The Codebreaker Who Hacked Hitler
Tuesday May 16 at 8:30pm AEST
Gordon Welchman was one of the original elite codebreakers of Bletchley Park.
Without him, the German Enigma codes might not have been broken, and World War Two could have lasted two more years. His contribution was as great as Alan Turing’s and he should be just as famous, yet very few have heard of him.
But for a forgotten man, his secret legacy is everywhere – from Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA, to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and now Islamic State.
At Bletchley Park, Welchman created industrial scale codebreaking – GCHQ and the NSA are direct descendants of his work. He pioneered the use of ‘traffic analysis’ (we know this today as the collection of metadata), which became such a powerful tool during the war, that its use at Bletchley is still classified.
After the war he followed the computer revolution to America. The Cold War provided him with another remarkable opportunity – devising a battlefield communications system – still in use to this day. After a lifetime spent within the inner circles of the Defence establishment, Gordon Welchman published his memoirs in 1982, revealing the secrets of his wartime work. The reaction from the authorities was swift – he lost his job, he was threatened with huge fines, and prison.
One of the creators of the hidden world of mass surveillance, a man who helped win one secret war and fought another, was destroyed by his own breach of security. This is the story of Gordon Welchman, the forgotten genius of Bletchley Park.