back to article Bletchley Park remembers 'forgotten genius' Gordon Welchman

An exhibition has been launched at Bletchley Park to commemorate the work of Cambridge lecturer and "forgotten genius" Gordon Welchman at Britain's wartime codebreaking centre. Titled Gordon Welchman: Bletchley Park's Architect of Ultra Intelligence, the exhibition is based on the book of the same name by the great man's …

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  1. Hollerith 1

    Joan Thirsk!

    A giant in her field, and I read all of her books while a graduate student. To think she was a Bletchley girl and never said!!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keeping 'Mum' was just SOP for those involved in WW2

    My Father was one of the first Allied troops to enter Bergen-Belsen. He said nothing about it for almost 50 years. He only told me and my mother after I'd visited Dachau.

    I wish people today weren't so keen to tell the world about everything in their lives. Some things are just better left unsaid (and un-selfied).

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Keeping 'Mum' was just SOP for those involved in WW2

      Because keeping the holocaust secret is important to the national security of ..... ?

      1. Naughtyhorse

        Re: Keeping 'Mum' was just SOP for those involved in WW2

        Really?

        Belsen, Dachau?

        your grandchild comes up to you and asks 'what did you do in the war grandad?' and _that's_ the story you'd want to tell?

        1. dogged

          Re: Keeping 'Mum' was just SOP for those involved in WW2

          @Naughtyhorse - of course not, but finding out aged 19 was a bit of a shock anyway.

          All we knew was that he was Signals, had medals, did stuff.

          And that Dad was also Signals and won medals and did stuff (mainly in Cyprus).

          Which made my career path look pretty straightforward. How little we know.

    2. dogged

      Re: Keeping 'Mum' was just SOP for those involved in WW2

      > My Father was one of the first Allied troops to enter Bergen-Belsen. He said nothing about it for almost 50 years. He only told me and my mother after I'd visited Dachau.

      So was my Grandad and he never told us at all. We only found out when some of his old regiment turned up to his funeral.

    3. bitmap animal
      Unhappy

      Re: Keeping 'Mum' was just SOP for those involved in WW2

      I had a relative who was involved in decommissioning some very clandestine sites during the late 40s. Over the years he told me a few stories about it, plus how it was made incredibly clear to him how secret his work was.

      A few years ago I found someone putting a museum & stories together about that work and contacted them. When I told my relative he clammed up and said he had nothing to tell them, it was secret. When I relayed that back apparently even after all these years very few people were talking.

      “Loose lips sinks ships” etc was ingrained in that generation.

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    But now, in the here and nows out there, for what and/or for whom would they toiling and tolling?*

    ”NSA master blabbermouth Edward Snowden.” ….. Alexander J Martin

    Are we to take from that, you are not a great fan of Snowden, AJM?

    And, of course, it is extremely convenient to believe and think that there is not a MkUltraSensitive Bletchley Park type operation at HyperRadioProActive Work, REST and Great er IntelAIgent GamesPlay in intelligent and Intelligence Community circles today.

    Methinks then though, that would be more a case of one not thinking, and a’floundering and foundering in disbelief.

    * .... East or West? Private or Pirate? Public or Corporate? Or autonomous self employed and virtually/practically/relatively anonymous freelancer billionaire with no visible means of ab fab fabless support?

    1. Alexander J. Martin
      Headmaster

      Re: For Whom the Comment Tolls

      I think Mr Snowden has attempted to provide the public with information we deserve to know. I understood nothing of the rest of your comment.

      Also - hello all. How do I get a nifty Vulture symbol?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        @Alexander J. Martin

        The Vulture symble is for Vulture editors - tells us that the person commenting is not just a commentard.

        And as for trying to understand Amanfrommars, don't. Save your brain cells and go read on Quantum Theory, you'll have a better chance of understanding that.

        1. dogged

          Re: @Alexander J. Martin

          True story. There are homeopaths who make more sense.

        2. DuncanL

          Re: @Alexander J. Martin

          Red Vultures are staff; the other colours are for people with too much time on their hands... erm... valued contributors!

          From http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/01/register_comments_guidelines/

          Badges

          In November 2012, The Register introduced gold, silver and bronze badges for commentards, along with forum privileges for each badge.

          The qualifying thresholds for badges are:

          Bronze - More than one year members and more than 100 posts in the last 12 months.

          Silver - Silver badge holders meet bronze requirements and have more than 2000 upvotes.

          Gold - This discretionary badge is awarded by Reg staff to commentards who have been very helpful - to us, through news tips and beta testing, for example - and to their fellow readers, through their posts.

          Forum privileges are awarded according to commentard handle - not by user account. This means that if you change your handle, you will lose your forum privileges. Also, votes on your anonymous posts do not count towards you gaining badges.

