Unique codebreaking papers uncovered at Bletchley Park

February 4, 2015 // 11:03 a.m.

Tags: #alan-turing #bletchley #codebreakers #education #renovation #turing #war

Unique papers relating to the wartime work of code-breaker and polymath Alan Turing have been discovered during refurbishment of Bletchley Park's huts, after having been used as insulation.

The work carried out at Bletchley Park during World War II was instrumental to the Allies' success, and has been credited with ending the war significantly earlier than would have otherwise been the case. Teams of engineers, mathematicians and experts worked together in complete secrecy to break ciphers used to disguise enemy communications - and in doing so invented many of the technologies that make up modern computing as we know it today.

Most famous of these codebreakers is Alan Turing, who built on work by Polish mathematicians to accelerate the cracking of the Enigma cipher. Turing's work was ordered destroyed following the closure of the codebreaking facility at Bletchley Park, and he was forbidden from discussing what he had achieved under the Official Secrets Act. Tragically, Turing died aged 41 from cyanide poisoning following his prosecution for homosexuality - a crime punishable by chemical castration at the time - which was officially ruled a suicide, a ruling his mother long railed against.

While Turing's work was ordered to be destroyed, numerous examples have been found in the years since its declassification - and now a trove of papers has cropped up in an unusual place: the nooks and crannies of the huts where he worked. Constructed at Bletchley Park as temporary accommodation during the war, the huts have been undergoing renovation during which the rare papers were discovered following their use as insulation.

Local paper MK News reports that the papers, now on display at the Bletchley Park Codebreaking Museum, include the only known examples of Turing's Banbury Sheets. Other, less sensitive, material discovered during the renovation include sections of an atlas, a fashion article from a magazine, and a time capsule concealed within one hut's door.

The restored papers and other materials are now on display at Bletchley Park.
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