Tag Archives: Bletchley Park

The Squared Square Takes Shape

Leon and Ian, Mildenhall Monumentals

Leon and Ian, Mildenhall Monumentals

Leon Russell and his assistant Ian Norman, master stonemasons of Mildenhall Monumentals have been hard at work on the Squared Square for the Bill Tutte Memorial on Rutland Hill in Newmarket.  While an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge, Bill and three friends proved a solution to the problem of tiling a square with squares of different sizes (unlike a chess board which is tiled with squares of the same size).  This interest in mathematical puzzles led to him being invited to join the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park in 1941.

Some of the granite pieces

Some of the granite pieces that will make up the Squared Square

The square is 112 cm x 112 cm and is made up of 22 pieces of polished granite 5 cm thick.  Leon and Ian cut the squares themselves with a 65 years old circular saw because the granite suppliers could not achieve the accuracy required.  The individual squares are in four colours in recognition of Bill Tutte’s proof that that was the minimum number of colours needed on a map to ensure that no contiguous countries had the same colour.  The Squared Square will be surrounded by black granite and will be sunk into the pavement on Rutland Hill to mark the key viewing point for Harry Gray’s iconic sculpture “The Codebreaker”.  The memorial will be unveiled on 10 September but we still need donations towards the scholarship.

Donations can be made via:



Author: Richard Fletcher



Captain Jerry Roberts: A person of Real Quality

Captain Jerry Roberts 1920-2014

Captain Jerry Roberts 1920-2014

Captain Jerry Roberts was a senior cryptographer at Bletchley Park and worked on Tunny (the Lorenz cipher).  In recent years, Jerry campaigned tirelessly for recognition of the Testery, including the great intellectual feat demonstrated by Bill Tutte.

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the memorial service for Jerry, who passed away in March.


The service was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, Trafalgar Square, a perfect setting in the heart of London.  It was a lovely service organised by Jerry’s devoted wife, Mei.  Moving tributes were paid by Sir John Scarlett, Lord Charles Brocket and Professor Susanne Kord. Jerry’s daughters Dora and Chao gave beautiful readings and his talented grandsons Ben and Sammy provided music and song.

St Martins-in-the-Field, London

St Martins-in-the-Field, London, yesterday.

Following the news of Jerry’s death back in March,  Tweets went out across the globe in many languages.  Jerry was described in these Tweets as a ‘hero’, ‘one of the greats’, ‘incredible’, ‘remarkable’, ‘amazing’, a ‘genius’, ‘warm’, ‘funny’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘modest’.  It is the description of Jerry as modest that I find most apposite.  Jerry was always quick to turn attention away from himself and talk about the Testery as a team. Those long forgotten colleagues who were of equal importance.


In December 2013, I spent the day with Jerry and his wife Mei. We discussed Tunny (of course) and what it was like to read messages sent by Hitler.  Jerry said that it was quite exciting the first time he saw a message signed “Adolf Spacer Hitler Spacer Führer” but after that he became very blasé about it.  “And another one”, he said chuckling as he gestured flinging an imaginary message (signed by Hitler) over his shoulder into a pile of discarded messages.  We laughed a lot that day.

Jerry had a great sense of humour and a sharp mind.  He didn’t stop talking about his Bletchley Park colleagues and wanting to promote the hand methods of the Testery.   “It is all about the machines” Jerry complained in response to the long-awaited publication of the General Report on Tunny in 2000.

A true gentleman who said he never had a day of boredom in his life, Jerry was grateful for every single day.  He spoke of the lovely people he had met through telling his code-breaking story, and the difference that it had made to his and Mei’s lives.  Jerry also spoke of how he treasured every month in the garden, even the winter because everything looked so tidy.

With Jerry, December 2013

With Jerry, December 2013

If you were liked by Jerry, you were considered “A person of real quality” and I am honoured to have been included in this group. Jerry admired the people of Newmarket for their recognition of  Bill Tutte and I know that Jerry will be smiling down on us when we unveil Tutte’s memorial on 10th September this year.

At the age of 93, I asked Jerry what advice he could offer to young people today. Jerry responded with these wise words:

“Don’t be afraid to take risks.  Sensible risks.  Because something will work out.  If you’ve got talent, something will work out.  But if you say, as I could have said, my father went in to the bank and what’s good enough for him is good enough for me…you can’t live life like that.”

