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. Chris Suslowicz

      Re: Just so I understand...

      I'm not taking that bet.

  1. TRT Silver badge

    I hope someone's keeping an accurate account of this...

    so it can form the basis of a display in the National Museum of National Museums and UK Heritage Centres, which will house the UK's extensive collection of battlefield reports and tell the story of those brave individuals who have struggled against seemingly unsurmountable odds in order to preserve the treasures of UK heritage. Sections include the Canals and Waterways gallery, Beeching Hall...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Im totally disgusted with that chaps treatment. Give half your life to a cause then get a kick in the balls.

    Somehow i cant see it taking off . Not unless they have a few xboxes or playstations dotted about.

  3. bigtimehustler

    I think some of the large companies who gave donations for this, such a Google etc... should speak out and make them look and feel stupid. It is what they deserve for turning something so simple into such a disaster, I guess they took the same education path as most government contract winners go to.

  4. J J Carter Silver badge

    The MBAs and 'suits' have ruined Stonehenge with a ghastly visitor centre.

    I expect it's a condition of lottery funding it has to be 'yoof relevant' and relevant so has been dumbed down

    1. Bigbird3141

      Nothing wrong with the visitor centre (OK - the shop's jock full of tat) at Stonehenge - it's the visitor experience that's gone to pot. You're still kept a long way from the stones and the "land trains" (presumably specified by "consultants") aren't up to the job, resulting in long queues or a long walk.

  5. ausnerd

    This is an outrage

    Adults behaving like children. Fire the heads of both organizations and bring in some people who can work together for the benefit of the nation.

    In the US we have people like this. We call them Congress.


  6. oiseau Silver badge

    Quite obvious, really ...


    The CEO had this bizarre message for the fired volunteers: "Thank you very much for your service. But if we are going forward then we have to move forward."


    Well ...

    You know what they say:

    Looks like an asshole, talks like an asshole, etc. ...

    Eventually, someone with a dash of comon sense may step in and fix this matter.

    1. Bigbird3141

      Re: Quite obvious, really ...

      But the @bparkceo has sent staff and volunteers on Welcome Host Training! What more do they need to know?!

      Tweet 1

      Tweet 2

      I'd love to know the content of the course beyond common sense...

  7. miket82

    Bunch of bureaucrats

    Nothing unexpected here. Enough said.

  8. MarcusMills

    An amazing experience will be lost

    I have been twice to Bletchley Park and to The National museum of computing (TNMOC) and both times, enjoyed the 2 museums as one and complimentary. The first time I remember was a private tour lead by the the late Tony Sale who was instrumental to the Colossus rebuild. We had the full Bletchley park experience being immersed into 1940s Britain and learning about the code breakers and the early beginnings of computing which lead to TNMOC. To exclude the TNMOC from the Bletchley park tour is to not tell the full story. I plead with the CEO to end the petty squabbling with the TNMOC and apologise to the volunteer who was sacked. I think it is appalling behavior. Tony Sale would be turning in his grave.

    1. Brenda McViking

      Re: An amazing experience will be lost

      Agreed. I first visited Bletchley whilst I was still of school age, and the experiences with the volunteers there were one of the key reasons I went on to study, graduate, and become employed in electronics engineering. The machines to a schoolboy were just machines - but the volunteers made them come alive, and showed the extent of the genius of the people that created them.

      The Lottery funding was badly needed to restore the buildings and exhibits, but they count for precisely nothing when you remove the people who know about them. I'm 25, we're suffering a monumental shortage of engineers, and yet the BPT seem to be doing their hardest to remove the one single most effective tool in their arsenal to inspire the young people to learn about what happened here, and realise that there is still so much to do in this amazing field of science and engineering. I'll give them a clue - it isn't the tangible assets.

      I'm extremely dissapointed in what I have read and seen here, doubly so by the apparent flippancy of the BPT responses, both official and leaked. Sacking one of those people who gave ME so much, who inspired ME, and who is partly directly responsible for my current career in an area which helps keeps UK PLC afloat (as opposed to say, errr, banking or sueing people), for something as pathetic as "not following the tour to the letter" is nothing short of disgusting.

      A national treasure is under threat, once again, for seemingly petty and childish reasons. I will be voicing my displeasure to the Heritage Lottery Funding, and if anyone has details of the Bletchley Park Trustees, I'd like to understand exactly what they think they're doing, because their responses thus far, in my opinion, have been entirely inadequate.

