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 …

  1. Vulch

    Welchman was recruited from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and in turn recruited several colleagues and former students from there.

    http://www.sid.cam.ac.uk/life/news/800/sidney-and-the-codebreakers-of-bletchley-park.html

  2. jason 7

    Please can we keep the accolades coming...

    ...for as many of these great people as we can please.

    As it does appear to be one of the greatest team efforts (even if many of them didn't know the whole game the others were playing) ever.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. phil dude
        IT Angle

        Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

        @Arnaut the less: "Our Manhattan Project, without the bad knock on effects."

        The Manhattan Project contributed to giving us digital computers as well as the myriad of other scientific technologies. Granted the *mission* was a big bang to project military aims, but ultimately saved a great number of lives. A bit like Bletchley, the *mission* was breaking codes, but the other spinoff's are probably greater.

        To those that have not been, I recommend a visit, it is quite fascinating.

        P.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

          "The Manhattan Project contributed to giving us digital computers as well as the myriad of other scientific technologies."

          It used IBM machines and Feynman's group found innovative ways of putting cards through the machines on overlapping cycles, but I was not aware that the MP actually contributed in any way to digital computing. Numerical methods yes.

          "but ultimately saved a great number of lives"

          The jury is very, very out on this one. It is not at all clear that Japan would not have surrendered due to blockade efficiency and Russia being free to enter the war in the East. Max Hastings concluded that the bombs were dropped basically because the US had them and the military machine simply worked on the assumption they would be used - after all they had a very limited shelf life and if they were not used would become useless as the fuel degraded.

          The bombs were developed too late to have any effect on the outcome of WW2. They did have an effect on the post-war era; an arms race that came close to nuclear disaster.

          However, the Radiation Laboratory contributed to radar, and it, Bletchley and Flowers contributed greatly to the development of electronics that brought about digital processing. These had an effect on the outcome of the war from fairly early on (the development of the cavity magnetron was separate). Without Bletchley Britain might have starved and without the Radiation Laboratory the American advance across the Pacific might have been much slower.

          The Manhattan Project was mainly, in terms of cost, about chemistry; isotope separation in particular. It consumed mathematical talent but its mathematical output was, basically, the design of warheads and the prediction of their effects.

          1. Chris Miller

            @Arnaut

            would become useless as the fuel degraded

            Pu239 has a half-life of 24,000 years, and U235 over 700 million years, so I don't think that this would have been much of a problem. Are you perhaps thinking of some later, thermonuclear devices that made use of tritium, which does indeed decay relatively rapidly, having a half-life of 12 years?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Arnaut

              I was thinking mainly of the Po-210 in the trigger of the plutonium bomb, actually.

              But there were other shelf life issues beyond simple radioactive decay. There is a surprising amount of stuff now available on the web about all this.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: @Arnaut

              "Are you perhaps thinking of some later, thermonuclear devices that made use of tritium"

              I suspect he's thinking more of the relatively unstable explosives inside the initial weapons and the masses of duct tape holding their internals together.

          2. KA1AXY

            Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

            Had the bomb not been dropped on Japan, my father would have been part of the invasion force and I very likely would not be writing this. As it was, he had nightmares about the fighting in the Pacific (1st Marines) until his death. No PTSD back then.

            Mum served in the Navy at Nebraska Ave, and while we knew she had been doing work with codes, she never bothered to mention that the codes had belonged to someone else. Both parents went on to other government service, until I was born. My dad remained in government until his death.

            Greatest generation, indeed. They deserve all our thanks and respect.

            1. Jan 0

              Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

              I think you'll find that the bombs were dropped to discourage the 500,000 Russian troops from invading Japan. Would there have been a simultaneous US invasion? How many troops did the US have massed for the invasion?

              Respect and commiserations for your dad (and all the others), by the way.

