One of the last surviving Bletchley Park codebreakers, Jerry Roberts, has died aged 93. He was one of a small group of codebreakers who decrypted messages from the German High Command, including the German plans for the battle of Kursk. He initially worked on the Double Playfair hand cipher used by the German police, and later was part of the team working on the (more difficult than the well-known Enigma) Lorenz cipher, which used two sets of five cipher wheels.
Roberts had a successful career after the war in market research, and was a campaigner in later years for greater recognition for his fellow codebreakers – including William Tutte and Tommy Flowers, who had built the Colossus computer which cracked the codes, and Alan Turing, who also apparently did something.
Terry Heard, teacher, author and co-founder of the UK Mathematics Trust; MBE “for services to the Teaching of Mathematics”;
Jenny Ramsden, teacher; MBE “for services to Further Education and to Mathematics Education through the UK Mathematics Trust”.
In addition, theoretical particle physicist Prof. Peter Higgs was appointed Companion of Honour “for services to Physics”, Professor Keith Burnett CBE FRS, physicist and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield was knighted “for services to Science and Higher Education” and Jeremy Buckle, event director of the Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair, was awarded the Medal of the Order of the British Empire “for services to Science and Engineering”.
Update (14:23): Thanks to Mr H in the comments for adding Jerry Roberts, who worked on deciphering Tunny (Lorenz) at Bletchley Park during World War II, awarded MBE “for services to the work of Bletchley Park and to codebreaking” (listed as Raymond Clarke Roberts, in the departmental list, rather than the general).
Update (02/01/2013 12:38): Hetan Shah, Executive Director of the Royal Statistical Society, has tweeted that two RSS fellows not mentioned here are included on the list, that is Prof. Ian Diamond FBA FRSE, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Aberdeen, knighted “for services to Social Science and Higher Education”, and Prof. David Hand, Senior Research Investigator, Imperial College London, awarded OBE “for services to Research and Innovation”.
Having neglected the home of wartime codebreaking since it packed up and left with the end of hostilities, it looks like the Foreign Office is Turing over a new leaf – Foreign Secretary William Hague paid a visit to Bletchley Park on Thursday to make a couple of announcements that will please both amateur and more serious codebreakers.
ITV will show a new period drama called The Bletchley Circle from Thursday 6th September at 9pm on ITV1. According to the Milton Keynes Citizen, the story “follows the lives of four fictional women whose brilliant work at Bletchley Park during WWII helped to smash codes used by the German military.”
Susan, Millie, Lucy and Jean are back living normal lives, but behind Susan’s conventional exterior as a 1950s housewife and mother is a steely determination that really shouldn’t be under-estimated.
The unresolved murders of Jane Hart and Patricia Oakes bring Susan’s detective skills to the fore once more, and armed with handwritten charts of numbers, dates and times, she spots a pattern of behaviour that no-one else has seen…
The Milton Keynes Citizen quotes Laura Mackie, part of the ITV Drama Commissioning team, saying “The Bletchley Circle combines a vivid portrait of post-war Britain with a taut and original codebreaking thriller”. Here’s a very short trailer for the show:
A Turing Test – the biggest ever staged, according to New Scientist – took place on 23rd June at Bletchley Park to mark the Turing centenary.
The test involved 150 conversations, 30 judges, 25 humans and five chatbots. The article points out that the Loebner Prize typically involves four judges and four chatbots. The contest was won by ‘Eugene Goostman‘, “a chatbot with the personality of a 13-year-old boy” which fooled judges 29% of the time.
The Action This Day! campaign, to raise the £2.4 million needed to unlock £5 million of Heritage Lottery funding, has reached its target. The funding means that the Park can “commence urgent restoration of the profoundly historic, yet currently derelict, Codebreaking Huts 3 and 6, and the development of a world-class visitor centre and exhibition space in WW2 Card Index building, Block C”.
However, this is no reason to stop giving. There is a long way to go to fully “transform Bletchley Park into a world-class heritage and education centre to adequately reflect the profound importance of its impact on WW2 and the twentieth century”. The Bletchley Park Trust will immediately embark on a fundraising campaign, expected to be in the order of £15 million for the next phase.
For my recent birthday I was given a wonderful present: a special UK stamp commemorating Alan Turing, who was born 100 years ago today. The stamp was issued by the Royal Mail not for the Turing centenary but as one of a series of special stamp sets to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
This stamp is particularly special because it is one of 1000 which originated at the Bletchley Park Post Office that were stuck onto a specially designed envelope (Turing, mathematics and patterns) and cancelled on the day the stamp was issued, 23 February 2012, using a special Bombe-themed postmark.