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            @DuncanL

            You are perfectly right. I have actually forgotten that the bronze/silver/gold badges are also Vulture symbols. I assumed that the question concerned the red ones. My only excuse is that I hadn't had any coffee before responding.

            Thank you for doing the job right.

      2. Naughtyhorse

        Re: For Whom the Comment Tolls

        amanformmars1

        Never_ makes _any_sense.

        at all.

        usually entertaining

        there may be a point

        i have no idea

        but i always read his/her/it's comments.

        They seem to be mostly on topic, and i understand all of the words used....

        the icons are awarded on number of posts I think

  4. Steve 149

    Typical ass covering

    Once again it seems like a case of persecuting the wrong person. Stalin was being supplied with the raw decripts before they were filtered and fed to him through official channels. The leakage in SIS was incredible but various officials seem to have put far more effort into covering up their own inabilities than catching spy's. I'd recommend reading treachery by Chapman Pincher. I'd say he's got a definite bias but these are obvious and don't stop him contradicting existing mis-information.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The article skips over an important fact, I think..

    I think you have a pay a bit more attention to that BBC program "Bletchley Park: Code-breaking's Forgotten Genius": Gordon Welchman laid the foundations of meta-data analysis. He applied his genius to the decryption work too and managed to speed it up by several factors, but his main contribution came before that when he used partially or even non-decrypted messages to build up diagrams of who talked to whom and so established a view of organisational structure - what you mentioned in passing as traffic analysis.

    His idea enabled Bletchley Park to prioritise decryption of messages. They then later sharpened up that mapping with decrypted data, but Welchman's main legacy is IMHO traffic analysis. The direct takeaway from that is that you should not write off meta-data as some sort of lesser data (like the FBI managed to do in the US, so they now have pretty much unfettered access to it): it needs as much, if not more protection as other data, and it shows just how dangerous sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are (and anything that has access to your address book, by the way).

    I suspect I shall receive many downvotes for this, but IMHO, Welchman's later problems were of his own making. In his search for recognition he started writing and even publishing information without any consultation with those in charge of keeping those secrets. There are ways in which a story can be told without stomping on the toes of those in charge of managing national security, but it starts with asking permission before you publish so they can consider what can be released or not. You cannot expect the unapproved publication of information to be greeted with enthusiasm and applause, irrespective of what you did for the nation(s - he also helped the US along quite a bit in terms of organisational in-theatre communications efficiency).

    Stil, I think the guy deserves a heck of a lot more recognition for what he did in the war, even if his very "invention" (meta-data analysis) is now turned against all of us too.

    Yes, he was a genius in traffic analysis and code breaking, but he did rather overlook the human side of thigs.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: The article skips over an important fact, I think..

      Have an upvote for that, AC. Metadata rules indeed in reigns that rely on intelligent analysis and precognitive inference of possible and thought probable scenarios.

      And anyone signing up for a life with the precondition that one signs an Official Secrets Act or Non-Disclosure Agreement, had better be extremely well paid and not intelligent enough to realise the trap they have been talked and walked themselves into.

      Those are important facts too, methinks, in this day and age of right dodgy systems thinking themselves too big to fail.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The article skips over an important fact, I think..

        And anyone signing up for a life with the precondition that one signs an Official Secrets Act or Non-Disclosure Agreement, had better be extremely well paid and not intelligent enough to realise the trap they have been talked and walked themselves into.

        First a slight aside: you are subject to the Official Secrets Act (or OSA, as insiders call it because acronyms are so much more annoying), you don't sign for it. What you sign for is an acknowledgement that you're aware that the OSA exists and understand that you're subject to it, but you're always subject to the OSA, signed or not.

        That being said, working under secrecy is not always the route to dodgy affairs as current reporting makes it out to be, only that you can't talk about the work you do without seeking clearance for that first.

        Back to the topic at hand: you're right in pointing out the precog tendencies of everyone involved, but this is where extra dangers hide: meta-data (and big data) is mostly a game of probabilities, not facts. The risk lies in the fact that those that get to work with the conclusions are not aware of this (the "the computer says so" idiots you find everywhere). Evidence based on meta-data analysis must be regarded with the utmost suspicion until the data sources and analysis have been verified.

        1. Vic

          Re: The article skips over an important fact, I think..

          you're always subject to the OSA, signed or not.

          No, not entirely. Not unless you're a member of the security and intelligence services.

          Section 1 says:

          A person who is or has been—
          • (a)a member of the security and intelligence services; or
          • (b)a person notified that he is subject to the provisions of this subsection,

          is guilty of an offence if without lawful authority he discloses any information, document or other article relating to security or intelligence which is or has been in his possession by virtue of his position as a member of any of those services or in the course of his work while the notification is or was in force.