              1. Andromeda451

                Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

                Some estimates were 2M US soldiers in the invasion force. We weren't there so armchair quarterbacking the war and the dropping of the bombs is nothing but mental masturbation. The fact that the empire of Japan was training schoolchildren to attack soldiers with sharpened sticks lends lie to the thought they would have surrendered. The dropping of the two weapons saved Japan from utter annihilation, one they may not have recovered from to this day.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

              "Had the bomb not been dropped on Japan, my father would have been part of the invasion force and I very likely would not be writing this."

              My father was sent out there as part of the proposed invasion force (he had had combined ops training and been on D-day and was one of the relatively few of them who survived in good condition.)

              It was pretty apparent that the blockade was working and the Japanese were being rolled up everywhere. The fact that two bombs could be dropped from aircraft itself demonstrates that the Japanese no longer had a credible air defence, because if they had done, the risk would not have been taken of them being shot down and the bombs recovered by the Japanese. Long before the bombs were dropped, his service in the East had turned into cruising around river deltas sinking Japanese boats.

              The bombs were dropped partly so the US could end the war with Japan, before the Russians released from their Western front could invade Japan and bring it into the Communist world. So they might have had a strategic effect but it was political, not military.

              (The nearest my father came to getting killed in the East was the victory celebrations when he came back to his boat drunk from the Admiral's party, fell in and had to be fished out by his CPO.)

              Bottom line: In terms of defeating the Axis in WW2, the Manahttan Project was a sideshow.

          3. Yes Me Silver badge

            Numerical methods yes.

            It was because von Neumann was working on numerical analysis of simulated chain reactions that he got very interested when he heard about the ENIAC and muscled in on that project and later the EDVAC. But ENIAC itself was too late to actually help the Manhattan project which only used electromechanical calculators.

          4. Julz

            Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

            @Arnaut Monte Carlo simulations... No whether you think that their use in share trading is for the greater good or not is debatable but at least the weather forecasts are more reliable.

          5. Charles Manning

            Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

            Amaut, you went off script. You're supposed to just shut up and drink the Kool Aid.

            There was a mad rush to get those bombs built. Once USA had those bombs they were going to drop them come hell or high water.

            Any reasonable bunch of people would have sent the Japanese a few film reels showing what the bomb could do (on a test range) and use that as leverage to stop the war. Failing that, they'd have had a go at brokering peace after dropping the first bomb.

            But no, we've got two bombs and by heck we're going to use them and justify things later.

          6. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

            "It is not at all clear that Japan would not have surrendered due to blockade efficiency and Russia being free to enter the war in the East"

            It wasn't clear at the time (witness what happened at Okinawa) and the top military brass were so fanatical that they still opposed the surrender even after the Emperor told them to give in (fanatical to the point of planning a coup). The Allies fully expected to lose a million men trying to take the mainland in house-to-house fighting.

            20/20 hindsight from 70 years on is an inexact science. Trying to see through the fog of war is a hell of a lot harder still.

            In any case, if those bombs hadn't been dropped in WW2, someone, somewhere would have dropped one on a large city. Just be thankful that fewer people died in Nagasaki and Hiroshima than in the Tokyo firestorms and that none have been used in anger ever since.

            (FWIW, 1980s Hiroshima and Nagasaki cancer rates were 0.25% above background normal. The abhorrence of how the bombs affected the population is justifiable, but it's clear that much of the long-term risks are statistically negligable and we really have to get past the knee-jerk "all nuclear stuff baaaaaad" mantra which is keeping us burning coal/oil when we should be using them as industrial raw materials or fertilizer.)

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

      The loyalty to the idea is remarkable - that so many of them chose not to talk of what they had done, even though by later years they would have lost little by doing so. They continued to maintain their silence by choice rather than the threat of cellar-based interview or Siberian exile.

      And now we can acknowledge the entirety of their contributions from leaders down to the lowest clerk, even if we now not who they were.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

        When Flowers got his medal in 1980 he gave a bit of a talk and seemed to have trouble talking about the stuff then. Where would the world be now if he'd got his bank loan after the war!

      2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

        Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

        My father worked at Bletchley Park during the 50s/60s- something he only told me about last year. It seems absolutely everyone involved had to sign the Official Secrets Act.

