the Athens to Vienna link (some believe on the Athens to Berlin link) of the High Command had a 4000 character message to send; this was on 30th August 1941. He sent the message twice on exactly the same settings of his Lorenz machine - the settings were supposed to be changed for each message.

      The second time round, after he had typed in the first 7 characters of the message, he realised he could abbreviate certain words which he did throughout the rest of the message. Our listening station at Denmark Hill in London picked up those two messages and got them up to the Park where Colonel John Tiltman saw them and realised what the operator had done. Using those two dissimilar messages he extracted the entire string of original 4000 plain text characters (called the Keystream) but didn't know how to take it further. It was Bill Tutte, who was brilliant at statistical mathematics, who used those two messages and the Keystream to work out the entire logic of Lorenz - a feat often referred to as: "the greatest intellectual feat of WWII". Colossus was used to work out the patterns and start positions of all 12 Lorenz wheels and that information was then plugged up on another piece of machinery that the Park had (called Tunny - the code name that was given to Lorenz as nobody knew the real name or who made it) and it was Tunny that did the actual decryption.

      c) The Zuse 3 used 2000 standard relays, which were electro-mechanical, Colossus used valves which were purely electronic so which really was the first programmable, electronic, digital computer? I'm afraid I'm not clever enough to answer that one so let's just say that either, or both, could claim that title!!!

  1. Peter Simpson 1
    Black Helicopters

    In the 70's

    I took a programming course on the CDC Cyber 74 from a CDC apps engineer. He pointed out the "count number of 1 bits in word" assembler instruction and asked if anyone knew why it had been included in the instruction set. Nobody did, and he told us that it was included at the request of one of their most important government clients, who used it in a cryptanalytic application.

    1. PhilBuk

      Re: In the 70's

      I thought that instruction was in the Cray-1 rather than the CDC.


      1. Tromos

        Re: In the 70's

        No, the Population Count instruction was definitely present in the CDC machines and apart from any spook uses got occasionally used in arcane pieces of highly optimised code as it executed in its own functional unit and hence in parallel with other instructions (provided none of these were using the same registers).

      2. FrankAlphaXII

        Re: In the 70's

        It was in the Cray-1 as well IIRC. I'd imagine it was included for the same customer(s).

        1. DaveB

          Re: In the 70's

          I think the pop count was missing from the original VAX 11/780 running VAX VMS V1.0, however version 2.0 of VMS came with a new set of CPU boards which included pop count.

          1. BlueGreen

            Re: In the 70's

            I believe the ibm power chip has popcount.

            Emulating popcount efficiently is covered in Hacker's Delight (1st edition hugely recommended, just this second discovered the 2nd edition is out, here: which I shall get pronto. Looks like one of my colleagues' suggestions will have made it into 2nd ed. Web site here, table of contents here

            Applications for popcount listed in 1st ed are hamming distance between vectors (used for error correcting codes), and fast indexing into a sparse array. Also for counting trailing zeros,the uses of which he gives as Gosper's loop detection algorithm (just get the book, if you have the least sense of curiosity, just get it, it's brilliant).

            1. phil dude

              Re: In the 70's

              i don't know about in the 70's but bit counts are useful in biology today (bioinformatics)....


  2. Squeezer

    My father-in-law Bill Chandler was the chief engineer who actually built and debugged Colossus -- among other things, he got the first Colossus Mk II working a few days before D-day which led to it happening at all by confirming that the German High Command had fallen for the "Calais invasion" feint.

    This meant working through the night on his own on live kilovolt valve circuits; when water started running across the floor towards him he donned his wellies and carried on until he got it working...

    Unfortunately he said almost nothing about this before he died, fortunately after writing a paper for the Annals of History of Computing about building Colossus, so I hardly got to talk to him about the whole subject :-(

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "According to this decrypted telegram, the attack on Normandy came as a complete surprise!"

      "What does it say, then?"

      "WTF? LOL!"

    2. Charles Manning


      Were they really kV? I played around with valves a bit as a yoof and they were normally under 100V.

      I was under the impression that the valves were run a low voltages to improve life.

      Most valves of the era would have been at less than 100V, but neon tubes (often used in logic circuits of the day) fired at 90V so greater than 90V was often useful.

  3. TNMOC peter

    Colossus and tunny in action & help save their heritage

    [blatant plug mode on]

    Don't forget you can see Colossus and Tunny operating at TNMOC every day - and the rest of the Museum (limited opening days) is also worth a visit to see how the computing revolution, started by many involved in the design of Colossus, continued after the war.

    Also please help us keep the heritage of Bletchley Park intact and stop BPT fencing off one of the greatest successes in code breaking history and in the development of computing.

    [Blatant plug mode off]

    And to prove my point you will see no mention of the 70th anniversary of the first Colosus decrypt anywhere on the BP website, or Facebook page. BPT do not consider Colossus and Tunny part of the Bletchley Park Heritage and removed any mention of Colossus from their guide book or let any visitor know they can see Colossus in Block H - absolutely crazy!!!