      1. rh587 Bronze badge

        Re: An amazing experience will be lost

        "I will be voicing my displeasure to the Heritage Lottery Funding, and if anyone has details of the Bletchley Park Trustees, I'd like to understand exactly what they think they're doing, because their responses thus far, in my opinion, have been entirely inadequate."

        List of Trustees at:

        No individual contact details but since it lists a mini-bio for each I'm sure everyone on here is capable of tracking down such things.

        As for the CEO, I'm pretty sure the Trustees have fairly firm grounds to dismiss him on charges of bringing the organisation into disrepute if they took a mind to it.

        One bit of devil's advocate I would play is that building your attraction on the experts who were there at the time isn't a long term strategy, because sooner or later nature will take it's toll (noone lives forever).

        So you do need to ensure you've got attractions that will stand the test of time regardless of who is manning them (although even younger guides need to be properly trained, not just a numpty who can say "and here we have another information board you might like to read"), and also that your buildings don't fall over - rustic dishevelment only goes so far.

        That however does not mean it needs to be oriented as a "Key Stage x approved learning resource" to the exclusion of all else, nor that the gift shop needs to be filled with tat.

        Nothing wrong with Visitor Centres for a bite to eat, nor Gift Shops if they've got relevant contents (books on maths and ciphers/codebreaking, codebreaking kits - including kid-friendly but not dumbed-down stuff, not just hefty degree-level tomes, relevant electronicry to support TNMOC , etc). It's just they usually burn all their money on a shiny building and then run out of time to source decent merchandise.

        1. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: An amazing experience will be lost

          "...building your attraction on the experts who were there at the time isn't a long term strategy, because sooner or later nature will take it's toll (noone lives forever)."

          Exactly. Which is why we should be both making the most of those who have volunteered their time and knowledge while we have the chance.

          Down at Paradise Park in East Sussex is the Newhaven Maritime Museum, and they've been active for many years in recording, first as audio, then onto VHS, now digitally, the memories and stories of those who lived through the Depression, the two wars, and simply the years when lifestyle was alien to us now. It's an irreplaceable and very human record of times past - not a replacement for the documents and artifacts, but something that brings it alive, makes it immediate, in the same way an old chap sitting in an armchair at BP captured the imagination of everyone in the room, simply by reminiscing.

          That's what the BPT should be doing now - not dismissing and pissing off volunteers, but capturing their memories and enthusiasm for one of the most momentous times in both social and computing history.

          Many who worked at BP have already gone, and their memories are lost. Surely 8 million can buy enough recording kit so we don't lose any more?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They could learn some lessons....

    from the Black Country Museum and the Canal Trust, two adjoining, yet separate museums, who advertise and sell tickets for each other, with a simple path between the two.

    1. TNMOC peter

      Re: They could learn some lessons....

      And we don't even have to make a path.... there is one there already...

      Turn right at b-block, follow the path around the newly refurbished huts (looking good), climb over the gate* in the road or cut a hole in the fence* (to give you a real wartime experience), up to the left and you are there. Simples.

      * in a few months time according to BPT.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They could learn some lessons....

        cut a hole in the fence* (to give you a real wartime experience)

        Thought of digging a tunnel?

        1. TheFatMan

          Re: They could learn some lessons....

          How 'bout jump it on a motorbike Steve McQueen style?

        2. TNMOC peter

          Re: They could learn some lessons....

          "Thought of digging a tunnel?"

          We don't need to... the boffins were forward thinkers and built one during the war*, knowing it would be needed in 2014.

          *actually true and it still exists between block A an D

      2. SVV Silver badge

        Re: They could learn some lessons....

        "Visitors to Bletchley Park will no longer be allowed to visit the Colossus machine in Block H and fences may soon be erected to stop them visitors wandering between the two attractions."

        No doubt also complete with watchtowers, searchlights and guard dogs to make it that little bit more representative of the behaviour of the BP nanagement now that their lottery loot's come through.

        "Yes, we must stop the public spending a small amount of money learning really interesting and fascinating stuff of massive historical interest that was done on this very site, as it could be better spent in our giftshop and cafe in order to increase our already substantial salaries"

      3. Philip Virgo

        Re: They could learn some lessons....

        This is not such a bad idea. Recreating some of the wartime security barriers (complete with sentries examining tickets for your security clearances - i.e. what you have paid to visit) between the different parts of the site might help the theme park experience.

  10. Nile

    A conspiracy theorist writes...

