GPO Research Station Dollis Hill

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Dollis Hill masts

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Dollis Hill masts

GPO Research Station masts, Dollis Hill: 1964.

Agfa Silette, Tri-X, Unitol.

Taken not long after I started work at Dollis Hill. I was still a bit in awe of the place, having signed the Official Secrets Act at the start of my employment, and although this was taken from Vincent Gardens at the back (west) of the site, I almost expected a security man to jump out and collar me for taking a photograph of an Official Installation.

Many of those at I met at DH had worked there during WWII, and one of the tales I heard was of a Spitfire flying under the wire (not visible here) suspended between the tops of the masts. Must have been pretty close to the rooftops! Much later, I discovered that some of my colleagues at DH had worked on Colossus, but they said nothing about it until after stuff began to be published in the 1980s.

The start of Colossus

Letter Newman to Travis

This is a copy of a Minute written from Professor Max Newman to the Director of the Government Code & Cypher School (predecessor of GCHQ) at Bletchley Park on 1 March 1943 and is used by permission of the Director, GCHQ; Crown Copyright Reserved.

This is absolutely nothing to do with aviation but is a unique document in the history of computing. In effect it is a specification “5000 valves and 2500 relays” and purchase order “that is what I recommend should be done” for the world's first programmable digital computer - the 16kW room-heater with useful side-effects that became known (to only a very select circle, until 40 years later) as Colossus.

What's this historic document doing here? The GCHQ historian was giving a talk to a local organisation and mentioned that they had few photographs of Dollis Hill in their own archives. I offered some of my own pictures and in return he gave me a copy of this document. You can see another facsimile of the original document beside the Colossus replica at Bletchley Park.

Dollis Hill Main Research Block

Dollis Hill from Gladstone Park

GPO Research Station, Dollis Hill from Gladstone Park: 1975 02 28.

Rolleiflex 3.5 MX-EVS, Orwo NP15, Acutol 1+10, 5 minutes 30 sec at 20 degrees C.

Taken from Gladstone Park, looking across Dollis Hill Lane at the front of the Main Research Block. To the right of the picture is Rosecroft Gardens, aligned with the central entrance to the block, and Hillcrest Gardens to the left aligns with 3 buildings not well separated from this angle. In front there is the single-storey South Radio Block where I worked for a time, a 2-storey building (with what looks like a shed on top) where secret stuff happened, and the Main Radio Block beyond. The poplar trees surround the pond, which was fed by one of Dollis Hill's springs. The masts (which would have been on the left in this view) have disappeared by this time, a victim of health & safety legislation. The ladders on the masts had no enclosing hoops, and it was deemed uneconomic to fit them.

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