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Cracking the Luftwaffe Codes: The Secrets of Bletchley Park

Cracking the Luftwaffe Codes: The Secrets of Bletchley Park

by Gwen Watkins


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’An intriguing page-turning and personal account of that most secretive of wartime institutions, Bletchley Park, and of the often eccentric people who helped to win the war’ – Beryl Bainbridge

Bletchley Park, or 'Station X', was home to the most famous code breakers of the Second World War. The 19th-century mansion was the key center for cracking German, Italian and Japanese codes, providing the allies with vital information. After the war, many intercepts, traffic-slips and paperwork were burned (allegedly at Churchill's behest). The truth about Bletchley was not revealed until F. Winterbotham's The Ultra Secret was published in 1974.

However, nothing until now has been written on the German Air Section. In Cracking the Luftwaffe Codes, former WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) Gwen Watkins brings to life the reality of this crucial division.

In a highly informative, lyrical account, she details her eventful interview, eventual appointment at the 'the biggest lunatic asylum in Britain', methods for cracking codes, the day-to-day routine and decommissioning of her section.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781848326828
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 02/19/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 4.80(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Gwen Watkins served at Bletchley Park in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

WWII History Magazine, January 2007

"Written by a member of the cryptographic staff at the British codebreaking center at Bletchley Park, this eminently fascinating inside story is an account of the many diverse personalities involved in the complex, highly classified operation and the invaluable service they performed for the Allies. It was not until 1974 that Bletchley Park's activities were even detailed for the public.

"The author, then a sergeant in the British Women's Auxiliary Air Force, brings to life the reality of the German Air Section at BP, as the center was known, the first-ever account of this crucial department. In a highly informative and lyrical account, she details her eventful interview, her eventual appointment at the 'biggest lunatic asylum in Britain," methods empoloyed to crack the maddeningly difficult codes, the day-to-day operations at the center, and the decommisssioning of her section at war's end.

"Cracking the Luftwaffe Codes is much more readable than Leo Mark's Between Silk and Cyanide, which told basically the same story, but not as well. Watkins' tale is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish."

“Any reader seeking information on the top secret technology of cracking ciphers in WW2 had best look elsewhere. This delightful read is more of a social history of the British at war and a social commentary of the times than actual dramatic code cracking. The compartmentalization of the various sections at BP is emphasized as well as the seemingly pointless sifting of intercepted enemy radio traffic.” — Sid Wigzell

Cryptologia, February 2007

“Watkins has written an interesting book that should appeal to anyone interested in World War II, code-breaking, or simply looking for a good-read.”

Naval Intelliegence Professional Quarterly

“Most Naval Intelligence Professionals - even those particularly interested in codebreaking - would probably avoid a book on breaking Luftwaffe codes. In this instance that would be a great mistake…there have been scores of books recounting the British codebreaking activities during World War II at BletchleyPark, a private estate some 50 miles north of London. But Cracking the Luftwaffe Codes is different. It is the personal account of Miss Gwen Davies who, as an 18-year-old sergeant in the Royal Air Force WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force), was ordered to Bletchley Park in the summer of 1942…We are told about the process and procedure for cracking the German Air Force codes. But more interesting to this reviewer is the author's descriptions of the people with whom she worked, the famous 'huts' in which the codebreakers worked, their accommodations (in private homes and then in barracks), their social life, and, especially, their food. The appendix 'Food at Bletchley' is particularly fascinating, and gives lie to the popular novel Enigma by Robert Harris (1995), which claimed to be an accurate view of the workings and culinary privations of Bletchley Park.

“Miss Davies had an excellent memory for words and a gift for languages, making her a useful participant in the codebreaking effort. She was one of thousands of British and American codebreakers who made contributions to the Allied victory in World War II - often one word at a time.”

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