    The boring old experts and their boring old contraptions are not wanted because, at best, the new managers want a textbook 'interactive' museum with a row of awards (great for grants and lottery funding) Key Stage 4 curriculum-compliant 'learning packs' for profitable school trips, and lucrative sponsorship deals with prominent IT companies. Or TV companies, or supermarkets, or bogroll manufacturers - it's all the same and it's all money, isn't it?

    An expert who actually worked on the machines on display when they were 'live' in the 1940's - and I spoke to one when he was still working at the museum, a decade or two ago - isn't worth as much *money* to the museum as a shiny and expensively-worthless sponsored games-console exhibit.

    ...And that's the best possible interpretation.

    The worst?

    That's valuable housing land there: wouldn't want anyone to think a failing museum with declining visitor numbers was losing money on valuable land, there...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A conspiracy theorist writes...

      TBF those guides who had worked there are getting a bit long in the tooth, a promising 20 year old boffin on VJ day would now be 89.

  11. Felix Krull

    Three (very acerbic) comments in, the Youtube-comments were disabled.

    Thanks, BBC.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How do you know the BBC had them removed?

      It could be someone else approached YouTube.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bletchley Park... Theme Park.. almost a reality

    It may surprise some, but not all that there were serious plans to turn Bletchley Park into a theme park several years ago... by the people who built Gullivers Land in Milton Keynes I believe. TNMOC even had a presentation by the consultant brought in to put it all together. A slick presentation with words, diagrams and maps.

    Apparently, they all nearly fell about laughing when we saw it and found it difficult to keep a straight face during the talk.

    Can you image riding an enigma machine down a rollercoster, or throwing balls to knock off the wheels on the Bombe to win a Turin cuddly toy? I know Thorpe Park has a Colossus ride but now you can actually ride on the real thing... <g>

    Fortunately for everyone they could not raise the funds to do it.... but probably wasted £10s of 1000s of pounds on it.

    One of the many weird and wonderful ideas brought to you by BPT.

  13. R69

    Easy solution,,,,

    Stop bloody funding these wankers - these are the very machines people really go there to see (aside from the human side of the story).

    Either the organising board does this properly or they shouldnt do it at all.

  14. JustNiz

    This is outrageous. That repulsive CEO should be fired immediately, and the job should be given to the amazing Mr. Carroll should he still want it.

    Even while standing in the heart of Bletchley, that clueless CEO will never understand the same Britain that Mr. Carroll's own generation fought and died for.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Visited Museum of Computing in 2013 for the first time

    Didn't go and see Bletchley Park - went just to see the Museum of Computing... and well worth the trip too. It's not to say that Bletchley Park isn't interesting, just that the Museum of Computing was the main attraction for me that happened to be on the Bletchley Park site.

    Someone needs their heads knocking together - Bletchley Park and The Museum of Computing are inextricably linked together by an old computer: Colossus. Get with it, and live together and stop your squabbling.

    Hugely knowledgeable guides for Colossus - thanks for a great day!

    Can someone fire that git of a manager... please.

    P.S. It's great to see a computer-savvy 13 year old playing on an original 4.77MHz PC. It's great to see computers that you'd heard of but never seen before (for me: NeXT), and it's great to see all those computers that you used to use a very long time ago (for me: DRS20, Commodore PET, RML 380Z)... Go there and see it all before insanity overcomes common sense.

  16. Brian Morrison

    If you want an example of an earlier 'eviction', just ask...

    ...the Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society about their experience when a more prestigious organisation decides it wants to muscle its way in.

  17. Inquisitive

    Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler .............

    Glad I visited when I did, it did turn out to be one of the best days out I have had Colossus and all the other stuff was fascinating. Why oh why cannot a compromise be reached, or is it, like most things these days just about money. At the moment it is a scruffy collection of huts, some all boarded up, but to me that is part of the attraction of the place but maybe it doesn't fit into how museums or exhibits should be these days.

    I've read many books about the exploits in these ground by the best brains we had at the time and it took a while to grasp the significance of what actually went on. But some of Turing's writings were on display and though I accept that I would never have been considered for employment there, what he wrote was so way above my head that even after 4 or 5 readings I was still no nearer understanding what he had written, such brain power.

    I got talking to someone who told me that Turing had moved on after the war from decrypting codes to the workings of the human body and how things could be improved to make us live better, even here he had some far reaching ideas. Great place, shame it has come to this.

  18. Steve Potter

    It does sound like Bletchley Park have got some jobsworth for managers now, and its been going on for over a year.

    Extract from Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society website.

