Thursday, 6 November 2008

Saving Bletchley Park

I read this news article this morning on the BBC web site on Bletchley Park

It's sad to hear Bletchley Park needed emergency funding. Bletchley is such an important part of British/European history - it was here famously that the German enigma code machine was cracked, a crucial twist in favour of the allies during World War II. Wars can turn on these kinds of efforts, and this was utterly integral towards achieving success. It also saw huge developments in the technology of computers; Alan Turing, the legendary Cambridge mathematician working there.
I have always thought something so important to our heritage should be protected and looked after so that future generations can visit and learn what people did for us and our freedoms. It's also a matter of respect of what people had to go through so that we could enjoy these freedoms too. Let's hope Bletchley continues to get the funding it needs to preserve an important part of our history.

Recently I visited a place called Rhydymwyn Valley Site, which is almost Wales' Bletchley Park, albeit of a different nature. Deep in the Welsh countryside near Mold in North Wales, Rhydymwyn is a small place but holds it's own importance to British war time history. It was at this site during the Second World War, that the British Government built a Chemical weapons plant. It was all kept such a secret, the area didn't feature on maps and workers were sworn to secrecy. It is now open to the public, having remained shrouded in mystique for so long, even after the war ended. It holds the rather amazing accolade of being the only British wartime installation that the German intelligence never ever located.

It is a fascinating place to visit; a large industrial area in the middle of rural landscapes. The long roads, now silent and empty, the overgrowing trees blowing in the winds...not only can you imagine the over 1500 people going to and fro their work, but you start to envision the small little 'town' feel the place must have evoked - not just the factory buildings themselves, but the canteen, railway station and other various buildings. You can see graffiti on the walls, names of workers, chemistry equations scribbled away because workers weren't allowed paper...If those walls could talk, you imagine the walls would have some incredible tales to tell.

But the plant has an important place in world history and scientific fields. Work here (research into methods of making enriched uranium for an Atomic bomb) involved some of the scientists who were later working on the Manhatten Project.
For a short while during World War II, Rhydymwyn was the most cutting edge of world atomic bomb warfare science. This is one of the many reasons there was such sworn secrecy surrounding the events at the plant.

It is chilling to think that factories with the intent of building chemical warfare were built, with the intent to cause much destruction and death. But sadly, that is the reality of war. But the fact this happened in Wales, to me, brings it all rather home to me. I find it incredible to imagine such a sleepy area was so crucial to the world's precarious predicament for that short period during WWII.
Rhydymwyn, like Bletchley is significant to our history and heritage, and these areas need to be preserved for future generations, reminding them of the cruelties of war, of our past, and essentially teaching the destructive way humans can treat each other. Teach, and learn from these mistakes of the past, so that they won't be repeated.

The rest of the Rhydymwyn photographs can be seen here.

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