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Facebook donates £1 million to WWII code-breaking site Bletchley Park

The museum is facing a £2 million revenue shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
October 13, 2020
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Bletchley / UK - July 2015: Bletchley Park Mansion in Buckinghamshire was the main base for Allied code breaking during World War II
Rob Atherton via Getty Images

Bletchley Park was the site where Alan Turing and a World War II team of code-breakers cracked Germany’s Enigma machine and helped save the world from Nazi tyranny. The site is now a popular museum, but it’s facing a £2 million ($2.6 million) revenue shortfall due to the loss of tourism caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Facebook has announced that it will donate £1 million to the Bletchley Park Trust charity that runs the site.

In a blog post, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer wrote that Facebook felt “lucky” to be involved with the site, and that the company “simply would not exist today” without its achievements. “The work of its most brilliant scientist, Alan Turing, still inspires our tens of thousands of engineers and research scientists today,” he added.

With the loss of tourists, Bletchley Park was facing the possibility of laying off a third of its workforce, or around 35 employees. Now, on top of the Facebook donation, the trust received £447,000 from the UK’s Culture Recovery Fund, meaning it has made up two thirds of its shortfall in a single day. “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,” said CEO Ian Standen.

Facebook is right that it probably owes its existence to Bletchley Park, as work at the site laid the foundation for coding and computers. Its most famous accomplishment was cracking advanced versions of the Nazi Enigma machine, a feat that many believe shortened the duration of WWII and saved countless lives. It was also the birthplace of the world’s first digital computer, Colossus, and the site where Alan Turing developed the foundational concepts behind computer science, artificial intelligence and other tech that drives the world today.

Another tech giant, Google, has ties to Bletchley Park, having previously donated £550,000 ($850,000) towards a £15 million renovation. The search giant also hosts Bletchley Park content, including pictures and testimony, on its Google Cultural Institute site.

Ironically, Facebook is supporting a site that helped defeat Nazism — just days after it finally banned Holocaust denial after lettering it fester for years. The company noted that it has more than 3,000 employees in the UK, with over half working in engineering roles. "The historic achievements of Alan Turing and the Bletchley team have benefited all of us greatly, including Facebook, and we're thrilled to help preserve this spiritual home of modern computing,” said Facebook Europe VP Steve Hatch.

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