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Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2015 7:05 pm
by IanCalvert
The BBC programme on Weichman at Bletchley Park on Monday 9.00 p.m. mentioned he shared an office with the late, great Stuart Milner-Barry.

My vague recollection, from an obituary somewhere, is that Stuart hand delivered the request ,which he co-authored, to Churchill for more resources early in the war and that Stuart mentioned, possibly in jest given his later HMT career, that this massive budget increase demand was his most important WWII contribution. Can anyone confirm this?

Do the scores of any Bletchley chess games from that period survive? Given his comments in "Graph Theory As I Have Known It" Bill Tutte might well also have played.

Given the modern focus on celebrity, and Stuart's appearance on the C4 Bandung File programme about Mir Sultan Khan, I can't help thinking that British chess might be well served by some , possibly inaccurate, programme about Bletchley chess players that Stuart ,at least, would not have disapproved of.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2015 8:55 pm
by Brian Denman
In the following game Harry Golombek is playing for Bletchley CC. I do not know if he had any connection with Bletchley Park:


Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2015 9:27 pm
by Neill Cooper
Harry Golombek, like Milner-Barry and C. H. O'D. Alexander, was indeed at Bletchley Park during the war.

"On the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Golombek was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, competing in the Chess Olympiad for Britain alongside C. H. O'D. Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. They immediately returned to the UK, and were soon recruited into Bletchley Park, the wartime codebreaking centre. Golombek worked in Hut 8, the section responsible for solving German Naval Enigma, moving to another section in October/November 1942." From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Golombek

There is a photograph of Golobmek outside my school classroom, as he is an Old WIlsonian.

According to the recent film 'The Imitation Game' (about Alan Turing) is was Hugh Alexander, not Milner-Barry, who went to Churchill to ask for more money.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2015 11:04 pm
by IanCalvert
Neill Cooper wrote:According to the recent film 'The Imitation Game' (about Alan Turing) is was Hugh Alexander, not Milner-Barry, who went to Churchill to ask for more money.
Thanks Neill and Brian.

Since posting I checked Sinclair McKay's (2010) book on Bletchley Park, page161 has the PM letter, p162 the story mentioning Milner- Barry. Sinclair Mckay was the historian in the BBC programme on Monday. However my vague memory of the Milner-Barry story is from his obituary in one of Telegraph, Guardian, Independent or Times.

I am a former Civil Servant who played on a adjacent Civil Service board for several years before his death. He was a likeable man in old age.

From a chess perspective , I am not sure , given their post -war achievements, who is credited with what matters much. I just think chess-players interested in history might focus on Bletchley a little more, if only for PR reasons.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2015 11:08 pm
by John Upham
Brian Denman wrote:In the following game Harry Golombek is playing for Bletchley CC. I do not know if he had any connection with Bletchley Park:
I met "Kappa" Cornforth (a number of times) as an undergraduate at The University of Sussex doing a BSc. in Chemical Physics. He was profoundly deaf and worked (at that time) in The Unit of Nitrogen Fixation which was loosely coupled with the School of Molecular Sciences. He regularly drank tea in the MOLS common room with the riff-raff of under and post graduates.

A most charming fellow and one of Sussex's Nobel laureates.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Wed Sep 09, 2015 11:30 pm
by Brian Denman
I wrote a chess obituary for Professor Cornforth last year. It was published in the Sussex Chess News for 2014, which can still be accessed on line.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 10:59 am
by Kevin Thurlow
"My vague recollection, from an obituary somewhere, is that Stuart hand delivered the request ,which he co-authored, to Churchill for more resources early in the war and that Stuart mentioned, possibly in jest given his later HMT career, that this massive budget increase demand was his most important WWII contribution. Can anyone confirm this?"

Yes

"The Imitation Game" was a really entertaining film but had a number or errors. It is common for films to change things like that, or to merge characters. E.g. there was more than one woman working at BP! Did they really chat about their work at the local pub? No. When students were based in BP the 70s, they had no idea what had happened at BP. There were rumours it had been used as an interrogation centre.

"The Unit of Nitrogen Fixation " is a great title.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 11:05 am
by Roger de Coverly
Kevin Thurlow wrote: When students were based in BP the 70s, they had no idea what had happened at BP. There were rumours it had been used as an interrogation centre.
In a way BH Wood gave the game away in 1944, when he published details of a match between BP and Oxford University. What were many of the top British chess players all doing in the same place? But it was never followed up. Alexander was banned from playing in Olympiads when they were in Eastern Europe, but Golombek was not regarded as a security risk.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 2:25 pm
by JustinHorton
Roger de Coverly wrote: Alexander was banned from playing in Olympiads when they were in Eastern Europe,
I didn't know that.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 3:48 pm
by John Saunders
Roger de Coverly wrote: In a way BH Wood gave the game away in 1944, when he published details of a match between BP and Oxford University. What were many of the top British chess players all doing in the same place? But it was never followed up. Alexander was banned from playing in Olympiads when they were in Eastern Europe, but Golombek was not regarded as a security risk.
Couple of minor inaccuracies here: for one thing, though the match happened on 2 December 1944, the article appeared in the February 1945 issue of the magazine, by which time the German war was slightly more 'won'. (A similar article, but minus the photo, appeared in the February 1945 BCM.) And Oxford University's opponents were referred to as 'Bletchley Chess Club' rather than 'Bletchley Park' (which might have made it a bit too easy for the Luftwaffe's bomb aimers - assuming that German military intelligence had sufficiently good taste to subscribe to UK chess magazines. Incidentally, I checked and there was no mention of the match in either the Times or the Manchester Guardian.)

It did strike me as a bit odd that a large group of code-crackers should be able to get leave at the same time to travel to Oxford to play in a chess match but I note that the match was played on a Saturday and that Bletchley had a much better cross-country train service in 1944 than it has in 2015 and a round trip might be accomplished well within a day.

I referred to this match, and reprinted the photo of the players, in my article about chess in the 1940s, in CHESS, February 2011, since when the article has been reprinted at the ChessBase website.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 4:36 pm
by IanCalvert
John Saunders wrote:It did strike me as a bit odd that a large group of code-crackers should be able to get leave at the same time to travel to Oxford to play in a chess match but I note that the match was played on a Saturday and that Bletchley had a much better cross-country train service in 1944 than it has in 2015
Interesting John , I assume this is the only match report surviving. Presumably there was some , doubtless organised if existant , chess activity at Bletchley between 1939 and 1944. If so, presumably Chess or BCM provided equipment??

Given that mathematical research can be like banging your head against a wall, encouraging young mathematicians to play chess or bridge in the pressured environment of Bletchley might (conceivably) sometimes be appropriate.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 4:53 pm
by Gerard Killoran
JustinHorton wrote:
Roger de Coverly wrote: Alexander was banned from playing in Olympiads when they were in Eastern Europe,
I didn't know that.
Why were both Golombek and Milner-Barry allowed to play in Moscow 1956?

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 5:06 pm
by PeterFarr
Gerard Killoran wrote:
Why were both Golombek and Milner-Barry allowed to play in Moscow 1956?
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?

I'm inclined to agree with Kevin about 'The Imitation Game'; entertaining but not terribly plausible in many respects.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 5:10 pm
by Roger de Coverly
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.

Re: Stuart Milner-Barry, Messenger & Chess Player

Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 5:11 pm
by Mike Gunn
Bletchley was, of course, a stop on the Oxford to Cambridge line.

When I was looking at the old minute books of the Guildord Chess Club (they go back to 1896) I noticed that all the matches against other clubs were for clubs that had direct rail connections to Guildford (at that time).