Thomas Flowers and the class of 1933

Amongst the University of London students who graduated in 1933 was Thomas Harold Flowers. Flowers is remembered today for playing a crucial role in code-breaking efforts during the Second World War. He was the architect of Colossus, the giant electronic computer which used 2,400 valves and was brought into service at Bletchley Park in June 1944. Colossus immediately proved its worth. Eisenhower and his staff had a crucial meeting on 5 June 1944 during which a courier handed Eisenhower a decrypted German message. This confirmed that Hitler had ordered no additional troops to Normandy. Eisenhower handed back the decrypt and told his staff “we go tomorrow”.


Colossus, circa 1943

Colossus had already made a significant impact by this point. A decoded report from Field Marshall Rommel on the western defences revealed that one of the sites chosen as the drop site for an US parachute division was in fact the base for a German tank division. Nor surprisingly, the site was changed.

Thomas Flowers was born in the East End of London in 1905. His connection with the University of London began when he registered at Woolwich Polytechnic in September 1922. He passed the intermediate exam in engineering as an external student in 1925 and left Woolwich after the academic session 1925-6. Flowers registered at Northampton Polytechnic Institute in September 1928 and went on to gain a first class honours degree in engineering as an internal student.

Students at Presentation Day, 1930 (reference UoL/FG/5/2)

Students at Presentation Day, 1930 (reference UoL/FG/5/2)

The list of University of London graduates of 1933 has just been added to the University of London students webpage, which now includes lists of students 1836-1933.


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