Tag Archives: Museum

Synchronicity, Bletchley Park, History Unfolding

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Colossus valves Bletchley Park

It was in the 1920’s that the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung first described the the terminology of synchronicity, saying that when two or more events occur together or are linked when there is no apparent reason for them to be linked at that time, things come together by what seems chance, this is synchronicity.

It was early one Sunday morning, the British clock system had been adjusted back to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) that morning, that meant that my clock showed 7:30am, but my body said it was 8:30am, and I had nothing meaningful to do and wide awake.
As a Radio Ham (G8YJQ), I had heard of the RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain) National Radio Centre based in Bletchley Park, the war-time home of secret code breaking and the birthplace of the first modern computer. I decided to visit the National Radio Centre.
I often like to revisit the basics, to start again to review, as if I knew nothing about a subject, as it reinforces the foundations of expertise, to pick-up knowledge missed along the way of learning a subject.
I joined a group of visitors, as toured the radio exhibition very quickly, leaving me in their wake as I read the documentation written about the displays, which they skipped over. The exhibition was quite small and a little disappointing to me, so I had finished my visit very quickly, even after a long conversation with a guide and another radio ham.
I decided to visit the rest of the Bletchley Park facility again as I had travelled a long way, to see if the model aircraft of the Italian aircraft (Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero) I had donated, had been used in their exhibition, and no it had not been used, to revisit, to reinforce and relearn what I knew about the site and its’ history.
I joined another small group of people of many nationalities, and we met in the main house to hear the initial opening lecture about the code breakers, setting the scene for the tour. Even though I had heard this talk before, it had been with another guide, and he gave us information new to me. As we wondered around the site, new information was being imparted, especially about the decoding Bombe machines, I had never understood how they worked, I had a concept, but now after the guides talk, I was beginning to understand.
That reminded me of something I had learnt when I first started in the computer field in 1963, sometimes you don’t need to know how something works to use it.
We eventually visited the National Museum of Computing housed in buildings of part of Bletchley Park.
Here the guide explained about Tunny code breaking machines, or as it is also known, the German Lorenz SZ42 cipher-machines.
Two new “Ah Ha” moments came to me, that the cipher machines Enigma and the Lorenz used by the German’s to encrypt messages ran side by side in the Second World War, being two separate systems or methods of transmission of a message, one being morse code the other being teleprinter.
The second “Ah Ha” moment came as I realised that I had heard and read about Lorenz in two different contexts, one was for the equipment to encode messages I was viewing, and the other was for the beams of radio waves the German aircraft to fly along and used to locate targets to bomb in the UK during the war. Both the encrypting machine and the beams were made by the German manufacturer Lorenz, but people had when speaking about the systems, had truncated or missed off what Lorenz model they were talking about, just like saying it was a Ford, but what model Ford, was it a car, was it a transit van?
As we walked around listening and learning, a couple in our group were talking about papers and artefacts that had been left to them by the husband’s now deceased mother and father, and that some of the letters were now making sense, they now realised that they had been written to and by people who had worked in Bletchley Park. These people at Bletchley Park in the Second World War had been sworn to secrecy at to what they were working on, what they were doing or even where they were, many taking their secrets with them to their graves many decades later. I now regret not asking my now departed Uncle Frank about his work in the 2nd World War, because as I research more, I believe he may have had had some dealing with the Bletchley Code Breakers.
Also, the couple told me that they had in their possession, left by the father, many old thermionic valves and parts used by the Post Office in the UK who used to run the telephone service.
Passing on from the Tunny Gallery, we passed into the Colossus Gallery, showing a reconstructed decoding machine, the worlds first digital semi-programmable computer, designed and built by Tommy Flowers, a telephone engineer, who took standard telephone switching gear, thermionic valves and other bits and pieces, to build this worlds first computer of it’s type.
As we listened to our guide about how the British Government, after the finish of the 2nd World War, did not want the secret be known by other powers and especially the Russians of Colossus, and apart from two machines which were sent to the Secret Service’s headquarters at GCHQ, all other machines were destroyed, along with paperwork, designs and drawings.
Colossus Bletchley Park

Colossus Bletchley Park

It was only a few years ago that a group of enthusiasts led by Tony Sale, who gathered information from photographs, people who worked on the Colossus, and those you built and maintained them, that rebuilt what we can see today, a working Colossus which can decipher and work as the originals did, and does so for visitors to see today.

