back to article Turing notes found warming Bletchley Park's leaky ceilings

Top secret documents devised by Alan Turing, which should have been destroyed under wartime rules, have been found during renovations of Bletchley Park where they were used in roof cavities to stop draughts. The documents have been identified as 'Banbury sheets', papers punched with holes to allow manual comparison of …

  1. xperroni

    I was told there would be SECRETS

    When I read "notes", I expected some sort of written record – unpublished research, undeveloped ideas, maybe even personal thoughts? But this is just memorabilia.

    Son, I am disappoint.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: I was told there would be SECRETS

      .... (some letters required) .....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I was told there would be SECRETS

      When I read notes, I thought this must be an early version of Lotus Notes.

      Then I realised how stupid would that be, if Alan Turing had played with Notes it would be far, far better than it is now and might even be multithreaded.

      I've been at IBM too long, however my last day is tomorrow as I have been 'voluntary separated' from the company. Looking forward to more time with the family, not sure the family is looking forward to me though....

      1. xperroni
        Paris Hilton

        Re: I was told there would be SECRETS

        When I read notes, I thought this must be an early version of Lotus Notes. Then I realised how stupid would that be (...).

        True. However it's reasonable to suppose that during his lifetime Turing did occasionally record his thoughts on pieces of paper, no? Well, where I come from that's what we usually mean by "notes", and wouldn't it be nice if we found some previously undiscovered ones by Turing! Whereas throwaway scribblings of the kind one makes when working on a math problem could also be called "notes", I guess, but except perhaps as historic artifacts it's hard to see much value on those.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best use of top secret files ever

    Except maybe as bog roll....

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Best use of top secret files ever

      Not if the sheets worked through a pattern of punched holes...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Best use of top secret files ever

        Two options, TRT:

        1) Tear along the perforations (you never know, the innovation might catch on)

        2) Use two sheets where the holes don't coincide (the "grater" could be a far more efficient means of scraping off clag, saving entire rain forests from being sawn down, pulped, and used for bottom wiping).

    2. TitterYeNot

      Re: Best use of top secret files ever

      "Except maybe as bog roll...."

      "M" - So, Bond, the secret documents you recovered, what's the Kremlin's mole up to? Is it an assasination attempt on the ambassador, or is he after the plans for the ultra-decryption device?

      Bond - I really couldn't say Sir. Though he appears to have a penchant for sweetcorn, and really doesn't get enough fibre in his diet...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Best use of top secret files ever

        Bond is well known for leaving skid marks all over the Eastern Bloc countries.

        How many tyres does that Vantage go through, I wonder?

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Best use of top secret files ever

      Actually using secret documents as bog roll happened rather a lot. Brixmis was the UK military mission to East Germany carried on throughout the Cold War. The Soviets saw fit not to provide their troops with toilet paper. However headquarters were provided with large amounts of soft and absorbent onionskin paper, in order to do encryption/decrytion of signals. This was all then to be burned, but Soviet troops disposed of it in another manner.

      After Warsaw Pact excercises Brixmis would rush to the area, find where the HQ had been, and go looking for poo with secret messages attached... I believe there's a saying in the army for jobs like that, "if you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined".

      1. bep


        This has a long history. In World War 1 a British Army of African conscripts (and Indian volunteers) chased a German army of African conscripts all over East Africa. The Germans used paper signal pads and then, er, used paper signal pads. First stop after the Germans departed was the latrines, with a shovel. The Brits called it the DPM - Dirty Paper Method.

        "So lad, what branch of the Army would you like to serve in?"

        "Military Intelligence Sir!"

        "Silly boy, you're in!"

      2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: Best use of top secret files ever

        Upvoted for a bedtime story that made me laugh.

  3. A K Stiles

    Secret advertising?

    Mostly what I wonder about from this story is whether the reg got paid for publishing the url in the giant leader picture?

    1. PleebSmash

      Re: Secret advertising?

      It looks defunct. Another example of El Reg raiding Google Image Search for a random image to slap on the article.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    So lets be clear...

    ..."IT" were shoved out back in cold, damp, draughty "offices" whilst the "mangers" lorded it up in the nice bit of the estate.

    Ring any bells with anyone else here?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So lets be clear...

      Sadly the truth is that there were no nice parts of the estate, though the house was better than the huts. If you read what books are available (and believe them) and tour the museum, its all pretty dreadful. Managers did work in the huts as well as the rest of their team.

      Sorry to bring an element of truth into a far more interesting hypothesis.

