Tag Archives: codebreaking

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


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