Si dios quiere (as Jerry would say) we all have happy and fulfilling lives.

Rest in peace Jerry, you truly were a person of real quality.

 Author: Claire Butterfield


Merry Christmas, Dr Turing

Alan Turing Sculpture at Bletchley Park

The Alan Turing Sculpture at Bletchley Park

Yesterday morning, I woke to the news that Alan Turing had been granted a pardon.


Driving to work, I cheered and punched the air as the news item on Turing was read, a big grin breaking out across my face.  I parked up at work and stayed in the car to listen to Professor S Barry Cooper and Baroness Trumpington discuss Turing and Bletchley Park (Today, BBC Radio 4, 24/12/2013).

Walking into the office, I received cheery greetings of Merry Christmas, to which I replied “It is a Merry Christmas indeed, especially for Dr Turing”.  I took the slightly puzzled looks as an invitation to educate and spoke about “On Computable Numbers”, the Universal Turing Machine and the ten month blackout from reading Naval Enigma in 1942 (deciding not to continue into Artificial Intelligence or Morphogenesis).   I then sat at my desk, and smiled at my brand new Universal Machine that the IT department had installed for me the day before. How apt, I thought.

I’m well aware of the controversial nature of this pardon and I can understand this view point.  Turing was legally convicted of a crime that he had committed.  Further, Turing was just one of thousands to be convicted of the crime of gross indecency.  To pardon one raises the question that surely we must pardon them all?  Another question raised, is whether it is right to pardon anyone convicted of acts that were once criminal but are no longer so?  This is something that will no doubt be subject of endless debate. 

Hut 8 at Bletchley Park where Alan Turing Worked

Hut 8 at Bletchley Park where Alan Turing Worked

A perpetual problem for those trying to get recognition for someone is that there are always those who think differently or those who feel that others have been forgotten.  Everyone has their heroes/heroines and their own opinions as to who should be recognised and how they should be recognised.

If credit is given to Turing for the breaking of Enigma, we are reminded that the Polish broke Enigma first.  Professor Brian Cox featured Bill Tutte on Science Britannica and was questioned as to why he did not feature Turing.  Similarly, those who campaign for the arts, history or heritage often find that their causes are deemed less significant than those that tackle illness or poverty.  We live in a complicated world of endless good causes, but we can at least be thankful that our world is a more tolerant one.

I believe that history is important.  I believe that the story of Bletchley Park is important.  I believe that Turing is important, but I also think the same of Bill Tutte and Tommy Flowers (and others, the list too endless to reproduce).  They were all unique and I am grateful to them for their unique contributions, which as part of the team effort at Bletchley Park contributed to shortening the Second World War.  

Members of the Bill Tutte Club learning about Enigma

Members of the Bill Tutte Club learning about Enigma

Tutte is not as well known as Turing.  That is why we  strive to raise awareness of this ‘forgotten hero’ through education, which is the principal aim of the Bill Tutte Memorial Fund  http://www.billtuttememorial.org.uk/education.htm .

This year, the fund has established a Bill Tutte Club in Newmarket to educate young people in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) http://www.billtuttememorial.org.uk/club.htm and fundraising continues to provide a scholarship to encourage the study of mathematics or computing at university.  You can donate here:  https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/billtuttememorialfund

For me, 2014 will be the year that  the Bill Tutte memorial is unveiled in Newmarket.  The memorial is at the heart of our education programme and it is something that I am immensely proud of.  In 2014, Tutte will finally have the recognition that he deserves.

So today, Christmas Day, I would like to say Merry Christmas to all those who in whatever way, strive to make this world a better place.  I would like to say Merry Christmas to those who give their time for causes in which they believe so passionately and I would like to say Merry Christmas to all those who donate to such causes.  But most of all, I would like to say:

“Merry Christmas, Dr Turing”.

Author: Claire Butterfield 




A failure of our Times: No recognition for Tutte

The story of Lorenz and Colossus is relatively unknown compared to Enigma and the Bombe, and it is for this reason that I commend The Times’ feature on Colossus (Technology Review, 23rd September 2013).  However,  I cannot help but be disappointed by the failure to afford recognition to Bill Tutte.  It was Tutte who deduced the logical structure of the Lorenz cipher, which enabled Tommy Flowers to design Colossus.


