Help Keep The Bombe At Bletchley

Fans of vintage codebreaking machinery might be interested to hear that the only working reconstruction of a Turing-Welchman Bombe is likely to soon be on the move. The electromechanical device, a replica of those used on the Second World War Enigma codes, is housed at Bletchley Park, the former codebreaking center established before the outbreak of war to house British and Polish codebreakers.

Bletchley Park itself is now a tourist attraction. The news is that a display reorganization has caused the Turing Welchman Bombe Rebuild Trust that owns the Bombe to approach the neighboring National Museum Of Computing with a view to housing it alongside their reconstruction of the Colossus electronic computer. The Colossus was famously used on the Lorenz cipher. This is an exciting development for the museum, but as an organization reliant on donations they face the task of finding the resources to create a new gallery for the arrival. To that end, they have launched a crowdfunding campaign with a target of £50000 ($69358.50), and they need your donations to it for the project to succeed. They have raised over £4500 in the few days it has already been open and there is most of a month still to go, so we hope they achieve their goal.

The Bletchley Park site is now surrounded by the post-war new town of Milton Keynes, and is easy enough to get to should you find yourself in the UK. We visited The National Museum Of Computing a couple of years ago and spent a very happy day touring its extensive and fascinating collection. If you want to read more about the Bombe you might like to read our review, and also our impression of Colossus.

As part of their campaign, the museum has produced a promotional video, which we have placed after the break.

Bombe picture: Antoine Taveneaux [CC BY-SA 3.0].

35 thoughts on “Help Keep The Bombe At Bletchley

    1. The machine played little importance.
      Other than to prove, YES, it could be done … but, NO, it cannot be done on time!

      Capturing and using an enemy’s Navy Enigma machine was the catalyst to TIMELY decode Nazi messages and win the war against the Nazi regime.

      The machine holds little importance.

      Ignoring historical facts is what we cannot afford to forget.

  1. ” a display reorganization has caused the Turing Welchman Bombe Rebuild Trust that owns the Bombe to approach the neighboring National Museum Of Computing”.
    This surely begs the question, what is the issue that requires such a move to occur? Someone not happy with the way the display reorganization looks like? Or something else?
    The NMoC is only a few tens of metres away from where the bombe is located today.. anyone know precisely why the reason to move it? NMoC charges separately for entrance. Such a special purpose machine is surely more relevant to be housed where it is today, at the main Bletchley site.

    1. Indeed. If you’re going to ask the public for a very significant amount of money to move a machine a stone’s throw, it would be prudent to explain very clearly why the move and spending that money is quite necessary. Now it just feels like there’s politics involved we’re not told of, but are asked to pay for.

    2. while they haven’t specifically said the reason, some background information can shed some light on the dynamics of the current Bletchley Park situation. First, the park has a number of non-profit organizations involved. the one that controls the vast majority of the park is the Bletchley Park Trust (BPT). In the past BPT has been at odds with several of the other non-profits that are located at Bletchley, mainly over the fact that BPT is receiving substantial funding from the National Lottery. In order to continue receiving these funds, BPT needs to meet certain criteria annually. The other non-profits such as the National Museum of Computing (TMNOC), Turing-Welchman Bombe Rebuild Trust, the Computer Conservation Society and the EDSAC Replica Project, don’t exactly fit into the BPT’s plans that build upon the funding from the National Lottery. BPT has made several attempts to drive out these organizations. At one time BPT collected and shared an entry fee for TNMOC, but went as so far to stop doing that, and install fences which require tourist to walk completely around the park to reach the TNMOC building. it has been an ongoing issue since 2014… my guess is that the frustration with BPT is really starting to boil over with the volunteers and non-profits located at Bletchley Park…

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/03/10/bletchley_park_trust_sue_black_quits_bletchley_park_trust_board/
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/museums/10651340/Berlin-Wall-erected-at-Bletchley-Park-as-charities-fall-out.html
      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/01/28/bletchley_park_sacks_elderly_volunteers/

      1. It’s nice to know they’re keeping the tradition of unnecessary bitching and whinging alive, with the inevitable smattering of superiority complex thrown in for good measure.

