A weekly newspaper is celebrating resurrecting a key part of Britain’s wartime history after the building in which the German ‘Enigma’code was broken in the Second World War was reopened.
Tamworth Herald deputy editor Phil Shanahan has spent 10 years campaigning for a wooden hut at wartime code-breaking site Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes to be refurbished. It was there, in the unassuming ‘Hut 8″, that the German navy’s Enigma code was finally broken, in some experts’ opinions shortening the war by up to two years.
Shanahan, who wrote a book on the subject, The Real Enigma Heroes, was invited to officially open a renovated Hut 8 on 21 February.
Shanahan tracked down the histories of the three men – all Tamworth locals – who were key to cracking the code: Colin Grazier, Tony Fasson and Tommy Brown. Their stories were virtually unknown, but in 1998 the paper started a campaign to bring them to light after four decades of obscurity. And in 2002, a £17,000 sculpture was erected in the town. A number of streets and buildings have also been named after them.
An article in Press Gazette in 2002 highlighting his campaign helped Shanahan uncover even more of the tale.
The hut, which contains an exhibition based on the Herald’s work, took nine months to renovate and is open to the public seven days a week. A proud Shanahan was asked to open the building last month
‘I’ve been involved in this for a decade now, and the opening of Hut 8 shows the life that is still left in the story. It is one of Britain’s most important wartime relics and was amazing for me as a humble hack to be asked to formally open it,’said Shanahan.
The story first emerged when a Herald reporter came back from speaking to an ex-navy serviceman in the town who mentioned that the Enigma code breakers were from the area.
Shanahan contacted historical fiction author Robert Harris, who confirmed that the men did play a key role, but that their stories were hardly known.
The information began to flow in when the paper contacted the local council and armed forces groups across the country.