Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bletchley Park and the Judgement of History

Bletchley Park Mansion (Photo: Jim Hooper)

I recently went with a group of friends to revisit Bletchley Park (  It has been claimed that the work of the code breakers may have shortened the war by as much as two years, saving countless lives.

Winston Churchill paid one visit to Bletchley Park to thank the staff their for their invaluable contribution to the war effort.  He referred to the largely female staff as being "the geese who laid the golden eggs, but did not cackle".  A majority of those who worked at Bletchley Park were women.  Having signed the Official Secrets Act, those that did the vital work of code-breaking could not tell their friends or family about the vital work they had performed during the war.

Churchill visited Bletchley once during the War (Photo: Jim Hooper)
The amazing work done by the code breakers of Bletchley Park was a well kept secret for many years after the war.  The secret did not start spill out until the mid-1970's with the release of The Ultra Secret.  If a historian had attempted to write a comprehensive history of World War II in 1965 (20 years after the war's conclusion), for example, he would have been missing a huge part of what actually took place.  Such a history would have been incomplete and inaccurate as the Allies were reading the Axis radio traffic and were consistently better informed as a result.

Polish memorial at Bletchley Park
World War II began in Europe, from the Allied perspective, with an attempt to preserve the independence of Poland which had been guaranteed by Britain and France.  Poland, invaded by Hitler from the west and Stalin from the east, lost a staggering 5.6 to 5.8 million people during the course of the war -- a higher percentage (16.6 to 16.7%) of her total population than any other country, even the Soviet Union (  Poland would not regain her independence until 1989 -- 44  years after the war's conclusion.  The Poles are well represented at Bletchley for their tremendous contributions in code-breaking during the war.

In order to render a balanced and reasonably accurate historical appraisal of any event a period of time must be allowed to pass -- probably at least twenty years must pass after a President leaves office.  Intelligence in modern warfare is critically important to the outcome of all major conflicts and is necessarily unavailable to journalists and the public. Moreover, the fires of partisanship must cool.  We are only just now, for example, able to render a reasonably balanced historical view of the Reagan Presidency.

It is, therefore, impossible to render a fair historical judgement of either George W. Bush or Barack Obama right now.  All of our judgements of these two Presidents must be provisional in nature.  This does not, of course, preclude us form forming judgments; it merely means that these judgements must be limited and incomplete.  The condition of Iraq in 2028 (presently unknowable) will, for example, have an enormous impact on history's judgement of George W. Bush.  The quality and cost of healthcare in the USA in 2032 (equally unknowable) will help future historians to evaluate the legacy of Barack Obama.
Commander K and WSC, Bletchley Park, UK
History takes time to do properly.  It takes time for memoirs to be published, for secrets to be divulged, for partisan passions to cool.  It takes time to gain historical perspective.

Astonishingly, there are still World War II secrets that the British government has NEVER divulged.  The contents of the 1941 German peace proposal transmitted by the flight of Rudolph Hess is one example (

Bletchley house offers more than just the code breakers.  You can also trace the invention of the first computer, the tragic story of Alan Turing, Ian Fleming's World War II espionage exploits and much more.  Commander Kelly says, "if you come to London and have any curiosity about the history of World War II, be sure to check out Bletchley Park!"  Here is the

The other unmistakable conclusion to be drawn from Bletchley is that democracies, with all their manifold flaws, are far superior at the war of the mind than dictatorships.  All of the Axis powers were too arrogant to admit that their communications were thoroughly compromised during the war.  The traditions of free speech and free thought proved to be a tremendous strategic advantage for the Allied powers.

History is all around us!

Mr and Mrs. Lawn

American Espionage...!

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on

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