        1. Do not forget that is the same country that made Turing suicide, put Tommy Flowers (the inventor and builder of Colossus – the Lorentz breaker) and Great Britain out of the history of computers, made Frank Whittle’s invention (the jet engine) useless for the outcome of WW2 (not started early enough), Percy Hobbart was retired from the army until they need his various types tanks (the Funnies) for Normandy Landing, and the list goes on and on.

    3. BPT have made a large number of politically unsound, unnecessary and downright greedy moves, not in keeping with the desires and wants of the people who have done all the hard work, the people who worked there, or the public at large.

      Decisions to evict people who had been there from day one, cutting ties with supporting parties and generally being quite obnoxious about BP’s real heros. I would support the independent people who have done the hard work, but not the management of BPT.

      If BP have items in the shop that TNMOC are also selling for 3 times the amount, I’ll buy the TNMOC version on principle.

      1. Its confusing when you arrive at ‘Bletchley Park’. Even though the sheds (including TNMOC) are all in the grounds of the mansion house, its actually two separate museums, and you need to buy two tickets. Obviously, TNMOC is the most interesting one in terms of computers. Everybody with any interest in computing at all who visits the UK should definitely go to it. The staff at the Colossus display are among the most enthusiastic and helpful I’ve ever met at a museum. There’s also loads of vintage stuff from the 40s through the 80s etc. Get all the computer related stuff into the sheds and then I don’t care what they do with the posh house.

    1. Yes, I noticed that too.
      But apparently £50000 is £69358.50, and that seems like a logical contradiction to itself…
      But after a google search, 50 thousand British pounds is: (as of 2018-02-18)
      56 530.78 Euros
      70 140 USD

      So, I don’t know why the editor could’t just have written 70000 USD.. Since that extra accuracy is already meaningless just a day after the article has been posted.

  2. Slightly off topic, some friends and I stopped in at the vintage computer festival in Seattle last weekend. After checking out the nerd room (the Evil Mad Scientist Digi Comp was our biggest hit) we climbed the stairs to the permanent collection.

    Upon topping the stairs we ran smack into a, for real, four wheel enigma machine. A hush fell over our party. Mouths hung slack in awe. Someone said “my god, I’m getting goosebumps” to murmurs of agreement.

    I can only imagine what Bletchley must be like.

        1. If it is dollars it must me Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Jamaican, Liberian, Namibia, New Zealand, Singapore or Taiwan dollars. I think there is another one, as well, it will come to me when I’m not thinking about it.

        2. It wouldn’t be the dollars that are almost Earth’s universal currency, that would be silly. It’s also impossible to deduce from how far the two numbers are apart. However, if you enter “£50000” into Google, it will tell you a “$70140” is the answer, which is almost exactly the number stated here. It’s almost as if small variations in the exact ratio could occur at any moment.

          1. Sorry, but the true, real and undisputed universal currency is, without a doubt, the Euro. A currency that was able to join into a single, powerful and fully united country what, in the past, were only arrogant big towns, achieving such a big progress for they peop… pfff… pfffthahahahahaha… Sorry folks, I can’t continue with this (LOL).

  3. Maybe one of the title of nobility Earl’s or Duke’s can promote and help fund. Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire maybe is that the latest title of nobility figure? Interesting traveling to England and seeing how the positions are somewhat promotional for the communities they represent. They’re titles that are entitled and created… though you need to really promote very intentionally is what I was told when looking into the House of Finch being in disrepair and literally being able to take on. Maybe figure out who’s estate down that way can assist in preservation.

  4. that’s a definite (to steal a Penny Arcade line)”Mother****ing BACKED!” right there. just finished an audiobook about espionage, intelligence gathering and codebreaking that featured this device among others.

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