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Elderly Bletchley Park volunteer sacked for showing Colossus exhibit to visitors

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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 to show a tour group round the National Museum of Computing, which is based in the famous Block H which housed six Colossus computers during World War II.

To add insult to injury, his reaction to the brutal firing was captured by a BBC film crew who were investigating the ongoing tensions between the two organisations.

He is one of several volunteers who have angered the management of the Bletchley Park Trust, which is currently using £8m of lottery funding to turn the legendary computing facility into what they call "a world class museum and heritage site which is a fitting memorial to the heroic codebreakers of Bletchley Park".

The rival museum and its many supporters think the Trust has got it all wrong.

Carroll said: "They are ruining this place. We are all very upset about not being able to tell the story we want to."

The Trust is planning for a bright future which does not include the National Museum of Computing. 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.

In a statement, The National Museum of Computing said that visitor numbers have been dropping since the Trust began its war of attrition.

"Today most Bletchley Park Trust visitors miss the key experience of seeing the Colossus Rebuild and the Tunny machine in action and thereby miss out on key working exhibits representing the outstanding pinnacle of the World War II code-breaking story," a spokesman wrote.

"Negotiations with the Bletchley Park Trust to achieve a fair and equitable financial arrangement to give all Bletchley Park fee-paying visitors access to Colossus and Tunny have proved exceedingly difficult."

The BBC's footage showed Iain Standen, CEO of the Bletchley Park Trust, discussing getting rid of the volunteers.

"Unfortunately this is a process of change. And maybe one or two we can't keep with this change," he said.

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."

We hope that's made Carroll feel better about being hoiked out of Bletchley.

The Trust also issued its own statement entitled "Progress in Perspective", in which it discussed how its renovation scheme would create an "inspiring experience" for visitors.

Discussing the reasons for preventing tourists accessing the National Museum of Computing, a Trust spokesman wrote: "This revised tour was developed and implemented by a working group of staff and volunteers, and the great majority of our volunteers have embraced and supported the revised tours for nearly a year.

"Sadly, there was one exception where a tour guide who was unwilling to conduct tours in the agreed format has been asked to stand down from this role. We greatly regret the rare instances when someone feels unable to continue contributing to the invaluable service which the volunteer community provides to us and our visitors."

El Reg has asked for interviews with the heads of both the museum and trust, but have yet to receive a reply.

Are you concerned about Bletchley or do you know anything about the modernisation programme? Get in touch and let us know. ®

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