    3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

      Bloody hell no.

      Walchman's book 'Hut Six...' is already $999+ on the used book marketplace. Stories like this keep popping up and I'll never be able to afford to buy a copy.

      Same thing with Turing. Imitation Game book 'Turing ... Enigma...' is hundreds $$ used.

      Let's all stop talking about it for a while. Thanks.

      1. Richard Lloyd

        Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

        Straight after watching the interesting BBC Four documentary, I had a look online and Amazon UK had it for about 9 quid. Fast forward several weeks and it's now 350 quid! Amazon Germany (I had to pick that variant didn't I? :-) ) has it for 13 Euros though.

        Bear in mind that it's the revised paperback edition though - the original isn't available new (I believe all unsold copies were actually pulped).

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

          Re: book prices

          Turns out that my piano teacher, the wife of a local minister, worked at Bletchley in hut six. Her husband was a conscientious objector and even he didn't know exactly what she did until shortly before his death. When the story came out, her youngest son worked exceptionally hard to get it all down and last year, just before her own death, they published a book: My Secret Life in Hut Six which is actually a pretty good read (of course it mentions Welchman) and still available for £7.50 on Amazon or £10 direct from the publishers.

          She says of Welchman:

          He was friendly enough but very involved in his work. When he was in his office in Hut Six you hardly ever saw or heard him. He was a very good manager in that he delegated most of his responsibilities. He had a number of very able women assistants who ran the hut, and believe you me, they were a formidable bunch. They were deeply loyal to Mr. Welchman and did his bidding. He was polite and aloof, but they were unafraid of conflict and implementing the rules that were laid down.

          I can't say that knowing her past would have made my primary-age self any better as a piano pupil, but it would have been interesting to be able to talk to her about it.

          M.

      2. harmjschoonhoven
        Coat

        Psssssst....

        My bookseller told me The Hut Six Story by G. Welchman & M.M. Baldwin

        may be in reprint. Mine is the one with the book in the pocket.

      3. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

        Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

        > Walchman's book 'Hut Six...' is already $999+

        Given the interest there is now about Bletchley Park I'm sure it must make sense to re-print this book. Or is that still banned?

        Besides if they re-printed it I could have a copy (or two).

      4. Wommit

        Re: Please can we keep the accolades coming...

        Got my copy from Bletchley Park. Fascinating read.

  3. W Donelson
    Go

    Wow, thanks for this article!

    Wonderful stuff I never knew!

  4. John Sager

    BBC programme

    That was most interesting. I had read about JTIDS years ago but I didn't realise Welchman was instrumental in its development. They interviewed John Scarlett and as you might expect he was still pushing the GCHQ line. That seems to be a major problem with history of this stuff. Scarlett's view was "we know whether this stuff is still sensitive or not, so we should make the decision to declassify". He has a point, but it does seem hard for them to rationally appraise secret stuff to decide the balance of risk/benefit of declassification. You can see that with the whole story of BP - the history of WWII looks a lot different now in the light of those activities.

    As for Welchman's book, 'The Hut Six Story' was withdawn by its publishers and copies are now like gold dust - look at the prices on Amazon!

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: BBC programme

      So why is it vital to keep Bletchley secret from the Germans in 1979?

      1, We don't want the Russians to know that we can crack codes ?

      2, We don't want our Allies to know we were spying on them on the same way?

      3, Leaders who had "had a good war" want people to think that the victory was down to their genius not the fact that they had read the answers in the back of the book as it were

      4, All of the above

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: BBC programme

        "So why is it vital to keep Bletchley secret from the Germans in 1979?"

        To play the devil's advocate here - it's choice 4, plus the fact that "knowledge is power", exclusive knowledge exponentially so; therefore even if it wouldn't actually matter a miserable iota whether anyone else knew or not, them *not* knowing is demonstrably, quantitatively *moaaaar power* than letting them know - so obviously we don't, even if we have no other justification whatsoever to keep it secret. Which is not even the actual case - you listed a few reasons yourself...

