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Photograph of British cryptoanalysts Harry Hinsley, Sir Edward Travis, and John Tiltman in Washington, November 1945

Sir Edward Wilfred Harry Travis KCMG CBE (24 September 1888 – 23 April 1956) was a British cryptographer and intelligence officer, becoming the operational head of Bletchley Park during World War II, and later the head of GCHQ.


Educated locally in Blackheath, Travis joined the Royal Navy in 1906 as a Paymaster officer, and served on HMS Iron Duke.[1] From 1916 to 1918, he worked on Navy cyphers. He retired in the 1920s, having reached the rank of Paymaster Commander.

By 1925, he was in charge of security at the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) and deputy to Alastair Denniston.[1] Travis replaced Denniston as the operational head of Bletchley Park in February 1942, although both took the title of Deputy Director.[1] This may have happened because in October 1941 four senior cryptanalysts, Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander, and Stuart Milner-Barry had written directly to Churchill, over the head of Denniston, to alert Churchill to the fact that a shortage of staff at Bletchley Park was preventing them from deciphering many messages, to the detriment of the war effort. These cryptanalysts, known as the Wicked Uncles, had also praised the "energy and foresight" of Commander Travis while omitting mention of Denniston.[2] However, Christopher Grey notes that other factors also contributed to Travis' promotion, including a personality clash between Denniston and Stewart Menzies, the Director of the Government Code and Cypher School and the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, as well as an ongoing and unresolved management crisis in Hut 3.[3] Turing's biographer says that after the change, Travis "presided over an administrative revolution" reconciling the management structure to the production process.[4]

Travis was involved with William Friedman in working on the 1943 BRUSA Agreement and the subsequent 1946 UKUSA Agreement. Travis remained head of the post-war successor to GCCS, GCHQ, and served as its director until 15 April 1952, when he was replaced by Eric Jones.[1]

Travis was appointed CBE in 1936, and KCMG in June 1944.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Edward Travis at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ Christopher Grey, Decoding Organization: Bletchley Park, Codebreaking and Organization Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 91-92.
  3. ^ Grey, Decoding Organization, pp. 91-92.
  4. ^ Hodges, Andrew (1983 & 1992). Alan Turing: The Enigma. Vintage. pp. 219–223. Check date values in: |date= (help)
Government offices
Preceded by
Alastair Denniston
Deputy Director (Services) of GC&CS,
later Director of GC&CS,
later Director of GCHQ
February 1942 – 15 April 1952
Succeeded by
Sir Clive Loehnis