back to article Elderly Bletchley Park volunteer sacked for showing Colossus exhibit to visitors

It is a simmering conflict between two rival organisations over how Blighty's rich computing history should be preserved and showcased. Now the ongoing war between Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing has claimed its first casualties. Tony Carroll, an elderly volunteer at Bletchley Park, was fired after daring …

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    1. Not That Andrew

      Re: Phone them, tell them what you think

      You can still take the outing to the National Museum of Computing though, just miss out the boring stuff and expensive tat up at Bletchley Park.

  1. Chandalf

    WTF?

    In a sentence, I visited Bletchley a couple of years ago and it would not have been anything without being able to visit ALL the parts.

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: WTF?

      Couldn't agree more! I visited BP several times in the late nineties and early naughties, before moving to the Arse end of Trailer.

      To be able to explore the grounds, what remained of the accommodation and work huts, and simply to listen to the stories of people who'd BEEN there, who'd worked on Enigma codes, watched, or even participated in the build of the Bombes and Colossus, hearing a man explain about how many awkward, geeky but brilliant men found themselves thrown into the company of some of the most attractive and intelligent women (many daughters of landed families found themselves posted to BP rather than be put into danger, and many dalliances and even marriages came about among two groups of people who would never have even met had it not been for the war effort), to hear how the girls who transcribed the messages were knitting and chatting while they worked, from the actual girls themselves.

      I remember going round the rooms full of ancient computers, looking at the System 36 that was being lovingly restored by volunteers, and coming within an inch of saying 'You can have all my free weekends if you let me work on this stuff'.

      No Infographics or 'audio experiences', little in the way of archive footage, but I'll bet you won't find anywhere near the MAGIC once Mr pencil neck has finished 'moving it forward'

  2. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    Fail.

    This sort of behaviour seems nothing new - they booted the Milton Keynes amateur radio society out a while back, too.

    1. Chris Suslowicz

      Re: Fail.

      The Diplomatic Wireless Collection also left (or was more likely kicked out) sometime last year, apparently.

      They really do not have even a hint of a clue about how to operate an attractive museum - all the "non-core" exhibits (that family and relatives could enjoy while you enjoyed the technical/historical bits), such as the cinema, model railway, vehicle collection, toy collection, Churchill memorabilia, etc. have been lost, and it will no longer be suitable for a "family day out".

      Perhaps the 'divide and destroy' plan is to eventually flatten it for housing development?

      On another note: wolves still doing well?

  3. Eradicate all BB entrants

    A complete shame as I .....

    ..... was planning to take the boy down this year for a tour.

    Ah well back to Elvington Air Museum as they let you climb into some exhibits, has fantastic volunteers and from the grassy knoll you can watch track day guys on the runway trash someones Ferrari.

    1. WaveyDavey

      Elvington

      Yes, go to Elvington - still runs in the spirit of a true exhibit. (Disclaimer: I know this as my 73yo dad volunteers there. )

      The head man is a bit of a cock (would enjoy lots of gold braid on hit epaulettes, if you know what I mean), though you are unlikely to see him, but the volunteers are all enthusiastic codgers, who rebuild, refurbish and repair the original kit.

      The "Thunder-run" days, where they have some of the big planes whizzing down the runway on full song are supposed to be rather good.

      Pa just been given a Vulcan 763 14-cylinder radial to rebuild - been packed in storage oil or whatnot for decades. Might take him a little while.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: Elvington

        Damn - I did a skidpan day there a couple of years back* and the old boy on the gates let us in while they were closing up afterwards - didn't know you could sniff around the exhibits or get that close to them internally.

        Might have to book a track day over there and go again, although this time rather than skidding around in a Ford Focus, I might see if Bookatrack to any days up there, and open my car up around it. Methinks poking around WW2 era aircraft and whatnot would be a good chillout session afterwards.

        Back on topic, I have a few mates around the Bletchly Park area (well, within an hours drive - methinks I'll have to have a look at the NMOC and show some support.

        *For reference, it was a DriverSkills day - and apropos of nothing, I'd suggest that if the opportunity arises to do a skidpan/car control day, grab it with both hands, it'll transform your behaviour behind the wheel.

        1. Vic

          Re: Elvington

          I'd suggest that if the opportunity arises to do a skidpan/car control day, grab it with both hands, it'll transform your behaviour behind the wheel.