    The Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society (MKARS), the resident radio club at Bletchley Park for nearly twenty years, will be leaving the Park as of the 1st January 2013. To mark this occasion MKARS will be holding a 'QSO party' on the weekend of the 15th-16th December.

    All MKARS members and ex-members are invited to come and operate GB2BP from Generator House 2, our current premises at Bletchley Park, for the last time.

    GB2BP and MKARS will in the future only be operational from Bletchley Park by invitation during 'radio related' events.

    This is possibly your last chance to operate this charismatic call sign. Be a part of MKARS continuing proud history. If you do not normally attend MKARS events, this one is a 'MUST'. So put the Christmas shopping on the back burner and be there.

    In the future you will be able to say 'I WAS THERE, my name is in the log'. Will has threatened to cook burgers and Dave is trying to obtain a 'Big Linear'.

    Tea and coffee will be provided. Hopefully some beer as well.

    The event will start early on Saturday morning, as soon as we can get on to The Park and finish when we have to leave, and the same again on Sunday.

    We, MKARS, can walk out of Bletchley Park with our heads held high knowing that all those years ago, when Bletchley Park was on its knees, MKARS was one of the many local groups that helped make the Park into the great museum it is today. MKARS is a great club with a great future. Be a part of it!

    We have not lost The Park, The Park have lost us.

    1. Evan Essence

      Bletchley Park was also home to the radio listening station called Station X for the first part of the war. Do they still mention that on the NuTours?

      1. djack

        Not quite..

        From what I have read, Station X was the name for the whole BP operationand not much (if any) wireless listening was actually done there. There were numerous Station Y (Y-erless .. geddit?) posts around the globe that actually did the listening and intercepts, most of which were sent to Station X for decrypting.

        Many stories about Station Y posts are covered in "The Secret Listeners" by Sinclair McKay. Quite a fascinating read, The managers at BP were upsetting other, related organisations even then aand we actually had the sort of PRIM-like data capture capability that everyone is getting up in arms about today .. back in the 20s.

        1. Evan Essence

          From Wikipedia:

          Initially, a wireless room was established at Bletchley Park. It was set up in the mansion's water tower and given the code name "Station X", a term now sometimes applied to the codebreaking efforts at Bletchley as a whole. The "X" denotes the Roman numeral "ten", as this was the tenth such station to be opened by the Secret Intelligence Service. Due to the long radio aerials stretching from the wireless room, the radio station was moved from Bletchley Park to nearby Whaddon Hall to avoid drawing attention to the site.

          This agrees with what I was told on a tour some years ago, in the late '90s maybe.

  19. Vic

    Commentards Day Out?

    Anyone fancy a trip to TNMOC to show a bit of support?


    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Commentards Day Out?

      Shame this is so far down the comments - not many will see it.

  20. Kirk Northrop

    Oh, can't we just all get on? The Bletchley stuff is an important adjunct to the history of computing, and they should all work together to have it as one exhibition. Someone mentioned Duxford Airfield - they have a commercial aircraft collection and an Anglia regiment museum on the same site, all run by separate people, but all included in one admission* and one "museum".

    Someone needs to bang some heads together down there and get it all happy as one site, one entrance fee, and one important memorial for British technology.

    * They do charge you nominally to go on some of the airliners. That money goes to the charity that looks after that plane.

  21. David 45
    Thumb Down

    Heartless move

    Sounds like a theme park with no soul is the idea. WRONG!

  22. Panicnow

    Fence will need planning consent

    As a Heritage site, it is almost certainly listed, surely they can't put up a fence.!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Fence will need planning consent

      Initially, it will be for "health and safety" while the refurbishment goes on. Later it will have been there so long that "it's just part of the site now."

      It's sad that someone who claims to love history and spent so many years in Signals can't seem to understand that he's being a right tosser. Maybe as an ex-officer in Signals he has friends at GCHQ and it's all a plot to flush out "undesirable free thinkers" who object to the dumbing down and editing of history.

  23. John Savard Silver badge


    Although the conduct of the Bletchley Park Trust is to be deplored, if the National Museum of Computing is a separate entity, surely it is possible for people to visit it directly? That is, after visiting Bletchley Park, can't they just leave it, and then walk next door to visit the National Museum of Computing and view the Colossus rebuild?

    I can see how this still has an impact, because many visitors to Bletchley Park won't be aware of the National Museum of Computing to visit it also while they're in the area, but it would seem that it's not an insuperable obstacle. For example, the NMC could put up some sort of large billboard or a balloon.

