Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

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PeterFarr
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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by PeterFarr » Thu Sep 10, 2015 5:18 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
PeterFarr wrote: Possibly because Alexander remained with GCHQ after the war and for the rest of his career, whereas the other two went on to other things?
Alexander had died before the story became public, but Golombek was still alive to comment. He did remark of Moscow in 1956, that perhaps the British authorities considered that what he knew was at least ten years out of date, so he wouldn't be a target for kidnap or blackmail.
So that may be corroboration of a sort.

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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by Neill Cooper » Thu Sep 10, 2015 6:39 pm

When I visited Bletchley Park in 2011 (much less developed than now) they had photos and mini-biographies of the leading eight or so people involved in the war effort there. It included Alexander and Milner-Barry but not Golombek. I have now found Bletchley Park biogs of all three:

Sir Stuart Milner-Barry 1906 - 1995 http://rollofhonour.bletchleypark.org.u ... tail/6328/
Stuart Milner-Barry had achieved fame as a champion chess player when he came to Bletchley Park early in 1940. He led the ‘cribsters’ team in Hut 6 from its opening in January 1940, becoming head of the Hut in March 1944. The work of Milner-Barry and his team lay at the heart of the triumph over the German Luftwaffe & Army Enigma codes. After the war he had an outstanding career in the civil service.

Philip Stuart Milner-Barry was born on 20 September 1906 in London; He went to Cheltenham College and on to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he achieved a first in both the classical and moral sciences triposes. He became a not-notably enthusiastic stock broker, though it was chess that filled his life. He had been boy chess champion of England in 1923, playing for England before and after the war. He was chess correspondent of the Times from 1938 and throughout the war. It was Gordon Welchman, a friend from their days at Trinity together, who persuading Milner-Barry to join Bletchley Park.

He arrived in January 1940 joining the newly created Hut 6, and was encouraged by Welchman to study the decrypts that were beginning to emerge from the Zygalski sheets being operated by John Jeffreys. Welchman wanted Milner-Barry to develop an intimate knowledge of the German cipher clerks and radio operators. When the Germans dropped the use of the repeated indicator, as they did on 1 May 1940, Hut 6 would have to rely on its knowledge of the traffic to find suitable cribs to enable the Bombes to operate, and in the meanwhile to make use of the careless procedural habits of some of the German operators.

Milner-Barry had noted that the cipher clerks tended to use addresses and signatures that were both long and stereotyped, providing a fruitful source for cribs. A crib had to be a phrase of about 13 characters long that was very likely to be found in certain easily identified messages, but also had to have linguistic features that provided good ‘closed loops’ for the bombe menus. The use of ‘kisses’, cribs derived from suitable decrypted messages from other keys, often provided the first break into a new key. Milner-Barry organised a team of wizards, as Welchman called his cribsters, who eventually were able to provide good keys for Hut 6 to be able to break into most of the Luftwaffe keys and then some of the Army keys. Milner-Barry became recognised as Gordon Welchman’s deputy, and when Welchman left in March 1943, to become responsible for mechanisation projects, it was Milner-Barry who became Head of Hut 6.

Milner-Barry signed the Turing letter in October 1941 and it was he who took the letter directly to Downing Street. It drew Churchill’s attention the extreme shortage of support personnel in the Enigma huts. His powers of smooth administration now became clear as Hut 6 grew, reaching over 550 in total, one of the largest teams in Bletchley Park. Milner-Barry was a quiet, undemonstrative, highly effective leader who believed in delegation and was always to be seen sporting a very large pipe. His reports show that he was totally unflappable, in the midst of the problems for Hut 6 created by the tightening of German cipher security in 1944, which they largely overcame.

Stuart Milner-Barry was recruited to Whitehall in June 1945. He rose rapidly, becoming the ceremonial officer in the Civil Service Department. He received an OBE in 1946, a CB in 1962, and a knighthood in 1975. He married Thelma Wells in 1947 and they had three children. He died in Lewisham on 25 March 1995. He had repeated his visit to Downing Street in October 1991, with a letter signed by 10,000, asking for Bletchley Park to be preserved as a monument to the great war-time work.

Hugh Alexander 1909 - 1974 http://rollofhonour.bletchleypark.org.u ... detail/75/
Hugh Alexander was an outstanding chess-player, and he was also amongst the greatest of British cryptographers. When he arrived at Bletchley Park in early 1940 he had no previous experience at codebreaking, but in Hut 6, and then Hut 8, he soon became adept at using both traditional and machine-based methods for breaking Enigma. He led the Naval Enigma team in Hut 8 from 1942, and ended the war on Japanese codes. After the war he led the cryptanalysts at GCHQ until he retired in 1971, keeping up his chess in his retirement.

Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander was born in Cork, but after his father’s early death the family moved to Birmingham. He read mathematics at King’s College, Cambridge, graduating with a First. He went on to teach mathematics at Winchester College, always playing and writing about chess, being near the top of British chess for many years. Moving to London, he joined the John Lewis Partnership in 1938, the year in which he became British champion.