          Seconded.

          I forget the exact stats, but an enormous percentage - almost all, in fact - of road accidents are preceded by an uncontrolled skid. But the first time most people get to experience a total loss of control is when it happens for real...

          Vic.

          1. Steven Raith

            Re: Elvington

            I'd go with those stats - very few accidents are actuallly head on.

            Almost no-one realises just how quickly any car - without exception - will bite you if you take the piss without having a decent amount of experience of how it behaves over the limit.

            Skidpan days make you aware of that, and make you less likely to get into a silly situation; and if you do get into one (by accident or, er, on purpose, not that I'd suggest that ;-) ) give you more of a chance of keeping it rubber side down and out of a ditch.

            Well worth the couple of hundred quid, I'd say.

            Anyway, sorry, carry on....

            Steven R

  4. alderley

    It sounds like a parable for the sad decline of the British computer industry - innovation, hard work and loyalty, ultimately destroyed by incompetent and self-serving management.

  5. mythicalduck
    Unhappy

    I've been wanting to visit the park for a while, but not had the time. I was trying to find some this year, but seems like it's almost a waste of effort now :(

    Sad duck is sad

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Sacking" for first offence

    Unbelievable.

    What was wrong with a quiet word on the side. Idiot-at-top should be publicly bollocked for incompetence in man management, and then sacked for bringing the trust into disrepute (the trustees duty is to the good of the trust, and that CEO has obviously dented public confidence in the trust). No severance pay, do not pass Go etc though perhaps they could put him on litter-picking duty while he works his notice period.

  7. Robert Sneddon

    Conflation?

    From reading a bit about the situation I get the idea that there are actually two organisations based close together on the same site, the National Museum of Computing which has a reconstruction of the Colossus code-breaking computer as well as a lot of other non-WWII-based computing exhibits and on the other side of the fence (if there is a fence) there is the Bletchley Park historical site. It apparently costs £5 to enter the NMC and £15 to visit Bletchely Park. The guide in question was apparently taking Bletchley Park visitors on a trip into the NMC without paying to show them the Colossus reconstruction and got into trouble for doing so. Is that about right?

    Putting together a museum of mostly-donated computer equipment is a lot less expensive than restoring a lot of old buildings, many of them built quickly and shoddily during the war, converted for other uses afterwards and then left to rot for a few decades. As far as I can tell from the press reports the £8 million from the Lottery fund mentioned has gone exclusively to the Bletchley Park restoration project and not been used to pay for anything in the NMC, even the Colossus reconstruction.

    It might have been better to site the NMC away from Bletchley Park but having the two close together has been an advantage for the visitor interested in such things despite the confusion in some people's minds that they are all part of the same organisation.

    1. Bigbird3141
      Facepalm

      Re: Conflation?

      The contents of the two are inextricably linked - BP in particular makes no sense without Colossus. Moving them apart would be daft.

      1. David Barrett Silver badge

        Re: Conflation?

        "he contents of the two are inextricably linked - BP in particular makes no sense without Colossus. Moving them apart would be daft."

        That's the point though, BP trust are erecting a physical fence (At least that's what I have read) to keep them separate, they don't want Colossus to be part of BP, probably because it is part of the NMOC and they would have to pay for their guests to access it....

    2. TNMOC peter

      Re: Conflation?

      "It might have been better to site the NMC away from Bletchley Park but having the two close together has been an advantage for the visitor interested in such things despite the confusion in some people's minds that they are all part of the same organisation."

      TNMOC is in Block H where 8 of the original colossus machines were housed during the war, so a very appropriate and fitting location to have the rebuilt colossus and start the computing story. BPT were planning to knock the building down (where the rebuilt colossus was housed) and sell off the land for housing so TNMOC was formed and signed a lease agreement as the only way to save it.

      1. Andy Taylor

        Re: Conflation?

        Block H also happens to be the first purpose-built computer building in the world.

        Block F, where the Mk 1 Colossus was first switched on, was demolished and is currently an open grassed area.

    3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Conflation? @ Robert Sneddon

      So right, but sooooooo completely wrong it beggars belief.

      Are you a manager?

  8. Bigbird3141
    Flame

    Entry to BP is £15. Entry to TNMOC is £5.