    1. Andy Taylor

      Re: Confusing

      Walking round to the National Museum of Computing may become more difficult as there are some gates being installed that will block the most direct route from to Block H. See the picture at the top of this page:

  24. Duffaboy

    I offered a rare piece of computing history to be ignored

    I offered the Computing Museum, several gems

    1. A signed copy of an Bio of Adam Osborne

    2. A Osborne 1 service manual

    Emails weren't even responded, never mind they will now stay in my private collection

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: I offered a rare piece of computing history to be ignored

      Is there a point to your post?

  25. GreyHairedGeezer
    Paris Hilton

    BLetchley Park - A Soap Opera

    I'm a volunteer at BP, and many of us are also volunteers at TNMOC. So, like Tony Carroll, who's only mistake was to get a rave review on TripAdvisor, which noted he was also at TNMOC that day, we can, and do, give tours at BP; and then go on to give tours later in the day at TNMOC. The system has been working well (we're all pragmatists) but the TripAdvisor review means we now have to be bit more discreet.

    Despite the management, the volunteers at BP continue to give great tours of the place.

    By the way, does anyone remember Sir John Scarlett (former head of MI6, he of Iraq "dodgy dossier" fame)? He's the chair of our Trustees and our well-loved CEO was hired by him and does his bidding. I reckon the buck stops there.

    A plea to everyone thinking of not going to BP: BP is (& will be) a memorial to all those war-time veterans; Boycotting the place, IMHO, would be disrespectful to all the thousands of heroic BP veterans. Come to BP, but also come to TNMOC. See the BP story and enjoy the Lorenz Colossus story in the BP museum - which strangely neglects to mention that there's a Colossus being demonstrated just next door at TNMOC. But then go and see Colossus next door (OK you may have to pay £2 more - £1 if you're my age). You'll be welcomed at the Colossus gallery, and - if you wish - have an expert tour guide give the story.

    I've got it off my chest now.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: BLetchley Park - A Soap Opera

      I've got it off my chest now."

      Thank you for that open and honest post, even if you did leave a little "hidden" between the lines ;-)

      You, sir, have my undying admiration for continuing on in the face of adversity and demonstrating the true BP spirit.

      If I wasn't nearly 400 miles away I'd buy you a pint, so for now you'll just have to accept a virtual pint and a virtual pat on the back (not at the same time!)

      One of these days I WILL finally get there and hope to meet you and your colleagues and not some shiny faced "professional" tour guide.

  26. JohnG4GWJ

    Having come to Bletchley Park on a number of occasions and assisted several times with running radio stations and showing ex-wartime wireless equipment, I feel sure the current Trust management has lost the plot. Some of the exhibits which have been removed or excluded (like Colossus) are fundamental to the Bletchley story, not optional. And as several people have already said, other exhibits like the model railway or the local amateur radio club, brought in voluntary expertise and a wealth of local knowledge and inspiration.

    Also some of the current advertising is irrelevant to the Bletchley story. For instance Family Fun Days with children dressed in bits of army uniform giving parodies of salutes - how does that represent or portray the work of the Park in wartime? And may I point out that there is a picture (not just a link) on the BP website "advertising" the "Bletchley Park Circle", a completely fictitious adventure story on TV which supposedly shows a group of women setting up as amateur detectives AFTER they left Bletchley when the war ended. How is that relevant? No more so than "Keep calm and sack a volunteer" would be.

    For heavens sake can BP Trust look at all this again with people who were there or at least know what it is about - and it isn't just marketing.


  27. Roger Stenning

    Bloody outrageous.

    Revisionist History, blot out what won't sell "merchandise", and **** those who want to tell actual history as opposed to goodfact. Makes me want to puke.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah ha!

    But how did the current Bletchley CEO ever get his job, appointed as he was two years ago with no previous museum or visitor attraction experience? Ah....but he had spent his whole career in the army in the intelligence division obviously - and the BP Trust Chair as is pointed out above is none other than John Scarlett ex Head of MI6. What then might we deduce from this? That Bletchley and its legacy belong to the British Establishment - that anyone who steps out of line be they an 88 year old man now or Alan Turing back in the day - will be subjected to punishment and disgrace. But hang on this is a Heritage Lottery funded, publicly funded, cultural heritage project we are talking about is it not? Is it not? what exactly does it tell us about national heritage? is it actually about national security, or an illusion/ delusion of this that can be sold to the visitors equating their personal web defences with a mega back story funded with McAfee support. A grim scenario. This news story coming as it did on the first Apple's 30th birthday might have made Turing choke again ...if we believe he ever did.


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