Codebreakers' Notes Found in Roof Cracks - Now on Show

  |  Published: Mar 22nd 2015
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New exhibition - Bletchley Park: Rescued and Restored

Secret notes scribbled by Codebreakers, found stuffed into the cracks between beams in the roof of Hut 6, have gone on show at Bletchley Park for the first time.


The documents include the only known example of used Banbury sheets, a system devised by Alan Turing to help find the daily-changing Enigma settings. So-called because the stationery was printed in Banbury, Banburismus involved lining up two sheets of paper in which holes were punched over a light box, to help find possible settings.

Bletchley Park’s Director of Learning and Collections, Victoria Worpole, said “It’s quite rare for us to find new paperwork because any that survived is in either our archive, at GCHQ or the National Archive so to find actual materials that were used by the Codebreakers, shoved between beams and cracks in the woodwork is really exciting.”

Some of the documents remain a mystery. Victoria says “Nobody seems to be able to work out what they are - we’ve sent things off to GCHQ - and there are a number of items that we’ve yet to understand properly. We’re unveiling a mystery.”

Codebreaker Sir Arthur Wilfred 'Bill' Bonsall KCMG CBE said“It is interesting that the dates [of these documents] appear to be in winter months when the temptation to scrunch up a bit of waste paper and stuff it into a crack to keep out a draught would have been at its greatest.”

Among the fragmented codebreaking documents located in the roof of Hut 6 were also parts of an Atlas, a pinboard and a fashion article from a magazine. These are now on display in Hut 12 at Bletchley Park, alongside other items found during the £8 million, Heritage Lottery Fund-supported restoration project. They include a fragment of 1940s teapot, glass bottles including one for Chicory, archaeological items such as bricks from Block F (demolished in the 1980s) and a 'time capsule' left inside a door in Hut 11A.

Hanging from the ceiling above the display cases are a Crittall window frame from Block C, now transformed into a Visitor Centre, and two original wooden floorboards from Hut 6. An audio loop of interviews and insights captured by the Bletchley Park Podcast during this transformational restoration project also plays in the exhibition, titled Bletchley Park: Rescued and Restored.

In addition to the new physical exhibition, Bletchley Park’s third digital exhibition is available online at the prestigious Google Cultural Institute.

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