      2. Smooth Newt

        Re: BBC programme

        So why is it vital to keep Bletchley secret from the Germans in 1979?

        I would go for unthinking British Civil Service instinct. Secrecy is power because it stops people asking inconvenient questions so lets you do whatever you want. British governments throughout history have been famously obsessed with secrecy.

        Doubly so for anything to do with secret intelligence gathering - these organizations simply "didn't exist" until 1994 so there was no question of publishing a history.

      3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: BBC programme

        Probably because of bureaucratic stupidity. One of the keys to cracking any code is the fact that all languages have a definite distributions of sounds/letters. If the text is long enough the distribution in the text will approach the underlying language's distribution. This was noticed in the 1920's. The other key is one's computational capability to brute force a solution for the key. The development of Colossus was to make the brute force method for Enigma a reasonable option. The final bit is the fact many messages often contain set headers, greetings, and closings which vary very little (e.g. yours truly) which can be used to reduce the computations. I think these were part of Bletchley Park called "cribs". All of these are well known in concept.

        1. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Re: BBC programme

          "This was noticed in the 1920's"

          Or rather earlier, since it appears in Poe's "The Gold Bug" in the 1840s.

          Meanwhile, I have to wonder if the sale of "rare and precious" copies of the Hut Six Story (I have my copy here somewhere) are in the same vein as the "Teletype message about JFK assasination" (or other noteworthy event) that crowd out search results for actual teletype machines on eBay. Nice way to recoup my investment in old Teletype machines if I had space to store one outside the purview of SWMBO.

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: BBC programme

          @a_yank_lurker said:

          The development of Colossus was to make the brute force method for Enigma a reasonable option.

          Colossus was developed to break the "Tunny" Lorenz cipher. The brute force method to find Enigma keys used the Bombe machines.

      4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: BBC programme

        So why is it vital to keep Bletchley secret from the Germans in 1979?

        It is not Germans, it is the Russians which were at issue at that time. You need to understand, in 1979, for USSR the wounds of the war were still raw. The veterans were still gathering in tens of thousands on the 9th of May. People who lost their best friends, husbands and loved ones were still crying when looking at war films. A lot of the middle command from WW2 who has suspected Churchil and Lord Dudley of treason were now high command.

        Revelations that their suspicions were right and Churchill back-stabbed and outright betrayed his Russian allies multiple times during the war (allowing the Channel Dash being just one example - all Enigma traffic was decoded and the official historical record is a load of BS) were not going to lead to a fantastic improvement of the trust and relationship between NATO and the Warsaw pact.

      5. TReko

        Re: BBC programme

        There's a great BBC programme from the late 1970's where Welchman is interviewed and his traffic analysis is shown.

        https://youtu.be/TPvqy9tldoo

      6. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: YAAC Re: BBC programme

        "So why is it vital to keep Bletchley secret from the Germans in 1979?....." Because the post-War Soviets absorbed, studied and used German code techniques, which meant the GCHQ had an easier time breaking their codes for many years. Bizarely, even though their own spies had warned them that the Brits had broken the German codes, Soviet units in Eastern Europe actually used captured German Enigma machines for several years after WW2! Of course, whilst the secret was a secret and Stalin's paranoia was in full swing, the Soviets wasted a lot of time and resources hunting for what they assumed were leaks in the GRU, NKVD and MGB/KGB.

        1. jonathan keith

          Post-war Enigma

          I think I'm right in saying that after the war, the British sold Enigma machines to friendly governments, conveniently forgetting to mention the trivial fact that Enigma had been turned inside out by Bletchley.

      7. Jagged

        Re: BBC programme

        I believe the blame belongs to Churchill. Great wartime PM, lousy peacetime PM as the cliché goes.

