There are plans to move the reconstruction of the Turing-Welchman Bombe, the electro-mechanical device used to decipher enemy Enigma messages during the Second World War, to a new location on the Bletchley Park Estate — Block H, the home of The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC).
A crowdfunding campaign will be launched on 15 February 2018 to create a new Bombe Gallery close to the existing Colossus gallery. Together the two machines will give visitors an unparalleled insight of the wartime code-breaking genius at Bletchley Park and the beginnings of our digital world.
Following the announcement of the re-organisation of some of the Bletchley Park Trust display areas, the Turing Welchman Bombe Rebuild Trust (TWBRT), which owns and maintains the Bombe, reconsidered the best location for its fully working Bombe reconstruction. After assessing several options, the TWBRT approached The National Museum of Computing, which has agreed to host the Bombe reconstruction in Block H close to the rebuild of Colossus.
John Harper, chair of TWBRT, explained: “After careful consideration of the options, TWBRT Trustees approached The National Museum of Computing, which agreed to host the Bombe exhibit. We are delighted with this solution and welcome the opportunity to remain part of the overall visitor attraction at Bletchley Park. Our team of volunteers is looking forward to continuing to demonstrate how the Bombes made their vital contribution to Bletchley Park’s wartime role in the new venue. We thank the Bletchley Park Trust for their co-operation over the years and are pleased that the story of the Bombe will remain very much part of the story that it tells.”
Andrew Herbert, chair of The National Museum of Computing, said: “To house the reconstructed Bombe close to the Colossus Rebuild makes a lot of sense from many perspectives. As a pre-computing electro-mechanical device, the Bombe will help our visitors better understand the beginnings of computing and the general thought processes that led to the development of Colossus and subsequent computers. The story of the design of the Bombe by Alan Turing, the father of computer science, leads very appropriately into the eight decades of computing that we curate. Even the manufacture of the Bombes leads directly to British computing history — the originals were built by the British Tabulating Machine company (BTM) in Letchworth, which later became part of ICT, then ICL and now Fujitsu.”
“A further benefit of the relocation is that as working reconstructions both the Bombe and Colossus need constant maintenance, skills for which TNMOC volunteers are globally renowned. There will be a very real synergy of the complementary skillsets of the Bombe and Colossus teams who have a profound understanding of the technologies available to those astonishing code-breaking pioneers.”
The timing of the relocation of the reconstructed Bombe will be within the next few months. The new Bombe Gallery design is currently being finalised.
The TWBRT Bombe is a fully functional and accurate reconstruction of the wartime Bombe as designed by Alan Turing and refined by Gordon Welchman. It was used to discover the daily settings of the Enigma machines which were used to communicate operational messages across enemy military networks.
In contrast, the rebuild of Colossus, a key exhibit at TNMOC, was used to find the wheel settings of the Lorenz cipher machine, used by Hitler and German High Command to communicate strategic messages.