Google helping Bletchley Park Trust to rebuild Block C
By Paul Ridden
August 12, 2011
Search giant Google has teamed up with the Bletchley Park Trust to kick start a fundraising effort to rebuild the records center known as Block C. A Google-supported garden party was held within the grounds of the famous WW2 decoding center last week to start off the restoration fund, which aims to transform the now derelict building into a visitor and learning center.
It's not the first time Google has joined forces with the Trust to preserve a piece of history. Last year, Google contributed US$100,000 towards an effort to save a collection of scientific material and papers relating to the wartime codebreaking work of Enigma genius Alan Turing, which had been put up for auction. In spite of public donations to the tune of GBP23,000 (US$37,432) also being raised, things looked decidedly hopeless until the National Heritage Memorial Fund stepped in and secured the winning bid. The papers are now safely housed in a special display at Bletchley Park.
Now Google is helping to transform a dilapidated building last used in 1984 into a new visitor and learning center for Bletchley Park and the UK's National Museum of Computing, which is housed in H block on the site and is home to Colossus - the world's first electronic programmable computer.
During WW2, personnel at Bletchley Park intercepted coded messages from the German war machine, decoded them and fed the intelligence to the Allied forces. Every scrap of intelligence intercepted and decoded by codebreakers at Bletchley Park was meticulously cataloged, cross-referenced and indexed in a huge punch card setup housed in Block C. At the height of its activity, some two million punch cards per week were used by workers in what Google has described as the "search engine at the heart of Bletchley Park's decryption activity."
It's estimated that the efforts of the Park's 10,000 plus personnel shortened the war by at least two years and saved more than 20 million lives.
The Google-supported garden party was held on August 4 within the grounds of Bletchley Park, and was organized by folks at the search giant like Claudia Baker and Lynette Webb, staff at the Park and computer scientist Dr. Sue Black. Visitors were treated to Pathe news clips from WW2, a special auction, music and speeches galore from the likes of Google's Peter Barron and Bletchley Park WW2 veteran Jean Valentine.
The event raised over GBP10,000 (US$16,281) towards the Block C restoration fund, which is an excellent start, but more funds will be needed before work can begin on its transformation.