Colossus valves Bletchley Park

Colossus valves Bletchley Park

 

When our guide had finished his talk, the couple’s eyes were alive, as they had some parts, letters, paperwork, documents and some knowledge from the father, who they now realised had worked with Tommy Flowers on the original Colossus, and I urged them to go and speak to one of the guides who I knew had worked on the rebuild and was now sitting in a small office near to the working computer.
I think at first reluctantly the guide listened to them, but he became interested, as here was new knowledge being delivered, and so off they went to another area of the exhibition, only to return with a framed photograph of Tommy Flowers, and in that photograph was the father.
I was witnessing the discovery of new knowledge, the recovery of history.
Leaving Bletchley Park, and a almost two hour journey, I arrived home and settled down to a wonderful hot chilli con carne meal I had made, and switched on the TV. To my surprise the BBC were showing a Timewatch series, “Codebreakers: Bletchley Park’s Lost Heroes“, the story of code breaking and the Colossus, reinforcing what I had learned not a few hours earlier.
Synchronicity. If I had not been bored and decided to rekindle my Ham Radio interests, to visit the National Radio Centre, which happened to be at Bletchley Park, and if I had not continued to do another tour of the park, I would not have had those “Ah Ha” moments, seen many more things, and learnt so much more, meet the couple who had a direct connection to Colossus through the father and Tommy Flowers, then see the TV program.

MisInterpretation, Queen Bohemian Rhapsody

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I was never a lover of the pop group Queen, their dress style, their hair, their choreography on stage, well that is apart from some of their music.

Their music was very popular, with their records reaching number one in the charts on many occasions, and being played continually on the radio, they grew on me.
I hardly ever listen to the lyrics of songs, never search out the hidden meaning, the messages other people seem to hear, perhaps I am more interested in the musical arrangement, the interplay of the individual instruments, but, after a few plays the lyrics get into my subconscious, and I often find that I am singing along with the song, or that the words pop-up into my thoughts, my inner mind.
So it was with Queen’s song Bohemian Rhapsody, a masterpiece of a song, an operatic piece in its’ own right, giving a story which flows with the music,
I had never really understood the lyrics, only that it was about a young man who had killed a man, singing to his mother and using strange words that I had no idea how they fitted into the song, well that’s the way I understood the song.
Scaramouche“, who or what is that? I now know, just found out that it is a character in an early film referring to a comic character, “Scaramouche” also refers to a Greek translator of the Old Testament, and why does it ask “Scaramouche“, “will you do the Fandango?“.
Why “Galileo Figaro“? Still do not understand that.
Then there is this person called “Miss Miller“. Who is this “Miss Miller“? Where did “Miss Miller” come from?
As usual, miss interpretation, it is not “Miss Miller“, but “Bismillah“, an Arabic word used to mean “in the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate“, or “in the name of Allah (God)“, as used in the Islamic faith.
Looking at the lyrics now after all these years I see the word “Beelzebub“. What does that mean? I had heard the word over the years, just the word without knowing the meaning, it was just the sound. I now find that a “Beelzebub” refers to a once worshiped Philistine deity, “Beelzebub” meaning “Lord of the Flies“. Later it was used in the Christian faith to refer to one of the seven princes of Hell.
All the above came as a Thunderbolt to me. All these years I had been happy in my (miss) understanding and ignorance of the song, yes I was a little bewildered, but who isn’t with lyrics of songs.
I had put my interpretation, my understanding or lack of, on the words, “Miss Miller” – “Bismillah“, “Scaramouche“, “Beelzebub“.
I had put my “Cat on the Mat“, my understanding, and I was wrong. How many times a day do we do the same thing in understanding the world about us, and how many times a day do others misinterpret our meanings?
Another question arose from one of my Turkish translators and friend, Asu Yildirim, asking, did I take the saying I often use in my courses, “nobody loves me” from this song Bohemian Rhapsody? No I did not, at least not consciously. But Asu, I know that you are mentioned in the song, “thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening“, the translation of you family name Yildirim as in the display of Antep in Gaziantep Castle Museum meaning, “thunderbolt“.
Gaziantep Castle

Gaziantep Castle

Wait for film to load.


Is this the real life? 
Is this just fantasy? 
Caught in a landslide 
No escape from reality 
Open your eyes 
Look up to the skies and see 
I’m just a poor boy (Poor boy) 
I need no sympathy 
Because I’m easy come, easy go 
Littl
e high, little low 
Any way the wind blows 
Doesn’t really matter to me, to me 

Mama just killed a man 
Put a gun against his head 
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead 
Mama, life has just begun 
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away 
Mama, ooh 
Didn’t mean to make you cry 
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow 
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters 

Too late, my time has come 
Sends shivers down my spine 
Body’s aching all the time 
Goodbye, everybody 
I’ve got to go 
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth 
Mama, oooooooh (Anyway the wind blows) 
I don’t want to die 
Sometimes wish I’d never been born at all 

[Guitar Solo] 

I see a little silhouetto of a man 
Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango 
Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me 
(Galileo) Galileo (Galileo) Galileo, Galileo Figaro 
Magnifico-o-o-o-o 
I’m just a poor boy nobody loves me 
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family 
Spare him his life from this monstrosity 

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go? 
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go 
Let him go 
Bismillah! We will not let you go 
Let him go 
Bismillah! We will not let you go 
Let me go (Will not let you go) 
Let me go (Will not let you go) (Never, never, never, never) 
Let me go, o, o, o, o 
No, no, no, no, no, no, no 
(Oh mama mia, mama mia) Mama Mia, let me go 
Beelzebub has the devil put aside for me, for me, for me! 

