Working on Colossus

An annotated photograph showing women working with the Colossus (a prototype computer) at Bletchley Park, 1943, Catalogue ref: FO 850/234.

Women undertook top-secret work using radar or code-breaking enemy messages. Indeed, most of the 5,000 people working at Bletchley Park using early computers and captured enemy encoding machines to read German and Japanese messages were women.

Bletchley Park was the home of the British codebreaking operation during Second World War and was the birthplace of modern computing. Here Alan Turing and other agents of the ‘Ultra’ intelligence project decoded the enemy’s secret messages. Experts have said that their work probably shortened the war by two years.


Photograph captions read:

Friction drive wheel

Photo electric cell amplifier unit


Lamp house

Photo electric cells and amplifiers behind this panel

Adjustable pulley

Pulley wheel frame

Photo electric cell and amplifier rack bolted to pulley wheel frame


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