In February 1940, aged 30, he joined the Hut 6 team of cryptographers at Bletchley Park working on the German Air Force & Army ciphers. He soon became one of the Heads of Watch in Hut 6, proving to be both an excellent cryptanalyst and a fine manager. He was transferred to Hut 8 in March 1941, both to strengthen the attack on German Naval Enigma, and to improve their administration. Alexander soon became the acting Head of Hut 8, and took over when Alan Turing left to visit the US in November 1942. If the theoretical ideas for breaking Naval Enigma largely stemmed from Turing, it was Alexander who led the team to practical success, in particular in breaking the German Atlantic key, Dolphin in the summer of 1941, and by the breaking of the U-boat key, Shark, in December 1942. He strengthened Bletchley Park’s relations with the US Navy cryptanalytic team in Washington. Alexander tackled the 4-wheel Enigma, driving on the introduction of the high-speed bombes, both in the UK and in the USA. When he left them in August 1944, his Hut 8 was breaking about a dozen German naval Enigma keys each day.

Hugh Alexander did not believe in having cryptanalysts standing idle, so he kept his team small. But with his endless enthusiasm and energy, he was an inspiring leader, very popular with his staff, and certainly ran one of the best organised and productive teams at Bletchley Park, despite his own untidy ways. He had phenomenal powers of concentration, and habitually worked very long hours. In February 1943 he invited the Naval sub-Section struggling to break the Japanese Naval attaché machine, Coral, to join his Hut 8 team. In the autumn he sent the US team a detailed report on how to break it, and was in Washington to oversee the final stages of the break in February 1944. In the autumn of 1943 it had become clear to Hut 6 that the Germans were planning to introduce a variable reflector, known in Bletchley Park as ‘Uncle Dick’. It is a tribute to his reputation that Alexander was asked to oversee the attack on this development. He and his working party produced various suggestions on how to tackle the threat, some of which were implemented when the Germans introduced it into service on some Air and Army Enigma keys during 1944. In August 1944 Alexander moved from Hut 8 to lead the team working on the main Japanese naval key, JN 25.

After the war, following a short interval back at John Lewis, Alexander rejoined GCHQ, and led their cryptanalytic teams until he finally retired in 1971, having refused promotion to the top management. He continued to be actively involved in the chess world until his death in 1974.

Harry R A Golombek http://rollofhonour.bletchleypark.org.u ... tail/3572/
Bletchley Park 1939 - September 1945. Hut 8 to October 1942. Elmers School, Hut 16 and Block G, from October 1942, ISK. Later in Chief Cryptographer's Office.

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Thu Sep 10, 2015 7:05 pm

Bletchley was a major junction in those days. Alexander had moved on to GCHQ so trips behind the "Iron Curtain" were not encouraged. Milner-Barry and Golombek had returned to more normal activities and I suspect Peter Farr's reasoning is correct.

John Gilbert of Inland Revenue and later Redhill CC is pictured in that Chess report of 1945. Club members were talking about the news of BP when it broke and John casually said, "I was there". I asked if he had known the famous players there and he replied that you really only spoke to people in your hut. When BP website recently published info on those who worked there, I was able to give them more detail of John, sadly they couldn't be bothered to even have an auto-reply saying thanks. The Security Services and GCHQ were a bit cross when news of Ultra broke as a number of countries were still using Enigma as they thought it was unbreakable!

I watched the BP programme last night - am I the only one to find McKay really annoying?

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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by IanCalvert » Fri Sep 11, 2015 2:15 pm

Kevin Thurlow wrote: am I the only one to find McKay really annoying?
I was not surprised to learn he writes for the Daily Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday.

Certainly his single reference to the late, great W.T.Tutte FRS in his book on "The Secret Life Of Bletchley Park" seems to me inappropriate but I guess mathematicians , chemists and other science people were and are not his target audience.

I guess however he has played a part in the saving of Bletchley.

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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by Stewart Reuben » Thu Sep 24, 2015 11:12 pm

Harry Golombek once told me that Turing was a queen odds player.

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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by Tim Harding » Fri Sep 25, 2015 10:07 am

IanCalvert wrote:
Kevin Thurlow wrote: am I the only one to find McKay really annoying?
I was not surprised to learn he writes for the Daily Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday.

Certainly his single reference to the late, great W.T.Tutte FRS in his book on "The Secret Life Of Bletchley Park" seems to me inappropriate but I guess mathematicians , chemists and other science people were and are not his target audience.

I guess however he has played a part in the saving of Bletchley.
As it happens, I wrote a short newspaper review of Welchman's book "The Hut Six Story" when it first appeared in Britain. I wasn't aware of the row the book had caused in the USA (and I don't think many people were at the time) and the book seemed a minor footnote to Winterbotham's sensational "Ultra Secret". I doubt if the book would have sold well in any case since metadata has only become a "big thing" much later.