    You don't need to pay the BP entry fee to visit TNMOC and see Colossus. I know what I'll be doing soon.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its much worse than any of the stories have told so far

    As explained in detail by an 'insider'

    http://maturetimes.co.uk/leisure-and-lifestyle/readers-write/8079-bletchley-park-plan-to-%E2%80%9Ccull-old-and-infirm%E2%80%9D.html

    There is still a lot to come out yet.... and I hope it will.

    I wonder what HLF will think if they know their (and our) lottery money has been used to errect gates and fences to isolate TNMOC. In fact I beleive the BPT lottery funding application stated that Colossus was an integral part of the visitor experience. Does not sound like an organisation that wants to discuss any solution to the conflict.

    BPT have been trying to take over or kick out TNMOC for several years and now they know it will never happen they intend to isolate them in petty fued in an attempt to make them fail.

    And its not just Standon here.... he is just a puppet for the trustees. They are just jelous of the success that TNMOC have had with very little money - go and see the new galleries!.

    TNMOC have paid BPT in excess of £500,000 over the past few years in rent with not a single word of thanks. Between 2006 and 2011 TNMOC allowed free access to any BP visitor to view Tunny and Colossus and the rest of the computer museum - at the same time paying BPT £75K/year for the priviledge and recevinging NO money from BP gate receipts, the government or lottery. Only after long and sometimes frustrating discussions BPT did TNMOC reluctantly imposed a charge in order to survive.

    BPT are intent on causing as much distrution as possible at the expense of the general public and the history of BP.

    I urge anyone who does not intend to visit BP to visit TNMOC and support them in their attempts to resolve this situation which is not of their making. In visiting TNMOC you do not have to pay any entrance fee to BP or pay any parking charges. The guides and volunteers (many of which were former BPT guides that were kicked out) at TNMOC are a very welcoming and informed group and have the full backing of the TNMOC trustees and management (unlike BPT). Opening details on www.tnmoc.org

    1. Evan Essence

      Re: Its much worse than any of the stories have told so far

      Thanks for the link. Shocking, disgraceful.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Its much worse than any of the stories have told so far

      You Sir/Madam deserve a medal for the information you've supplied over a computing platform there. Invaluable.

      Anon, left as a computing exercise for the reader. ;)

    3. Rol Silver badge

      Re: Its much worse than any of the stories have told so far

      One gets the impression BPTrust is playing the time honoured tradition of cost loading, to the point of uneconomic viability.

      The trust is not there to maintain BP and guarantee its future, it seems it is there to orchestrate its demise.

      As many comments have mentioned, much of the freely donated, minimum expense exhibits are going out of the door to be replaced by poorer quality stand ins, that require capital outlay and or continuous maintenance.

      Getting rid of the people who were there at the beginning, when the ethos of the site was being formulated is the first step towards rewriting their raison d'être, and thus removing all obstacles to bulldozing down the site, banging in a load of houses and paying lip service to it all, by mounting a statue to Hitler, who they consider to be the true inspiration behind Bletchley.

      Makes my blood boil.

      I can think of thousands of people who would gladly move in tomorrow and replace every last one of the paid staff, for nothing more than a pat on the back, every once in a while.

      and I'll wager money they would do a far better job and carry forward the very values that appear to be on the sacrificial alter under the present regime.

  10. Martin Milan
    Facepalm

    You're doing it wrong...

    Just tweeted the below to @bparkceo...

    You know what? If you find yourself running a charitable trust, one charged with preserving the memory of a remarkable group of people who secured your freedoms, and you describe yourself as the “Chief Executive Officer”, you’re doing it wrong.

    If you preside over a regime where, when I call to establish the facts BEFORE complaining to the National Heritage Fund, I’m told “There is a statement on the website and that is all I can say…”, you’re doing it wrong. If you don’t recognise the irony of having this regime in a place so instrumental in preserving your own liberty to think and speak as you feel, you’re doing it wrong.

    If you really do consider yourself unaccountable to the public, you’re doing it wrong.

    If you think it’s acceptable to receive money from the Heritage Fund, and then even consider erecting fencing to prevent people visiting Colossus, even if it is hosted by another body, you’re doing it wrong.

    If you’re prepared to squander the most precious resource you have - namely the elderly volunteers who have both a knowledge and enthusiasm for the place of which you can only dream, you’re doing it VERY wrong.

    If you’re really are doing things THAT wrong, then its time to consider stepping aside in favour of someone who knows how to do it right - and I can point you toward a few elderly volunteer types who would be one hell of a first guess.