  4. dssf

    What if the reason is due to heinous, embarrasing, or frightening info?



    -- The Allies gleaned or learned the locations of ALL the Nazi concentration camps, but would not bomb them as it would have revealed the Allies had broken the German code


    -- The Allies gleaned that the Russians had obtained samples of the machines, tweaked them, and then left the UK in the dust, meaning the Allies (or at least the UK and their cousins) to keep the machines classified, maybe because the Russians/Soviets adapated them but not so far ahead as to be totally elusive


    -- Maybe the Germans internally communicated the suspected/verified location of Alien bases, and to this day, the US/UK alliance wishes to keep that a sceekrett... Maybe an alien or two sit on high seats in both countries?

    After All, there are STILL secrets about JFK's assassination being held back (despite a recent release of lots of sstuff around the subject), probably because certain people in the loop are still alive.

    1. Chris G

      Re: What if the reason is due to heinous, embarrasing, or frightening info?

      Erm... Why would the Allies want to bomb concentration camps full of thousands of jews and other unfortunates the Nazis wanted dead?

      Germans? Alien bases? Aliens sitting in high seats?

      Try smoking a slightly milder mix!

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: What if the reason is due to heinous, embarrasing, or frightening info?

      If that's on "embarrassing" level, you need to read up on the Yalta-and-after shenanigans pronto.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: What if the reason is due to heinous, embarrasing, or frightening info?

      On the heinous side, that wouldn't have been actionable anyway. Neither Bomber Command nor the U.S. 8th or 15th Air Forces had sufficient mastery of the air to bomb the death camps (which were in Poland) until mid-1944. If they had tried in 1943 and over the huge distances involved, it would have been even more costly than the Schweinfurt and Regensburg ball bearings raids that nearly crippled the 8th air force in the Fall of 1943.

      By mid-1944, the bulk of the Final Solution was achieved, and the camps at Sobibor and Treblinka had been closed and even demolished by the SS. Only Auschwitz and the deportation of Hungary's Jews to Auschwitz was left as major implements of Jewish extermination. Within Hungary, diplomatic and humanitarian efforts by people like Raoul Wallenberg saved a large majority of Budapest's Jews anyway, but Hungarian Jewry outside the capital were systematically deported and other than those who survived selection for slave labor, destroyed.

      Plus the allied air forces were understandably diverted to supporting Operation Overlord, plus prominent decision-makers (including David Ben-Gurion in Jerusalem) felt that bombing Auschwitz would allow the Germans a propaganda victory as they rolled out the corpses of Auschwitz inmates killed by savage Allied bombing.

  5. Buzzby
    Big Brother

    I Was There

    I was a Bletchley Park ( BP ) a few times in the late 60's. It was then a Post Office telephones training establishment. The only odd things about the place was the large radio aerials and the fact we were told that if your radio ( Walkman, mp3 player of the period ) did not work in the accommodation you were in, try it outside where it would work. You were probably in a faraday screened building but we weren't told that..

  6. gon

    was this the volounteer that was sacked last week.???

    i wonder if the 86yr old volounteer was the one the stroppy bletchley park trust sacked last week.?

    seems a shame that the group that pocketed loads of money cant sort out things with the computer people who have spent many hours rebuilding the computer..who do these trust people think they are conserving bletchley for the public, whe want to go there and see all the exhibits without fencing and petty bickering with the computer geeks..

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    You can't handle the truth, and it be self classifying too way above any paid grades

    Do you know anything about the secrets of Bletchley Park? We'd like to hear more. Get in touch – click the author's name at the top or get stuck into the comments below – and tell us all about it.

    Ok. Bletchley Park type secrets are of Dark Web Matters and thus does Immaculate Stealth and Universal Security require and dictate that the Presentation of Future Events, which be in Substantive Essence the Bletchley Park AdVenTuring Legacy and ITs Forte, be a Special Access Program with a Practically Permanent Classification TS/SCI available to only the Few who can handle and discover its Magic Keys. And this is most apt and more APT that ever will be freely admitted by front line pioneering personnel and quite rightly attributed to that and those who do.

    Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” ….. which is just but a sound bite in an august monologue in monumental change times, to be read of here ……

    1. Pavelow

      Re: You can't handle the truth, and it be self classifying too way above any paid grades

      Do you know anything about the secrets of Bletchley Park? We'd like to hear more. Get in touch – click the author's name at the top or get stuck into the comments below – and tell us all about it.

      you might want check out this story on the BBC

  8. maimonides


    One important fact is missing from this discussion. Brits did almost nothing of the real enigma work. Polish did and brought it, when fleeing from Germans. Brits(and other nationalities) did just put it together and pretended its theirs. The genius was elsewhere.

