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Bletchley Park archives to be digitised, put online

Rich WWII secret triv-trove expected

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Lost secrets of World War II are expected to be unearthed soon by a project aimed at digitising large amounts of hardcopy data held in files at 1940s codebreaking centre Bletchley Park.

The BBC reports on the archive-scanning plans now underway, which are expected to take around three years to complete.

"We've been wanting to do this for a while," says Simon Greenish, chief of the Bletchley Park Trust, in charge of operations at the site. "It was first discussed five years ago, but we have just never had the funds."

Famously, German "Enigma" military encryption (and many other Axis ciphering methods) were defeated at the site - also known as "Station X" - during the war. This gave the Allies a massive advantage in various critical battles, not least the pivotal antisubmarine struggle in the Atlantic. The famous "Colossus" machines, some of the world's first digital computers, operated at Bletchley, and legendary figures such as Alan Turing were among the personnel.

Despite the great achievements which occurred at Station X, the Trust which runs it as a museum nowadays has always been hard up - perhaps because its place in history remained largely unknown to the general public until the 1970s.

At the moment the extensive paper and card files held at the site are difficult to use. It's thought likely that the archives hold clues to many wartime secrets - for instance Allied intelligence on critical Nazi weaknesses such as scarce supplies of rubber. There may also be further revelations about the "greatest double agent" of the war, the fake German intelligence spymaster codenamed GARBO, who was actually working for MI5.

Personnel and equipment for the digitisation project are being provided by HP, the Trust itself being too hard up.

"If I ever manage to secure £10,000 then that goes towards buying a new roof," says Greenish. "But [with the digitisation] for the first time we hope we will be able to put everything into the public domain."

The Beeb report is here. ®

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