I agree that the break-in to the geheimschreiber by Tutte was brilliance of a higher order and yet rarely gets mentioned. (I saw one BBC4 programme a couple of years ago that gave Tutte his due.) At least he enjoyed some recognition towards the end of his life, but if he had rushed into print as Welchman did he might have met a similar fate?

My suspicion is that most of the chess players (except Alexander maybe) were operating more in an organisational role or technical roles at lower level than Turing. It hardly matters whether Golombek could give Turing a Q. It's clear who made the more important contribution.
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Gordon Cadden
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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by Gordon Cadden » Fri Sep 25, 2015 12:03 pm

Stewart Reuben wrote:Harry Golombek once told me that Turing was a queen odds player.
Would that be Bletchley Park code for homosexual ?

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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by Gordon Cadden » Fri Sep 25, 2015 12:29 pm

The Bletchley chess team that played Oxford University on 2nd. December, 1945. 1. C.H.O'D Alexander 2. H. Golombek 3. Dr J.M. Aitken 4. Dr I.J. Good 5. N.A. Perkins 6. Sgt. Jacobs (US Army) 7. Sgt. Gilbert 8. M.A. Chamberlain 9. P.J. Hilton 10. W.R. Cox 11. D. Rees 12. Lt. A. Levinson (US Army) We know that Alexander and Golombek were involved with breaking the enigma code, but what about the other chess players on this list.

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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by Stewart Reuben » Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:15 pm

Gordon >Would that be Bletchley Park code for homosexual ?<

That would not have been Harry's way. He was statingg that Turing was a weak chessplayer.

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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by Tim Harding » Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:29 pm

I think Gordon was making a joke.
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John Townsend
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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by John Townsend » Fri Sep 25, 2015 5:31 pm

I had the pleasure of meeting Milner-Barry in a county match in 1974. I recall someone tall and slim, conventionally dressed, who I considered a true gentleman. Although it was not apparent at the time, he must have been about 67, so he was past his best as a player. I was his inferior not only at chess, but in other departments of life, yet he had such a genial and engaging manner that I soon felt comfortable opposite him. We became equals for our game, which was also fought aequo Marte during most parts, though I think I went wrong with my 14th, and he could have won with the correct 19th. The game was not of a high standard, as you can see.

White: P.S. Milner-Barry Black: J. Townsend Berks. v. Kent, February 1974, Reading

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Bd3 f5 7.exf6 Nxf6 8.O-O Be7
9.Qe2 O-O 10.Ng5 cxd4 11.Nxe6 Bxe6 12.Qxe6+ Kh8 13.Bg5 Qb6 14.Nd2 Qxb2
15.Rab1 Qxc3 16.Rb3 Qa5 17.Qh3 Ne5 18.Bxf6 Nxd3 19.Bxg7+ Kxg7 20.Qxd3 b6
21.Qxd4+ Bf6 22.Qg4+ Kh8 23.Rh3 Rf7 24.Nb3 Qxa2 25.Nd4 Rg7 26.Qf4 Bxd4
27.Qxd4 Qc4 28.Qf6 1/2 1/2

My impression is of a player who was not happy unless attacking the enemy king, and I would imagine him capable of making aggressive moves to the overall detriment of his position.

Perhaps others on the forum knew him in earlier years.
Last edited by John Townsend on Sun Sep 27, 2015 9:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by Tim Harding » Fri Sep 25, 2015 6:12 pm

I would have been on the Kent team that year (possibly not in that particular match).
Your description is certainly accurate, but I don't recall ever having a real conversation with Milner-Barry.
I see you didn't allow him to play his (dangerous but unsound) gambit. Maybe you regret that now?
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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by John Townsend » Sat Sep 26, 2015 10:08 am

Many thanks for your thoughts, Tim, which are appreciated. No, I don't regret avoiding the Milner-Barry Gambit! Sound or unsound, it would have put my opponent in his comfort zone, and I feel sure there would have been only one outcome! My 6...f5 was rubbish, but I think it is better for White to resist the en passant capture. Milner-Barry didn't fancy that - probably because it restricted his bishop, which he wanted to mate me with! - so I got an even game (I think).

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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by PeterFarr » Sat Sep 26, 2015 11:00 am

Gordon Cadden wrote:The Bletchley chess team that played Oxford University on 2nd. December, 1945. 1. C.H.O'D Alexander 2. H. Golombek 3. Dr J.M. Aitken 4. Dr I.J. Good 5. N.A. Perkins 6. Sgt. Jacobs (US Army) 7. Sgt. Gilbert 8. M.A. Chamberlain 9. P.J. Hilton 10. W.R. Cox 11. D. Rees 12. Lt. A. Levinson (US Army) We know that Alexander and Golombek were involved with breaking the enigma code, but what about the other chess players on this list.
Dr Aitken was in Hut 6 I believe, though I can't immediately source that. I presume he stayed on after the war, as he lived in or near Cheltenham and played for the Cheltenham club - I recall seeing him there in the late 70's, still a strong player.

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Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sat Sep 26, 2015 12:39 pm

Aitken played in the 1983 BCF Veterans Championship not long before he died - he still had a grading in the 170s.
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