    1. TheArdvaark

      Re: Polish

      This is not true at all, let me explain. The Poles had been working on breaking the early Enigma machines since the late 1920's and made the first break in 1931-32. The only time that they imparted this information to anyone else was at a meeting at Pyrie in mid 1939 when they gave the information they had to British and French intelligence. This was because the changes made by the Germans to Enigma locked the Poles out from using their normal methods and had to rely instead on the Zygalski sheets, which British Intelligence helped to make up for them as their original sheets couldn't cope with the changes that the Germans had made.

      In entirely separate work, Dilly Knox had been working on the family of Enigma machines here in the UK and had already broken the Italian Enigma in 1936. He was almost there in breaking the full German Military Enigma in 1938-39 but was stuck on one point and this point was cleared up at the 1939 meeting with the Poles. As a result of that Knox came back to Bletchley Park and made the first break in the full military Enigma in January 1940.

      Alan Turing/Gordon Welchman's design for the British Bombe machine was on an entirely different principle to that of the Polish Bomba and was, in essence, light years ahead.

      We do, however, acknowledge the work that was done by the Poles and, as a result, have a permanent memorial to them at Bletchley Park.

  9. Sultitan


    All this Bletchley business is quite OTT. British participation in WWII was peripheral - it was the Russians wot 'won' it.

    1. JustNiz

      Re: Irrelevant

      Try telling that to the Americans. They are all brainwashed in school and by their media to think that the US single-handedly saved the entire planet.

    2. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Irrelevant

      To start with, the Bletchley business was important superb, add any positive adjective you want. Regarding the Russian part in WWII you will face a number of questions (and I am faced with the fact that my English is not good enough for this topic). First of all, and in no order (proof number one), Russia received help in the form of food and arms, if rather late, from the USA, and keeping up the route to Murmansk was indeed a very heavy task for both GB and the USA. All the same the Nazi army lost the war at the eastern front, and that would have happened without the D-day. British and Americans tend to think that the WWII ended with the D-day. And what the hell, it was part of the end, no doubt. Our western view (forgetting, omitting the Russian part) in this respect, is much due to the fact that the Russians "liberation" of east Europe had nothing to do with "liberation". All just the start of the cold war.

      One of the clips, at Youtube, I find both fascinating and disturbing is the one with Hitler asking for help from some kids on the street in Berlin a few days before the Russians arrived. Look at his face, not any "Heil" left. And I cannot laugh nor weep nor feel anything, just this feeling that deep down I might have the same face, and I hope it will stay hidden. Looking at the kids I feel, even as not a German, I could have been anyone of them.

      To some of my German friends, the very few still with feelings for Adolf, I recommend the same clips. Anyway, the not so irrelevant thing to remember is that nazism did not die in WWII in any part of the world,

      As for Americans (referred to in a later comment), you are not out of luck, you have Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States.

  10. cortland

    Since scraps of encrypted and recovered plain text messages have been published in books and articles, given the power of modern computers, even laptops, it's not unreasonable to wonder why someone hasn't deduced the algorithms used from what is publicly available. An Enigma simulator is already out there; scroll down at

  11. sbs

    Video of BP

    Here's my chat with Tony Sale - a bit noisy for obvious reasons!

  12. TheArdvaark

    Heard the latest "class act" from BP Management?

    Latest barmy idea from Bletchley Park's Management.

    This can be seen on Bletchley Park's website:

    1940'S BOUTIQUE

    15 MAR 2014 FROM 9:30 TO 17:00

    Join us for a day of 1940's glamour and learn how to style your own hair and make-up to achieve that iconic 1940's look.

    Hairdresser and make-up artist XXXXXXX will show you how to recreate some iconic styles including the famous victory rolls as well as make-up to match. The day will include refreshments and lunch as well as admission to Bletchley Park exhibitions and facilities.

    09.30 Arrival with tea, coffee & mini muffins

    10.00 Demonstration of 1940's look, hair & make-up

    11.30 Practical make-up session, eyes, lips and brows.

    13.00 Lunch - tea, coffee & sandwich selection

    13.30 Free time to enjoy Bletchley Park exhibitions and facilities

    14.30 Victory roll demonstration

    15.00 Practical hair session, victory rolls, creating curls, 1940's accessories (snoods, hats etc).

    Participants will need to bring:

    Free-standing mirror

    Hair brush and comb

    Their own make-up bag containing

    brow pencil


    lip liner and lipstick, preferably red

    Tickets £65 each available here.

    TICKETS £65 EACH!!!!! And this "Boutique" day is scheduled to run for several days throughout the year. Yet another crazy idea for making money from the Bletchley Park Trust/Park Management that has nothing to do with what happened at the Park during WWII. What next?? Workshops in how to stop ladders running in nylons; cookery courses in 1001 things to do with Spam; how to cook potatoes in 57 thoroughly boring wartime ways???


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