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye 
So you think you can love me and leave me to die 
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby 
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here 

[Guitar Solo] 
(Oooh yeah, Oooh yeah) 

Nothing really matters 
Anyone can see 
Nothing really matters 
Nothing really matters to me 

Any way the wind blows…

Churchill Museum within the Cabinet War Rooms

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Cabinet war rooms

Ever seeking more knowledge, some people say I am full of useless information, and my visit to the Churchill and Cabinet War Rooms in Central London, gave me the opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest leaders of British history, Winston Churchill (1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955).

The secret underground bunker which served as the Cabinet War Rooms in the Second World War, where the Chiefs of Staff and the Prime Minister worked continuously from 1939 to 1945.

Within the facilities, Winston Churchill, as well as other person holding high positions in the armed services, had his own bedroom, office and other amenities. There was a kitchen which catered for his eating requirements, and also a bedroom for his wife Clementine. To keep in touch with other world leaders but especially USA President Roosevelt, within Shefridges on Oxford Street, a special room called the Transatlantic Room was created, with a secure telephone/radio connection using a scrambler device called Sigsaly installed.

Cabinet war rooms

The Transmission Room in the Cabinet War Rooms, London

Sigsaly
was 40 tons of equipment, shipped from the USA and installed in the basement of Shefridges on Oxford Street. Another Sigsaly was installed in the Pentagon in the USA, and it was said the scrambled signal generated was “almost” impenetrable. Having now learned of the secret decoding work by the British at Bletchley Park, I wonder if the Germans had broken Sigsaly.

Within the bunker of the Cabinet War Rooms, is a very large space which was partitioned off for use by various departments of the Chiefs of Staff and the War Cabinet during WWII, as since 2005 become the Churchill Museum.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace into the Spencer family on 30 November 1874, he came from a aristocratic family, his father being Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill being the 7th Duke of Marlborough, his mother was an American.

Churchill was sent away to boarding schools, and had little contact with his parents despite his repeated requests for his mother to visit him. He was not a good student other than English and history, and his poor results could be attributed to him having dyslexia. Churchill also had a speech impediment, especially noticeable was his lisp, having difficulty pronouncing the letter “S” and, it has been said a stutter. All these problems did not deter Churchill, as he said, “My impediment is no hindrance“, and he became a great author and speech maker.

Despite having to take the entrance exam three times, he was accepted into the Royal Military Academy, better known as Sandhurst, to become an officer in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars, using his family connections to be posted on active duties. It was from these campaigns that the public started to know him through his writings as a war correspondent, and writing his own books on the campaigns.

Throughout his life he was a world traveler, and in the military his campaigns to him to Cuba, India, Malakand (now Pakistan), Sudan and South Africa. He became First Lord of the Admiralty at the start of World War I.

His first try in politics in 1899 was in the English constituency of Oldham, where he stood for the seat to the British Parliament, and lost the vote. But, in the 1900 General Election he won his seat to Parliament in the same constituency of Oldham. In the 1906 General Election he had changed his political party from the Conservatives to the Liberals, and stood for the Manchester North West Constituency which again he won, only having the seat for two years, when he was elected as member of Parliament for Dundee. He became a high powered member of the Liberal Government, helping to pass many reforms.

During World War 1, Churchill again rejoined the military to fight, having the rank of Colonel in the Royal Scots Fusiliers but still being an MP (Member of Parliament).

In 1922 he lost his Dundee parliamentary seat, and despite standing for other constituencies, was not returned to Parliament until 1924 for Epping.

Throughout the following years, Churchill had many positions in the British Government, but also he feel out of favour sometimes, and had periods of obscurity. It was after the start of the Second World War, that Churchill again gained power being given the job of The First Lord of the Admiralty.

When the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned due to the lack of confidence the county had in him in his handling of the outbreak of the war, Churchill was asked to become Prime Minister. 10 May 1940.

Throughout the Second World War, Churchill led the British nation with inspiration, his speeches were well thought out and rehearsed, that rallied the nation to fight on to the end. He formed good working relationships with other world leaders, Roosevelt, Truman, Stalin.

