Capt Raymond "Jerry" Roberts MBE 1920-2014
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It is with great sadness that we pass on the news of the death of Capt Raymond "Jerry" Roberts MBE, one of the last surviving Bletchley Park codebreakers.
Capt Roberts was a linguist and became one of the first members of the Testery set up by Major Ralph Tester in 1941. Breaking codes by hand, the Testery successfully deciphered the most complex cipher of the war -- Tunny (Lorenz) -- which was used in communications between Hitler and his generals. This work, later assisted by the Colossus computer, is widely believed to have shortened the war by two years and saved countless lives.
Andy Clark, a trustee of The National Museum of Computing said: "In developing the Tunny and Colossus galleries at TNMOC, Capt Jerry Roberts helped us understand the full picture of how Tunny was broken. He told us not just about the machines, but also about the all-important story of the people.
"He told us that he did not fully appreciate the significance of his work until the early 2000s when the story of Tunny and Colossus began to be released in greater detail. It was then that he started to campaign for recognition of the work of the code-breakers-- not himself, but for Bill Tutte, Tommy Flowers, Alan Turing and others. The energy and effectiveness of his campaigning was a marvel and an inspiration to us all."
Capt Roberts was particularly keen to ensure that the genius of Bill Tutte should be recognised. In what must have been one of his last public statements in January of this year, he was recorded on a video to be shown at TNMOC's celebrations of the seventieth anniversary of Colossus. Aged 93 and unable to come in person, he enthusiastically agreed to make his contribution by video -- much to the delight of everyone at TNMOC. He was videoed at home and delivered his unscripted five-minute talk in one straight take!
In that video, Capt Roberts recalled Bill Tutte in his own inimitable way: "I still remember the day when I was working in the office with Bill Tutte. He was sitting quietly there and I was working on something else. It was only afterwards that I became aware that when he had been twiddling his pencil and staring into the middle distance he was breaking the Tunny system. This is an unbelievable feat. I can't tell you how difficult it was. Tunny was encrypted not once, not twice, but three times. To disentangle that is a work of genius."
Andy Clark continued: "In the Colossus and Tunny Galleries at The National Museum of Computing we aim to continue Capt Jerry Robert's work in telling the story of the breaking of Tunny accurately and engagingly. We hope that we can to do justice to that story in a way that he would approve."
BBC News Online with video of Capt Roberts in 2010 talking about cracking Tunny, Kursk and D-Day decrypts and the role of Colossus
The Independent with a photograph of Capt Roberts in the wartime years
The Daily Telegraph includes two videos clips of Capt Jerry Roberts talking in 2011 about the Testery, the Newmanry and Bill Tutte.
The Times includes tribute by Andy Clark and a striking photograph of Capt Roberts taken in 2009
The New York Times with some anecdotes of language used by Germans using Tunny
and an insight on Jerry's university days from UCL