        In his defence, he was expecting increase hostilities with Russia (wasn't wrong) but in hindsight he should have taken everything done at Bletchley and monetised the heck out of it! Mind you, I understand that the plans for the bomb were given to the US as part of war reparations, so maybe that wasn't an option,

      8. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BBC programme

        >So why is it vital to keep Bletchley secret from the Germans in 1979?

        >1, We don't want the Russians to know that we can crack codes ?

        British intelligence services were riddled with KGB agents (in senior roles) until the 1960s. Russia knows far more about it than the public do.

        >2, We don't want our Allies to know we were spying on them on the same way?

        They've always known we were and do. As do they on us - ever flown Air France?

        >3, Leaders who had "had a good war" want people to think that the victory was down to their genius not the fact that they had read the answers in the back of the book as it were

        True to an extent - there was a lot of mythology to paper cracks and difficult decisions - literal human sacrifices were often made - many people who are still alive lost parents and loved ones who could have been forewarned but were strategically abandoned to their fates.

        My dad was in 'Royal Signals' - in the 1980s he revealed ran tech support/scheduling in the IoM station until 1944 - then he moved elsewhere doing something else he never spoke of again - even to those he was doing it with!

        The vast majority of people (and there were several 10Ks) who worked in these programmes never spoke of it because at the time the need for secrecy wasn't an abstract concept or a matter of debate - they were actually seeing/working the proof than tiny snippets of seemingly irrelevant information could loose the war.

        Ultimately the answer is simply than the clandestine services have a well-developed culture of secrecy.

    2. Craig 8

      "The Hut Six Story" [Re: BBC programme]

      Many copies of The Hut Six Story are available for sale at very reasonable prices in the shop at Bletchley Park :-)

      1. John Sager

        Re: "The Hut Six Story" [BBC programme]

        Many copies of The Hut Six Story are available for sale at very reasonable prices in the shop at Bletchley Park

        Bowdlerised?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "The Hut Six Story" [BBC programme]

          I'm guessing just page after page of blacked out lines

      2. keithpeter
        Windows

        Re: "The Hut Six Story" [BBC programme]

        "Many copies of The Hut Six Story are available for sale at very reasonable prices in the shop at Bletchley Park :-)"

        Interesting to see if a chap called Richard, or possibly Malcolm, turns up and buys a lot of copies.

        Does the Museum do mail order I wonder?

        The tramp: no-one pays much attention to tramps hanging around.

    3. jonathan keith

      Re: BBC programme

      As far as I could make out from the (excellent) BBC doc, it was Welchman's ideas and work on Traffic Analysis, as opposed to code-breaking, that the UK and US governments wanted suppressed, because it was TA that provided the basis of GCHQ and NSA's most powerful tools (and still does, in many ways).

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: BBC programme

        Actually traffic analysis is fairly simple concept. One maps the flow of traffic from HQ to lower commands and back up the chain. By following the routing of a message one can determine reporting patterns. The varying volumes (and lack of traffic sometime) is an alert about something is stirring. Generally when military operations are undertaken there is often period of abnormally low activity followed by a period of high activity. Combine the traffic with location finding and you have a fairly accurate map of unit locations, activity, and to some degree combat readiness. I am fairly certain the Soviets understood this during the Cold War.

        Another item, photographic analysis can often give a very accurate troop count by simply counting latrines.

        1. ChaoticMike

          Re: BBC programme

          >Another item, photographic analysis can often give a very accurate troop count by simply counting latrines.

          Thank gawd you didn't say 'counting troop movements'...

          1. earl grey Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: BBC programme

            now you're taking the piss....

        2. Naughtyhorse

          Re: Actually traffic analysis is fairly simple concept.

          aka metadata,

          now where else have I heard this term recently......

          <black helicopter icon gone!>

          1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Re: Actually traffic analysis is fairly simple concept.

            Black helicopter for you ===---------------------->

  5. Deryk Barker

    Why

    Is there a photo of Colossus attached to this story? AFAIK Welchman worked exclusively on Enigma.

    The confusion of Enigma/Fish Bombe/Colossus is had enough already without you adding to it.

  6. 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!!

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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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