    1. John Hughes

      Re: You're doing it wrong...

      How did you fit that in 140 characters?

      1. Martin Milan

        Re: You're doing it wrong...

        I used twitlonger...

      2. Evan Essence

        Re: You're doing it wrong...

        Short link in the tweet to TwitLonger

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TNMoC might not be blameless

    Given the experiences at least one other computer museum has had at the hands of the TNMoC leadership (not the volunteers, who are great) I can't blame the Bletchley Park Trust for wanting to put a wall between the two organisations.

  12. RiJon
    Unhappy

    Heritage

    My wife's Nan worked at Bletchley Park and although by the time I knew her she was a shadow of her former self I was really hoping I'd be able to take our daughter there when she was older. As I want her to see things as they were so she could not only see the machines but get an idea of the environment that these amazing people worked in, now it appears that this will all be behind glass with shiny walkways and even shinier tour guides. Such a shame.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A contributor ?

    The death of the British computing industry, as with much else, is littered with the "leadership" of people like Iain Standen.

    What actual contribution has he ever made to the economy that was built around the experiences of people who worked at this historic place ? Would he have been part of the spirit of co-operation that was necessary for Bletchley to make so many breakthroughs ? Perhaps he was someone who thought that Collossus was not the way forward ?

    I hope that someone somewhere can get at the Trust and ensure that he is censured for these actions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A contributor ?

      Down voted for suggesting the buru-prat should be simply censured not fired. Otherwise completely agree.

  14. stevel

    Frankly shocking, but not really surprising I spose, given recent interest and money going there.

    Bletchley certainly seems to get the lion's share of the media coverage, with TNMOC often portrayed as a bit of a sideshow.

    I also went there a couple of years ago, and saw the *whole* thing with a fantastic guide who had lots of insights into both Bletchley's history *AND* the history of computing. For me, the two things are so closely related it's just sad to see this sort of division happening.

    +1 for Michael H.F. Wilkinson's comment about banging heads together.

  15. Howard Long

    Following their epic PR fail, BPT "requested" the BBC to remove the clip. It is referenced by one Ebon Upton on slashdot http://m.slashdot.org/story/197343

    Original copy was here, now 404's. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25886961

    Ebon Upton took a screen shot prior to the full take-down, now hosted on his OH's site: http://www.gastronomydomine.com/bletchley.png

    Luckily the BBC footage survives on Youtube, although who knows for how long bearing in mind the efforts already used by BPT to gag the Beeb?

    BPT also received money from Google, but i am sure Google will be scratching their heads as to why now.

    The chain link fence erected by BPT is as pathetic as it is a waste of donors' money. I'd love them to explain the justification of that to the Lottery Heritage fund.

    Tip for BPT: work together, not against each other. The sum is far greater than the parts.

    1. PeterO

      BBC content was removed due a copyright issue. It's back now with just one "still frame" of a picture removed near the beginning of the piece.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        BBC content was removed due a copyright issue. It's back now with just one "still frame" of a picture removed near the beginning of the piece.

        So, looks like BPT used "copyright infringement" as an excuse to "require" BBC to take the clip down.

        1. Fred Dibnah

          The clip is still here:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=d5n9eVVtKeA

          My partner and I visited BP a couple of years ago, and the 'non-museum' feel of the place was entirely appropriate given its secret origins. The volunteer guide we had was brilliant, and the tour wouldn't have made sense if it hadn't finished off with Colossus. Tony Sale (I think) was tending the computer, and his enthusiasm was totally infectious.

          I hate to think what the place will become after Mr Standen and his minions have done their worst.

          Is there a petition we can sign to protest?

          1. James Hughes 1

            FFS. It's Eben not Ebon.

            He's been in the news enough, you'd hope people would know how to spell his name by now.

            (And for those who have been on Mars for the last two years, look up Raspberry Pi)

  16. Chris Hunt

    Another account of the mess being made of Bletchley Park:

    Bletchley Park plan to “cull old and infirm”

    1. jason 7

      Oh dear it's just as I feared.

      It will become like much of Greenwich. I went there last November and the huge Greenwich exhibit was just bland and soulless. Just a load of pictures and objects with a couple of paragraphs explaining them.

      Incredibly dull.

    2. bitmap animal

      Do sad, losing the ability to interact.