Some of Churchill’s greatest speeches contained now famous lines which rallied and inspired the embattled people of Britain and the world:-

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat“.
“….… we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

At the end of WWII, the British people voted Churchill’s Government out of power in the 1945 election, and he would lead the opposition party until the General Election of 1951,  he resigned in 1955.

All this history and more is on display in the Churchill Museum, along with his famous jump suits, his awards, his medals. They are displayed in such a way that it is as if one is having a personal tour. For example, his many famous speeches, which I have never appreciated before can be heard, by standing is one spot, the clever sound system delivers Churchill as if he is standing in front of you. You can sit and watch films and hear the commentary which hardly interferes with the other visitors.

Although as a young boy, not being old enough to have really experienced his leadership first hand, I remember vividly his State Funeral, not often given to commoners in the UK, after his death at the age of 90 on 24th January 1965. The whole nation stopped to view it on the TV’s. There, in the Churchill Museum were the same pictures, and I felt the emotion of the time once again, as tear welled up in my eyes.

Throughout his life Churchill wrote many books and articles. His speeches are orinspiring and are I have now found out, worth listening to for their content and construc
tion, In 1953 was award the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Here again there is a physical link back to the Bletchley Park in the 21 Century, for in one of the buildings is the Churchill Collect, a vast private collect of Churchill memorabilia. Winston Churchill visited Bletchley Park many time and said of the workers that they were :-

The geese that laid the golden eggs – but never cackled.”

The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms

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English Afternoon Tea

In my article “I am still learning more on history” I mentioned the Cabinet War Rooms in Central London.

My interest in visiting the Cabinet War Rooms came about by reading R.V. Jones book Most Secret War, because in his writing, Jones reported his various meetings in this secret underground bunker with the Chiefs of Staff and the Prime Minister of Great Britain during WWII, Winston Churchill. I wanted to verify the information he was giving, and experience what had taken place some 70 years previously. His whole writings seemed to imply he was the most important person in the Second World War apart from Churchill.

I was not to be disappointed in what I learnt and saw, although gained no reference or mention when asking guides to R.V. Jones having worked there.

Located near Horse Guards Parade, opposite St Jame’s Park, and under what is now The Treasury Building, it was decided in 1930’s, because of the impending war with Germany and the probability of aerial bombardment, to build a central emergency working space for the War Cabinet and Chiefs of Staff of the military. One week before the outbreak of the Second World War, on 27th August 1939, the secret bunker was opened, and was in continuous until the end of the war in 1945.

At the end of the war in 1945, staff left their desks, control rooms and living quarters and returned to their normal working places, leaving the secret underground bunker as is, to be used as stores. But in the late 1970’s the Imperial War Museum was tasked with preserving this historic site, and to open the site to the public. From 2005 this site was fully open and included the Churchill Museum dedicated to the life and work of this great British Prime Minister.

A new entrance was opened allowing public access to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, the old access being in what is now The Treasury Building.

To protect the people working in the bunker, (it is stated that over 500 people worked at any one time in the facilities), extra wooden and steel girder reinforcements were built into the bunker, and a steel and concrete two-metre deep slab lain in the void above the bunker.

Cabinet War Rooms Churchill Museum

Cabinet War Rooms Churchill Museum

Cabinet War Rooms Churchill Museum



Among the many rooms and facilities is a room called the Map Room, it is said to be in the same state as it was left in 1945, with the original maps on the walls. One wall shows the Atlantic Ocean, and was used to chart the progress of the merchant shipping, more often being in convoys, still showing the tiny pin holes marking the ships positions. This room was staffed 24 hours a day by officers of the navy, army and airforce, to keep track of the war.

A link from the Cabinet War Rooms Map Room was back to another famed wartime site I have visited, The Battle of Britain Operations Room, at RAF Uxbridge. (click to see article). It was from this Ops room, that information would be fed to the Cabinet War Rooms. as can be seen by a board giving details of flights during the Battle of Britain.

RAF Uxbridge, The Battle of Britain Control Room

RAF Uxbridge, The Battle of Britain Control Room

Links would also be to other war time facilities, including Bletchley Park. The German encrypted messages made on the Enigma Machine would be decoded in Bletchley Park, which helped the Navy plan and fight the Battle of the Atlantic, against the German naval fleet and submarines.

The museum also contains as stated the Churchill Museum, more on that later.

I spent about four hours in the Cabinet War Rooms, so I was somewhat hungry and thirsty, and had an English Afternoon Tea, in the Switchroom Café. Finger sandwiches, (I eat one before taking this picture), made of cheese and cucumber and smoked salmon, a cup of English Breakfast tea with milk, and a piece of cake just like my mother used to make, with strawberry and cream filling, not like mass made factory cake. Paradise.

English Afternoon Tea

English Afternoon Tea in the Switchroom, Cabinet War Rooms.