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.
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.
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.
It was on one of my trips to research my interests, that I visited Bletchley Park, once home in the Second War World to the Code Breakers that were able to break the secret Enigma Codes of the Germans, plus the home of the world’s first electronic computer, Colossus.
In the past I have had to admit that there is much missing from my knowledge, my history.
I realised how much is missing from my family history, when after getting together recently with my daughter Vanessa in Southampton, and I was relating what knowledge I had to her, how little I really did know. I had heard stories from my father and mother, uncles and aunties, but this information was limited and nothing had been written down, and now knowing what I do know now about human memory systems, there was much missing.
Visiting so many countries, and listening to their understanding of their history, I realise that it differs from my understanding of the same history from a British point of view. My experience of talking to Gianni Golfera’s Grandfather as a WWII Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero (SM.79) bomber pilot and his recollections of fighting the British Hurricane fighter planes, gave a different point of view to my reading of British history of that time.
Having an inquiring mind, trying to understand the background of information, and often asking “why“, I sometimes need and search for information, for example, looking at the history of the WWII British fight plane, the Hurricane and its’ connect to Kingston upon Thames where I have a home.
Part of my research has been through reading, thank goodness I know PhotoReading, part of my research through talking to people, and part of research has been through visiting museums and actual sites the history took place.
My recent interest has taken me to Bletchley Park, north of London, home of and historic site of secret British codebreaking activities during WWII and birthplace of the modern computer, Colosus. This led me to reading many books on the history of Bletchley Park, and to a book by R.V. Jones called Most Secret War. Reading this book led me to wanting to find more about the history of the Cabinet War Rooms, Britain’s secret underground shelter for the War Cabinet and Chiefs of Staff, in Central London.
A tour guide at Bletchley Park when informing us of the work initially undertaken by Polish scientists on the secret encoding of the messages by the Germans and the Enigma Machines, was that once a year a special visit was taken by Polish nationals to the park, and that their guides tell a different story than he does.
Now I have found so much more insight into my own and others history, that I have had to completely rewrite some my understanding of my knowledge, also reaffirming my realisation that we are only told by higher authorities and others what they want us to know.
I also realise that I should have asked my relatives who are now no longer with us more about their history and thus Vanessa’s and mine.