April 13, 2021

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Facebook donates £1m to preserve Bletchley Park’s legacy

2 min read

Facebook has donated £1m to the Bletchley Park Trust to help the birthplace of modern computing continue operating during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Trust confirmed it had lost over 95 per cent of its income earlier this year as a result of the pandemic, and was being forced to consider making one-third of its workforce redundant amid a projected loss of £2m.

Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire was the home of British codebreaking during World War II, where Alan Turing and thousands of specialists raced to crack Nazi Enigma Codes and bring the war to an early end.

Former Lib Dem MP John Leech was among those to urge tech giants including Facebook, Amazon, Google parent company Alphabet, Apple and Amazon to contribute to the upkeep of the independent museum and charity after it first warned of redundancies in August.

Trust still in need of help

While the Trust is “not out of the woods yet,” the social network’s donation means some of the at-risk roles will be saved and will make the next few years easier for the charity and independent museum, its chief executive Iain Standen said.

“Like everybody else in the culture and heritage sector we’ve been suffering – after we reopened in July our visitor numbers have only been around 50 per cent the previous year’s,” he told i.

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: World War II veterans who worked at Bletchley Park and its outstations pose for a picture in front of Bletchley Park Mansion during an annual reunion on September 3, 2017 in Milton Keynes, England. Bletchley Park was the Government Code and Cypher School's (GC&CS) main codebreaking centre during World War II and the site where codebreakers famously cracked the German's Enigma and Lorenz cyphers. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
World War II veterans who worked at Bletchley Park and its outstations pose for a picture in front of Bletchley Park Mansion during an annual reunion (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty)

“Who knows how long we’re going to be operating under these contraints, but this fantastic donation is certainly going to help us get through the next few years.”

The work of Alan Turing and many others at Bletchley Park underpins many aspects of modern computing, including artificial intelligence (AI) and internet security.

Engineers of tomorrow

As Facebook’s staff are using skills that were generated in Bletchley Park decades earlier, the donation is an acknowledgement of the lineage and debt born from the codebreakers’ achievements, Mr Standen added.

“People like Alan Turing are the poster boys for the computer scientists of today,” he said. “We’re very pleased that legacy is being protected.”

The Trust has also received £447,000 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

Steve Hatch, Facebook’s Vice President for Northern Europe, said Facebook’s AI endeavours would not have been possible without the codebreakers, adding: “Our hope is that Bletchley staying open inspires the next generation of engineers.”

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