Colossus Feature (c) The Times

In the feature it states: “Without having seen a Lorenz machine, the Brits worked out how it operated…”  Tutte’s achievement has been described as one of the greatest intellectual feats of World War Two, so to refer to Tutte’s accomplishment as “the Brits worked out how it operated” is incredibly inadequate.

This reinforces the perpetual problem of Tutte’s breaking of Lorenz receiving far less recognition than the breaking of Enigma.  It’s a real shame that the article doesn’t go that little bit further and give Tutte the credit he deserves.

The article is worth a read (despite minor inaccuracies) and is available on-line, where you can also do a little code-breaking.  Be sure to turn up your volume to make full benefit of the impressive sound effects http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/colossus/  

Why not visit The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park where you can see a rebuild of Colossus Mark II and learn more about the work of Tutte?



Author: Claire Butterfield

The Turning of the Tide

Almost all the literature about the achievements of Bill Tutte, the Bletchley Park code breaker who cracked the German Lorenz code in 1941, a code vastly more complex and strategically more significant than the well known Enigma that the Polish and then Alan Turing cracked, says that he was credited with contributing to shortening the Second World War in Europe by up to two years, saving countless lives.  Some attribute this saying to General (later President) Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, and some even to Churchill himself. No matter, but how could such an incredible achievement be made by just one man, or even a small team?

After the entry of the USA into the war in December 1941, many believed that eventual victory was inevitable.  What was far from certain is when that would be.  Churchill even feared that it could take until 1950.  He knew it would take years for the formidable American economy and industrial capability to transform onto a war footing, and he was fearful of a premature engagement in Europe that could result in defeat by the battle-hardened German armies.  The Battle of Kasserine Pass in February 1943 when Rommel’s Afrika Korps routed poorly led and untested American troops in Tunisia proved his point.  Similarly, the disastrous Dieppe landings in August 1942 had shown how inadequate forces could not hope to land on strongly defended coastal positions.

Bill Tutte’s achievement enabled the Allies to read the signals traffic between Hitler and his prime operational headquarters, giving invaluable information about German strategic intentions and capabilities.  Churchill and Roosevelt had realised at an early stage that Russia held the key to defeating Hitler and, as well as providing the Russians with prodigious amounts of war equipment, the supply of strategic information to them was critical.  The surrender of German forces at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942/3 allowed the Russians to move onto the offensive.  Hitler was determined to crush them and to avenge the defeat at Stalingrad.  In July 1943, 3000 German tanks faced almost twice that number of Soviet heavy armour at Kursk, 280 miles South West of Moscow, in the largest engagement of armour ever to have taken place.

Although heavily outnumbered, the German tanks were far superior in armour and fire power.  However, delays in German arrivals allowed the Russians to prepare formidable defences and to concentrate their forces.  Moreover, German misgivings about the forthcoming battle led to much signals traffic using the supposedly invincible Lorenz code machines.  Thanks to Bill Tutte, the British were able to read this traffic.  (British radio technology was far ahead of that of both the Germans and Russians, neither of whom could believe signals traffic in Russia could be intercepted in Britain.)  The British were able to give their Russian allies almost the complete German order of battle, leading to a stunning Russian victory which they rightly called the Turning of the Tide.  General Zhukov, the Russian commander, was so impressed with the information he had been given that he thought the British must have had a mole in the German Headquarters, which in effect we did.

Afterwards, the Russian advance into Germany and eventually to Berlin was unstoppable, but it did ensure the engagement of up to 100 Divisions of crack German troops with countless tanks and aircraft on the Eastern front for the rest of the war.  This massive diversion of German resources allowed the successful Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, but only after intercepted Lorenz traffic had satisfied Eisenhower that Hitler was convinced that the invasion would come at the Pas de Calais.    The final defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945 can be linked directly to the work of Bill Tutte.

Ironically, it was mistrust of the Russians that led to Bill Tutte receiving no recognition or award for his war winning achievement.  We never admitted to the Russians that we had cracked the Lorenz code.  After the defeat of Germany, the Russians used captured Lorenz machines for their own coded messages throughout the early days of the Cold War, without realising that British security services could read the traffic.  To have recognised Bill Tutte’s achievement would have given the game away.  It was not until nearly 50 years later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that his story came out.  Even now, much remains secret.