  5. Gamrith

    What do you mean, "Branbury sheets"? Do your reseach!

    Its "Banbury Sheets" or rather banburies, after the town of Banbury, where the sheets were printed, which were used in the decryption method Banburismus.

  6. Benchops

    Also a draft copy

    of a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird

  7. Robin Bradshaw i give up, whats that got to do with it?

    1. Michael Nidd


      Darn. I got campus-pasty and hoped it was a new catering option. Guess I would have failed the interview examinations to work there.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Oh

        "I got campus-pasty and hoped it was a new catering option."

        I got campus-pasty and thought it was nipple protectors for female students.

    2. Neoc

      My guess is that el Reg re-used an existing image and someone didn't check the binary.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Good thing it wasn't goatse

  8. Stuart 22 Silver badge

    If only they had not invented air conditioning

    There would have been no need for for Edward Snowden.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: If only they had not invented air conditioning

      Well I guess cooling was not something envisaged at the birth of computing... I mean, if they'd done heat capture on Colossus etc and fed that to a district heating supply round all the huts...


    Don't go to see The Imitation Game...

    ... it's terrible.

    1. Lee D

      Re: Don't go to see The Imitation Game...

      Queen Victoria would say the same thing of Mrs Brown.

      George VI would say the same thing of The King's Speech.

      Tolkien would say the same thing of Lord of The Rings.

      Hell, the Mary Poppins author HATES the movie.

      It's a movie. It will not be accurate. Ever.

      However, it's a great blast for this Turing fan to be in a "Turing-like" historical environment for a couple of hours. And, hell, it's not bad enough to condemn it by any means. I mean, sure, I'd kick Keira Knightley into shape a bit for her performance but other than that, the bits I'd want to add/remove/change would just turn the film into a documentary (and a boring one at that).

      (P.S. Studied Computer Science and Mathematics at university, with particular emphasis on Coding Theory, etc. and work in the industry created by those people... I'd be the first to lump onto it if it was actually U-571 bad, as opposed to just a Hollywoodisation).

  10. Roger Varley

    Nothing new here then ...

    Should I be surprised to discover that governmental control of sensitive data really hasn't changed much in the last 70 years?

  11. Lee D


    And nobody has spotted that the wiki link is broken (extra "z" on the end)?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: 16 Comments

      Everybody here is ofcourse already an expert on everything related to Bletchley Park, so they don't need the wiki link.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Little Mouse

    and so ad infinitum

    But how did they block holes in the paper?

    It's holes all the way down.

  13. harmjschoonhoven


    The balloon in the leader picture gvbjklhgfghjk.png with 45% zeros is fake. Binary code is expected to contain twice as many zeros as ones according to Benford's law. See Havil §14.2.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Fake

      "Binary code is expected to contain twice as many zeros as ones"

      It's probably encrypted

    2. Michael Nidd

      Re: Fake

      I would understand if you had used a sarcasm icon, but the plain text in the balloon had been read and posted about by several people before your post. If you want to use the boffin icon, you will have to acknowledge that bias depends on your data source. In this case, a bias towards values between 0110 0001 and 0111 1010 would lead me to expect more than 50% 1s.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So is Belchly Park going to have its hand out for more cash to 'Preserve this valuable trove for the nation'?

  15. Mister_C

    Its quite safe to store secret stuff in the ceiling

    Moles are sub-terranian critters

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Its quite safe to store secret stuff in the ceiling

      What about all the 'Bugs'......Death Watch, cockroach, etc?

      1. Sarah Balfour

        Re: Its quite safe to store secret stuff in the ceiling

        What's this article concerning, AC…? And here was I thinking that *I* was the only one to take everything literally…

        @Mister C, have an upvote.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like half the UK offices of software companies I visited in the 1970s.

  17. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    Come on El Reg...

    > Bletchley Park Trust chief executive Ian Standen told The Times...

    What's this nonsense about The Times being told before El Reg!?! Get round there and give this Standen chap a piece of your mind. Doesn't he know where most of his visitors come from?

  18. raving angry loony

    Problem? What problem?

    I fail to see the problem. Top secret leaks in top secret buildings obviously need to be plugged with top secret documents. Nothing else would do!

    1. David Pollard

      Re: Problem? What problem?

      Quite. It made first-rate camouflage.

  19. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Sounds like a case for Verity Stob

    "The Insulation Game". Next stop, the Oscars

  20. Robert Helpmann??

    Useful Example

    I sent the link to the article to everyone I know who works in IA and added it to my list of what never to do.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022