      That is really sad, the knowledgeable guides are 'interactive', you can ask them questions and get answers that could never come from a standard script. This seems to be another step towards people becoming just consumers of entertainment rather than being involved – like sitting in front of the TV eating popcorn rather than doing and thinking things.

    3. Evan Essence

      Re: Bletchley Park plan to “cull old and infirm”

      Idiots.

  17. coastwalker

    Awesome

    Of course £8M in lottery funds will build a great burger bar. I think they should get Peter de Savary in to run the place (See Lands End). Once they get the site bulldozed and the premium parking sorted out it should start to turn a tidy profit. They should be able to do just as good a job as has been done to Stonehenge, it often takes less than two hours to walk from the visitor centre to the actual thing itself, stunning eh? I wonder if they can get Justin Bieber to open the place or even better on the board of directors.

    What a showcase for the best of British this has turned out to be!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Capitalism in action

    The epitome of modern "civilisation". A place where a hastily-gathered team of volunteers did amazing work with historic results, now being run by a pack of business hyenas who can't see any further than the ends of their own lolling tongues.

    1. Robert Grant

      Re: Capitalism in action

      Couldn't have said it better myself.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Capitalism in action

      No, this isn't capitalism. Capitalism gave us the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the V&A, the Picton Library Reading room in Liverpool not to mention all of the really good universities (mostly but not exclusively sited in Northern cities).

      This is the product of the state and the rise of bureaucracy. Does anyone think that the likes of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, or even Larry Ellison would not have done everything they could to conserve and preserve whatever was left of the origins of the 20th century's greatest technological advance? This is the product of the "charities" which have been infested by student politicians whose intellectual capabilities were blown to pieces by Sokal & Bricmont. They are parasites with a weird and self-hating agenda who should be allowed to work nowhere that matters.

      Perhaps the best answer would be to give the money to a trust set up under the University of Manchester, with a perpetual requirement to ensure the integrity and faithfulness of the site to the work done there, together with a mission to reflect the history of computing, and maybe a research facility. Fund this out of the Dumb Tax revenues and I might even consider telling an idiot to buy a ticket.

  19. Sandpit

    What a dick

    Iain Standen probably wants to turn it into a national centre for ICT, then staff it with all the poor unemployables that come out of our education system with a GCSE in that worthless crap.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given that the computer museum is mostly showing donated items ...

    Given that the computer museum is mostly showing donated items, presumably the title to those items resides solely with said museum.

    They don't need to be at Bletchley Park (though it's better that they are). Can they not, therefore, either threaten to (or actually) move elsewhere? Surely the suits have no legal claim on the exhibits?

    They would remove themselves from this interference whilst also regaining their independence.

    1. TNMOC peter

      Re: Given that the computer museum is mostly showing donated items ...

      Yes, we are an independent charitable organisation but that does not mean we can't be part of the Bletchley Park experience.

      We and our sponsors have invested a considerable amount of time, effort and money to build a world-leading computer museum. The building is where British Computing started and needs to be preserved. If we were to move, the building is likely to be knocked down with the loss of an iconic place. It would also cost a considerable amount of money to do so, money that the museum does not have.

      We want and need Bletchley Park to succeed both from an historical point of view and personally as I have invested a lot of time and money as a volunteer at TNMOC, and don't want that undone by petty BPT actions. Running a museum is a very costly activity having to find over £100,000 per year just to cover the costs to BP, and then more money to actually invest in the building and galleries.

      I have watched this situation get worse and worse over the years, with TNMOC bending over backwards to try and accommodate many unrealistic and sometimes unbelievable demands from BPT. While things were bad during Greenish's time at least they would discuss things even if they then back-tracked on any agreements. Since Standen has taken over and the lottery money has arrived things have got really bad, with very little or no communication on changes in the park that directly impact TNMOC.

      I know we have tried very hard to sort this out but having gates and fences put up pretty much sums up BPTs attitude.... TNMOC and Tunny/Colossus is not important to us or the story of Bletchley Park.

  21. Robinson

    Just so I understand...

    So, a group of people have their snouts in the trough of public money (in this case lottery cash) and don't want the other group to get any. Worse, sales at the gift shop will plummet!

    I guarantee you those in charge are earning over a £100,000 a year, have never worked for a private organisation in their lives and have gold plated final salary pensions.

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