Tag Archives: Tutte

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



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

Bill Tutte-Worthy of Remembrance


“In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best.”

Winston Churchill, 8th May 1945

As I sat watching all the pomp and circumstance in Whitehall this morning, I considered all those whose contributions are not so recognised on Remembrance Day.  It would be an impossible task (and indeed a very long blog) to list all those who contributed to the war effort; so today I chose to think of those who through intellect and determination used their brilliant minds to break codes that were believed unbreakable.  Naturally, my mind turns to Bill Tutte and his fellow code breakers at Bletchley Park

(c) BBC

Professor Brian Cox and Captain Jerry Roberts
(c) BBC

Captain Jerry Roberts frequently recounts his experience of being in the same office as Tutte:

“I saw him staring into the middle distance, twiddling his pencil, and making counts on reams of paper; and I used to wonder whether he was getting anything done.  My goodness he was.  It was an extraordinary feat of the mind”. 

Captain Jerry Roberts

Tutte applied the Scientific Method to deduce the logical structure of Lorenz:

 “…by using logic, careful observation and by producing testable hypotheses, he managed to determine exactly how it worked.”

Professor Brian Cox


Simulation of Tutte’s Periodicity Examination
(c) BBC

Bill Tutte has been described as a shy and unassuming man.  It’s amazing to think of Tutte sat quietly with paper and pencil performing one of the greatest intellectual feats of World War Two. Tutte worked away on the problem for months.  He never gave in.  So today on Remembrance Sunday, let us remember those who fought with intellect and determination; Those who used their brilliant minds to achieve the seemingly unachievable; Those whose efforts contributed to shortening the war and saved countless lives.

For too long these great minds have gone without recognition, with your support we can give Tutte recognition he deserves.



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