War of words after Bletchley Park volunteer dismissed

editorial image

A war of words has erupted at Bletchley Park following reports of a volunteer being dismissed for taking visitors to a certain area of the site.

The Bletchley Park Trust has fervently denied claims of unrest with volunteers after a tour guide was filmed in tears moments after being dismissed from his position at the Home of the Codebreakers.

The Colossus computer at TNMOC in Bletchley Park, UK, December 2008.

The Colossus computer at TNMOC in Bletchley Park, UK, December 2008.

A report by BBC Look East featured volunteer Tony Carroll who was told his services were no longer required after he took guests into the National Museum of Computing area of Bletchley Park – home of Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer – after being instructed by management not to.

“They haven’t got a clue,” Mr Carroll told the BBC. “They are ruining this place.

“We are all very upset that we are not being able to tell the story we want to.”

The Bletchley Park Trust has issued a statement denying a rift with volunteers, while the National Museum of Computing has hit back at the Trust, stating it is “very much opposed to the fragmentation of Bletchley Park currently being undertaken”. TNMOC claims its visitor numbers are down as a result of the change.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

The Bletchley Park Trust says the change, not to allow guides to take visitors into the National Museum of Computing, is down to the increasing number of visitors and shorter tour times following the award of National Lottery funding to improve the site.

Following Friday’s programme, the Bletchley Park Trust said: “The Bletchley Park Trust greatly values the contribution of its volunteers, and indeed is currently investing in their training, and contrary to the impression created by the BBC piece, volunteers continue to have a key role at Bletchley Park.

“In order to manage increasing numbers of visitors, and to make it more accessible and family friendly, the guided tour was reduced from 90 minutes plus to an hour. 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.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

“The short BBC piece did not explain the purpose or nature of the changes at Bletchley Park. The site is in the middle of a major, and much needed, £8 million Heritage Lottery Funded restoration project to bring the many historic buildings on the site back to a state of good repair and create an inspiring experience for its ever-increasing numbers of visitors.

“This will create a world class museum and heritage site which is a fitting memorial to the heroic codebreakers of Bletchley Park making the site much more sustainable and accessible to growing numbers of visitors.”

The National Museum of Computing responded, stating: “The National Museum of Computing is an independent charity on the Bletchley Park estate. It occupies Block H, a hugely significant part of Bletchley Park since it is the home of Colossus and the world’s first purpose-built computer centre.

“For these premises TNMOC must pay to the Bletchley Park Trust very substantial rent and utilities amounting to more than £100,000 per year.

“TNMOC is very much opposed to the fragmentation of Bletchley Park currently being undertaken by the Bletchley Park Trust. One facet of this fragmentation is the removal of TNMOC’s Colossus and Tunny Galleries from Bletchley Park Trust tours and the isolation of historic Block H.

“TNMOC trustees are disappointed that the Colossus Rebuild is not to be interpreted to the public as an integral part of the Bletchley Park story as envisaged in the Bletchley Park Trust’s successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid.

“Our records show that the numbers of Bletchley Park visitors coming to Block H to see the Colossus Rebuild are declining as a direct result of Bletchley Park Trust actions. 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 codebreaking story.

“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 Bletchley Park Trust’s current action to erect gates and barriers between its own display area and Block H will almost certainly prove divisive.

“TNMOC wants to see the whole Bletchley Park site reach its full potential in honour of the men and women who worked at Bletchley Park during World War II. This can be achieved by ensuring that all stakeholders are properly consulted and represented in the revitalisation of the conservation area that constitutes the whole of Bletchley Park.

“The need for change, sensitively managed and involving all stakeholders, is essential to ensure the future of a vibrant Bletchley Park which will be inspiring for young people and future generations.”