          IOW, someone outside of the security services must be formally notified of being subject to the OSA in order for that Act to be in effect in the matter.

          Notice that subsection 1(6) states:

          Notification that a person is subject to subsection (1) above shall be effected by a notice in writing served on him by a Minister of the Crown

          Vic.

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: The article skips over an important fact, I think. ... @ Vic

            Thanks for that flow of information and intelligence, Vic.

            One presumes that for the OSA to be in any way much more effective, and fair too whenever one imagines the cost and price that certain wares can command and control nowadays, whenever notification is servered ....

            Notification that a person is subject to subsection (1) above shall be effected by a notice in writing served on him by a Minister of the Crown
            .... it is accompanied by an exceedingly wealthy magic credit/debit card facility for transacting with flash cash.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The article skips over an important fact, I think. ... @ Vic

              Notification that a person is subject to subsection (1) above shall be effected by a notice in writing served on him by a Minister of the Crown

              Hey, that is interesting. I've had to sign this many, many times, but this suggests that by handing off this process to a mere minion my notifications were not compliant with the conditions. I'm free!*

              * I don't think so, but what matters more is that I made a promise, and it so becomes a matter of personal honour. Yeah, I'm old fashioned.

          2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Vic Re: The article skips over an important fact, I think..

            "....No, not entirely. Not unless you're a member of the security and intelligence services...." No, that is completely incorrect. It is a law just like the laws on burglary, murder, rape, etc. You do not need to sign a statement saying you understand the parts of English Law regarding murder in order to be subject to them, you simply are subject to them whilst in the UK. The statement you sign is simply to remind you that you are subject to the Official Secrets Act, it is to remind you that you are obliged to follow that law. But you could be a foreigner in the UK who does not read or speak English or have any knowledge of English Law, and still be subject to the Act just as you would be subject to the laws regarding murder, rape, burglary, etc. You'll also find that pleading ignorance of the Law will not gain you any shrift in court.

            1. Vic

              Re: Vic The article skips over an important fact, I think..

              "....No, not entirely. Not unless you're a member of the security and intelligence services...." No, that is completely incorrect. It is a law

              And if you'd bothered to follow the link in my post, you will see I am quoting from that law. It is not I who am saying that being subject to the requirements of secrecy is dependent on a written notification being served - it is the law. Read it. You might learn something.

              Vic.

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: Vic Re: Vic The article skips over an important fact, I think..

                "....And if you'd bothered to follow the link in my post, you will see I am quoting from that law.....' You are quoting without having understood, and definitely without reading my post as I already pointed out it is a law and you were wrong to state it only applied to people employed in certain roles, so maybe you should go read your own link? Do get an adult's help with that.

                1. Vic

                  Re: Vic Vic The article skips over an important fact, I think..

                  You are quoting without having understood

                  There is no hope for you.

                  Vic.

                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                    FAIL

                    Re: Thick Vic Re: Vic Vic The article skips over an important fact, I think..

                    "....There is no hope for you...." You stated in your original post; "Not unless you're a member of the security and intelligence services." I showed that you were completely wrong on that point, you have simply followed up by trying to deny reality. Please step away from the keyboard, you are obviously too stupid to be allowed access to the Internet.

    2. Eclectic Man

      Re: The article skips over an important fact, I think..

      AC said "Welchman's later problems were of his own making. In his search for recognition he started writing and even publishing information without any consultation with those in charge of keeping those secrets."

      To some extent I agree, however, the relevant people in GCHQ / NSA, knew exactly where Welchman was, and could easily have sent him a letter explaining that the publication of some parts of the exploits at Bletchley Park had been sanctioned by HMG and that this did not mean everyone else could just write down and publish whatever they liked without approval. If Welchman missed the human side of things then so did the GCHQ / NSA higher ups who authorised the first book about code-breaking and completely failed to consider how their former staff would react.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To some extent I agree, however, the relevant people in GCHQ / NSA, knew exactly where Welchman was, and could easily have sent him a letter explaining that the publication of some parts of the exploits at Bletchley Park had been sanctioned by HMG and that this did not mean everyone else could just write down and publish whatever they liked without approval. If Welchman missed the human side of things then so did the GCHQ / NSA higher ups who authorised the first book about code-breaking and completely failed to consider how their former staff would react.

    Maybe that's the main disconnect: a genius who doesn't do the most obvious sort of checking before he goes public, and management who doesn't occasionally remind staff that it's a good idea to check with them before going public. Having said that, the latter does not have any obligation in that respect - secret is secret, so by default you are simply obliged to keep matters out of the public eye.

  7. tom dial Silver badge

    Many who saw the likes of Dachau immediately at the end of the War probably chose to avoid the considerable personal discomfort that came with thinking and speaking of it. A great many who did not witness that, including my own father, spoke little and rarely about their military experience during WW II.

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