Bletchley

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In 1938, the estate of Bletchley Park, an idiosyncratic nineteenth century mansion with fifty-five acres of land, was purchased by MI6 to become a top-secret site for the Government Code and Cypher School. Hundreds of military officers and clerks were recruited to operate the site whilst intellectuals and academics were brought in on the Varsity Line from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge to work as cryptologists. Together they intercepted and decoded German military radio transmissions that had been scrambled by Enigma machines. The high level intelligence retrieved, codenamed Ultra, was to provide crucial assistance in Allied Force’s combat strategies. The work done at Bletchley Park is understood to have shortened the war by at least two years, and resulted in the development of the world’s first programmable computer, Colossus.

After the war the blueprints and much of the equipment used were destroyed and the efforts of the Code and Cypher School would remain unrecognised. Anyone who had a place working at the park, from messenger to cryptographer, was sworn to secrecy never to divulge anything about Bletchley Park or their contribution to the war effort. It was not until the 1970's that the secrets of Bletchley were declassified and in 1993 the site opened to visitors and now stands as a public museum.

Whilst the museological act attempts to conflate personal memory and public knowledge in order to describe a sense of history, there are still some who will not speak about their involvement and we will never fully know all the secrets of Bletchley Park. This project is an attempt to visually decode a place that continues to be suspended between the public and the private.

See more from Lowther on his Website.