News Article

Action this day...

Last Updated: 31 Oct 2016
Churchill recognised the importance of the work of Turing, Welchman, Alexander, and Milner-Barry on this day in 1941.

News article - 21 Oct 2016

The increasing progress by cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park in the course of 1941 exposed organisational weaknesses which, if left unresolved, would have meant that cryptanalytic successes could not be exploited. 

Management practices had not evolved with the increasing number of staff, members of the services were attempting to control the production and dissemination of intelligence reporting, and the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) seemed incapable of meeting its personnel requirements.  The Prime Minster, Winston Churchill, visited Bletchley Park in September 1941, and was clearly impressed by what he saw - but his visit focused on what was going well, not on the problems.

On 21 October, four of the cryptanalysts working on Enigma: Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander, and Stuart Milner-Barry wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to intervene, particularly in ensuring that more of the right sort of people could be recruited.  Milner-Barry took the letter to London and (incredible as it might seem) handed the letter to one of the Prime Minister’s private secretaries.

Churchill, who had been involved with signals intelligence since its inception in the Admiralty in 1914, forwarded the letter to General Ismay, his principal military advisor with a covering note:


"Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done.”

On 18 November the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service was able to report that Bletchley’s needs were being met.  In January 1942 he ordered a major reorganisation to give Bletchley Park a structure which would enable it to bring all of its resources to bear on its targets.


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