Bill has a badge to cackle about
They were described by Churchill as “the geese that laid the golden egg and never cackled”.And yet the army of code-breakers who hastened the Nazis' defeat in the second world war were never honoured formally for their efforts.
They were described by Churchill as “the geese that laid the golden egg and never cackled”.
And yet the army of code-breakers who hastened the Nazis' defeat in the second world war were never honoured formally for their efforts.
Now, 65 years on, a veteran from Wells is among the first to receive a commemorative badge awarded in recognition of the most-secret work that took place behind the gates of Bletchley Park. Bill Tipler has also received a certificate, signed by Gordon Brown, thanking him for his role in the intelligence operation that is reckoned to have short-ened the war by two years.
After gaining his mathematics degree from Cambridge and serving in the RAF, Mr Tipler was recruited by Max Newman to work at the Government Code and Cypher School in Buckinghamshire in 1944. And, while the Germans' Enigma code later gained fame on cinema screens, it was high-level messages from the more complex Lorenz machine that Mr Tipler helped to decipher.
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But he is modest about the work he did.
Mr Tipler, now 87, said: “I am not sure I was thrilled to receive the badge - more amused. I am conscious that what I did was a very trivial contribution because all the hard work had been done by people like Dr Newman before I got there. I was little more than a cog in a well-organised wheel, although I do admit you obtain a bit of kudos by saying you were once at Bletchley Park.”
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Lorenz codes were cracked in two stages by doing complex statistical analyses on intercepted messages. They were taken down on to paper tape that was read by Colossus, the world's first programmable computer, at 5,000 charac-ters a second. This enabled calculations to be done in hours rather than days.
Mr Tipler worked in a team of 25 mathematicians in the “Newmanry”, which half-broke the codes before passing them to the separate “Testery” section, run by Major Ralph Tester.
“We never saw a comp-letely decoded message,” he recalled. “We only knew what happened in our own section. We would some-times hear of submarine commanders saying they had gone where they were sent and, good heavens, there was a ship to sink. They never knew where the intelligence had come from.
“Not all the information was acted on because they didn't want to give away the impression of omni-science. It was difficult, because sometimes they had to deliberately let people die to protect this secret. But those decisions were made in another section.”
Mr Tipler, who retired to Norfolk with his wife Betty in the 1980s, said: “We never talked to anybody, and outsiders never asked what we were doing. Sometimes word would get around that there was a fit man walking around while others were away fighting. But when we got our call-up papers all we had to do was hand them in at Bletchley and nothing more was said.”
The government's communications headquarters, GCHQ, has received 1,500 applications for the badges.