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ColossusThe secrets of Bletchley Park's code-breaking computers$
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B. Jack Copeland

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780192840554

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780192840554.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 June 2021

Living with Fish: Breaking Tunny in the Newmanry and the Testery

Living with Fish: Breaking Tunny in the Newmanry and the Testery

Chapter:
(p.189) Chapter 15 Living with Fish: Breaking Tunny in the Newmanry and the Testery
Source:
Colossus
Author(s):

Peter Hilton

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780192840554.003.0024

I should begin by explaining how I happened to find myself, on 12 January 1942, at the age of 18, awaiting permission to enter the gates of Bletchley Park, to undertake work, on behalf of the British Foreign Office, of whose nature I had essentially no knowledge. In October 1941, four very distinguished members of the Bletchley Park team (Alan Turing, Hugh Alexander, Stuart Milner-Barry, and Gordon Welchman) had written a letter to Churchill, drawing his attention to the importance of the work being done at BP on deciphering Enigma, and, therefore, the urgency of recruiting appropriately trained people (principally mathematicians), and of making funds available for building more of the high-speed Bombes needed to expedite the decoding process. Churchill, to his great credit, did not react like a bureaucrat appalled that the writers of the letter had not gone through the proper channels; he immediately saw the importance and good sense of the letter and minuted it ‘Action this day’ to his chief of staff, General Ismay. The result was the empanelling of an interviewing team which toured the universities looking for mathematicians with a knowledge of modern European languages. Such people, however, were not easy to find, since the British higher education system of the time, based as it was on the principle of premature specialisation, virtually guaranteed that no such people would exist. (Ironically there were many German Jewish refugee mathematicians in Britain at that time, but they were ‘enemy aliens’ and so not to be trusted!) The team came to Oxford and I was, I believe, the only person presenting himself for interview. I was not a mathematician, merely a second-year undergraduate specialising in mathematics, and my knowledge of German was very rudimentary, acquired by self-study. But the interviewing team snapped me up, and offered me a position in the Foreign Office, to carry out certain entirely unspecified duties, provided I was willing to start in January 1942. I suspect the interviewing team did not themselves know the nature of the work I would be doing.

Keywords:   Bombe, Geheimschreiber, Manchester University, Quatsch, Research Section

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