You can donate via https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/billtuttememorialfund

Author: Richard Fletcher

Bill Tutte: Frontrunner at the Final Furlong

An internet search for Newmarket and it’s easy to see what it is known for-horses.  The Jockey Club, Tattersall’s and the Gallops are all part of its equine heritage.  But apart from these and a rather large house built by a Sheikh, what else should Newmarket be remembered for?

Well, the equally equine location of Fitzroy House was the birthplace of a certain Mr Tutte, code breaker extraordinaire. But are the inhabitants of Newmarket familiar with Tutte’s humble beginnings and the plans for a memorial in the town? The Bill Tutte Memorial Fund took to the streets of Newmarket to find out…oh and ask about car parking.



Braving the wind and rain at the end of May, we engaged public opinion armed with trestle table, banner, snazzy images, a red post box and buckets of enthusiasm for the most worthy of causes.

Nearly 100 people were selected at random in Newmarket High Street.  The consultation was principally about the loss of parking on Rutland Hill (the location of the proposed memorial) as opposed to the plans for the memorial. The responses were independently analysed by Suffolk County Council and the results are as follows:

  • 66% bring car their car into town; 34% do not
  • 98% do not park on Rutland Hill; 2% do
  • 94% agreed with discontinuing parking on Rutland Hill; 6% disagreed
  • 90% were for a memorial to Bill Tutte on Rutland Hill; 10% were against
  • 82% approved current plans for memorial; 10% disliked; 8% indifferent

Comments included:

  • The need for alternative free parking
  • The memorial has no relevance to town
  • The memorial should be horse racing related
  • More trees and seats are needed by memorial
  • The memorial is too “modern”

Overall the public consultation was positive, with the majority agreeing with the discontinuation of parking and the placement of a memorial to Bill Tutte on Rutland Hill.  We are at the final furlong with the finish line in sight.

Author: Claire Butterfield

Bill Who? The Lesser Known Codebreaker of Bletchley Park

The work of Bletchley Park during the Second World War is inspirational-numerous codes were broken and incalculable lives were saved. It is important to remember that code breaking at Bletchley Park was a team effort and not something that one person could have achieved alone. However, some people are prominent due to their unique contribution; Bill Tutte was one of those people.
W. T. (Bill) Tutte

W. T. (Bill) Tutte

“Bill who?” Is the standard response I receive whenever I mention his name. If I’m lucky, then the person to whom I am speaking has heard of Bletchley Park and Enigma, and if it is a really good day then they have heard of Alan Turing; but it is rarely the case that they have heard of Lorenz, Colossus, Bill Tutte or Tommy Flowers.
A Naval Enigma Machine

A Naval Enigma Machine

So let me clarify. Alan Turing cracked the Enigma code as used by the German Army, Navy and Air Force. It was a cipher transmitted via Morse code and was an important tactical code to break. The breaking of Enigma is widely remembered for its significance when tackling U-boat threat during the Battle of the Atlantic. When we talk about Tutte, Flowers and Colossus, this is in reference to the Lorenz cipher-an enciphering attachment to a teleprinter machine. Lorenz was used by the German High Command, so a break into Lorenz revealed the strategy of Hitler and his generals-highly significant communications during World War Two.
Lorenz SZ42

Lorenz SZ42

So what was Bill Tutte’s contribution to the breaking of Lorenz?
Very simply, Tutte deduced the structure of the Lorenz cipher through analysis of two pieces of cipher text where the original messages had been enciphered using the same settings, but with slight differences between the texts (e.g abbreviations and misspellings). This meant the encipherment could be removed and then Tutte could look for recurring patterns within the text, eventually deducing the entire structure of the machine. This enabled Tommy Flowers to design and build Colossus, the world’s first digital computer, which was used to break the Lorenz cipher. Tutte’s achievement has been described as the greatest intellectual feat of the Second World War, because unlike Enigma, Tutte deduced the structure of Lorenz with no information about the machine or what it looked like.
Surely that deserves a memorial?
Author: Claire Butterfield