Cheltenham, Severn Vale 2015
In 1976 an article in Time Out magazine revealed the existence of The Government Communications Headquarters, (GCHQ) even though it was founded in 1919. GCHQ was formed during the First World War and was originally called ‘Government Code and Cyber School’, (GC&CS) with the function to advise all Government departments on codes and cyphers, and to also study cypher communications of foreign powers. During the Second World War, GC&CS was based at Bletchley Park and famously decoded the German Enigma code.
GC&CS was renamed GCHQ in 1946, and in 1951 moved to Cheltenham at two sites Oakley and Benhall. Even though the organisation was outed, it didn’t attract much media attention until 1983, with the trail of KGB spy Geoffrey Prime.
In 2004 the organisation moved into a modern HQ know as “The Doughnut” that became the base for GCHQ in Cheltenham. When built it was the second-largest public-sector building in Europe, and was the largest building for secret intelligence operations outside of the USA, and cost an estimated £330 million. The building houses 5,500 employees, making GCHQ the single largest employer in Gloucestershire. Even with such a large building it was too small for the staff numbers, so there is a second building in a secret and undisclosed location within the ‘Gloucestershire area’.