Facebook pledges £1m to historical secret home of WWII codebreakers

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
Bletchley Park Mansion
Bletchley Park Mansion in Milton Keynes, England. Bletchley Park was the site where British codebreakers famously cracked Germany's Enigma and Lorenz ciphers. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Facebook (FB) has given £1m ($1.3m) to the historical estate that housed Britain’s World War II codebreakers.

In a blog announcing the donation, Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said Bletchley Park was where “the era of the computer was born.”

“The modern world has been shaped by what happened inside an English countryhouse more than eight decades ago,” he said.

The famous historical house is renowned for figuring out how to crack Nazi communications, and was the workplace of almost 10,000 during the Second World War. Three-quarters of whom were women.

It was also the workplace of computer scientist Alan Turing, who Facebook’s CTO called “foundational to the entire field of computing.”

Watch: Alan Turing, the pioneering computer scientist who broke the Enigma code

Facebook’s donation comes at a critical time. Earlier this year, Bletchley Park Trust said it was in for a potential £2m loss this year, as a result of reduced footfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The site lost more than 95% of its income between March and July.

Many museums and cultural institutions are having to make difficult choices this year due to the virus.

Closure during lockdown and now a limit on visitors due to social distancing measures has forced the trust to make cuts.

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More than a third of workers’ jobs (35 out of 100) were put at risk due to the loss, but the money will go some way to saving them.

Bletchley Park is also due to receive £447,000 from the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.

“Ideas developed at Bletchley Park remain at the heart of cutting-edge research in fields like artificial intelligence, online security and cryptography today, more than 80 years after the first codebreakers set up shop there,” said Schroepfer.

Iain Standen, chief executive of Bletchley Park, said: “We are very grateful to Facebook for their generous donation.”

“With this significant support, the Bletchley Park Trust will be better positioned to operate in the ‘new world’, and keep its doors open for future generations.”

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