The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park

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by Sinclair McKay
     
 

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Go behind the scenes of the top-secret setting of The Imitation Game

A remarkable look at day-to-day life of the codebreakers whose clandestine efforts helped win World War II

Bletchley Park looked like any other sprawling country estate. In reality, however, it was the top-secret headquarters of Britain’s Government Code and Cypher

Overview

Go behind the scenes of the top-secret setting of The Imitation Game

A remarkable look at day-to-day life of the codebreakers whose clandestine efforts helped win World War II

Bletchley Park looked like any other sprawling country estate. In reality, however, it was the top-secret headquarters of Britain’s Government Code and Cypher School—and the site where Germany’s legendary Enigma code was finally cracked. There, the nation’s most brilliant mathematical minds—including Alan Turing, whose discoveries at Bletchley would fuel the birth of modern computing—toiled alongside debutantes, factory workers, and students on projects of international importance. Until now, little has been revealed about ordinary life at this extraordinary facility. Drawing on remarkable first-hand interviews, The Secret Lives of Codebreakers reveals the entertainments, pastimes, and furtive romances that helped ease the incredible pressures faced by these covert operatives as they worked to turn the tide of World War II.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
McKay introduces readers to the bustling world of Bletchley Park, a facility dedicated to decoding German intelligence during World War II. Bletchley, located 50 miles outside London, featured a mansion with a series of long "huts" and a staff of nearly ten thousand of Britain's best and brightest decrypting around the clock. The work was so secretive workers were forbidden from discussing developments with anyone outside their own hut, much less the outside world. Here, mathematician Alan Turing, along with Gordon Welchman, created the "bombe" machine that mechanized code breaking, and, later, The Colossus, a precursor to the modern computer. McKay shares both Bletchley's many war-time achievements-including the sinkings of the Bismarck, Scharnhorst, and Tirpitz-and controversies, like that concerning Churchill's awareness of an impending Luftwaffe air raids on industrial West Midlands cities. Bletchley was also a cultural and romantic melting pot where military and civilians mixed, social class was irrelevant and there were plays, dances, and musical performances; many people even met their future spouses there. McKay brings the Park and its inhabitants to life in this compelling history of Britain's best kept secret of World War II.
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From the Publisher
"McKay's book is an eloquent tribute to a quite remarkable group of men and women, whose like we will not see again." - Mail On Sunday

"Five stars." - Sunday Telegraph

Library Journal
Bletchley Park, in rural Buckinghamshire, England, was the estate that became the World War II headquarters for the Government Code & Cypher School, where British experts deciphered German communications, including those encrypted by the Enigma coding machine. UK journalist McKay presents a sociological history of the scientists, engineers, and other academics ("boffins") thrown together at Bletchley Park with debutantes and ordinary workers, all with a common goal. McKay draws on oral histories and interviews with those who were there to present stories of culture conflict, intense pressure and arguments, off-duty life, cramped working and living conditions, and relatively lax recruitment and security procedures. He also touches on administrative battles over funds and staffing, particularly for the women who kept the complicated organization running smoothly. This conglomeration of characters produced vital military intelligence for the Allies, while also, in the person of men like Alan Turing, laying foundation stones for the field of computer science. VERDICT An enjoyable book for aficionados of intelligence history or the human aspect of the critical work recounted in F.W. Hinsley and A. Stripp's Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park.—Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL
Kirkus Reviews
A detailed, well-researched account of the people who ran the top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, whose work helped the Allies win World War II. President Eisenhower once said that the work of the British codebreakers "shortened the war by two years." But as Daily Telegraph journalist McKay (Ramble On, 2012, etc) reveals, official recognition has been slow in coming. Some of the participants--e.g., celebrated Cambridge mathematician Alan Turing, would go on to earn notoriety, including official, but always muted, recognition by the British monarchy. Most would go on to lead more or less anonymous lives. McKay notes that a large part of the problem had to do with the fact that, unlike those who had actually fought on the front lines, no one from GC&CS "was allowed to say a single word" about the years they spent deciphering the infamous German Enigma codes. Only after RAF officer and MI6 operative Frederick Winterbotham published a controversial book about the project in 1974, The Ultra Secret, did the veil begin to lift. Rather than attempt to glamorize what the codebreakers did, however, McKay attempts to demystify their world by highlighting the day-to-day realities they faced. With few exceptions, aristocrats mixed with academics, students and factory workers shared the same hardships: small, cramped billets, tasteless food and jobs that were as tedious as they were physically and mentally taxing. Interviews with surviving Bletchley Park veterans offer especially good insight into the remarkably vibrant culture and the ways they survived an invisible, hyperconfined existence on the edge of a world at war. A well-deserved, long-overdue celebration of some unsung heroes of WWII.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101603512
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/25/2012
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
274,977
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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"Five stars." - Sunday Telegraph

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The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a Wren (Women's Royal Naval Service), I worked on this highly secret program during World War II. McKay's book is supplying an accurate and vivid recall of those times. Our vital work, stated to have shortened the war by at least two years, was finally and officially recognized by the British Government in 2009, over sixty years after the end of the war. Bletchley Park is slowly being restored and is a mecca for history buffs. I was proud to have served.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Visited BP last summer and had the privledge to walk the same grounds of these wonderful people.  This book is special.  Sinclair McKay pulls you into their world.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.