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Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park

by F. H. Hinsley (Editor), Alan Stripp (Editor)

Other authors: Rolf Noskwith (Contributor)

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359252,548 (3.72)8
With many colourful anecdotes and vivid descriptions, this is the first authentic account of daily life at Government Communications Headquarters, Bletchley Park, the most successful intelligence agency in history. Described by Churchill as the 'secret weapon' that 'won the war', the men andwomen of Bletchley Park here combine to write their story in full.This book gives fascinating insights into recruitment and training, together with a full and accurate account of codes and ciphers and how they are broken.… (more)

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What a fascinating look behind the scenes at the famous Bletchley Park, where German and Japanese codes were broken to help the Allies win the war.

I admit going in to this that I hoped that each of the thirty stories would have some "I was there at a famous moment" anecdotes. But most talked about the monotony of working at a place that they couldn't tell anyone -- wives, husbands, parents, children -- about. A few made sure to point out how they felt overworked and underpaid throughout the war effort (which, of course, was longer in Europe than we Americans remember it being!). A couple of the stories were incredibly detailed, including one that provided a schematic with relays and switches showing how they built an Enigma-breaker. There were a few recollections that repeated some information, but it never felt duplicative or tedious.

The editors ended the book in a strange way: they saved the last essay for a woman -- one of several interviewed in the book, which was also impressive -- who just couldn't stand working in such a secretive place and doing nothing (so she thought), so she figured out a way to leave!

I was slightly disappointed that so few people remembered any significant moments (or even never-before-revealed secrets) during that period, although upon reflection, I probably can't remember all that many moments that would impress outsiders during the last five-plus years at my workplace. (There were a handful, though, and those were interesting, including the one who figured out the Japanese were creating a brand-new term during their surrender.)

You might learn a bit more about the specifics of German and Japanese codes by a book more concentrated on cryptography (like Kahn's famous Codebreakers), but this is a good read for those wanting to know how "normal" people functioned during World War II.

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LT Haiku:

Some codebreakers at
famous park share their stories
about secret work. ( )
  legallypuzzled | Nov 19, 2015 |
An entertaining and exciting journey back to the world of Bletchley Park during the war. After reading so many antiseptic retellings of the story, I was very pleased to read this very personal and human account. Hinsley tells the history, but also the very engaging stories of the people who made it. ( )
1 vote Oreillynsf | May 23, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hinsley, F. H.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stripp, AlanEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Noskwith, RolfContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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DOC NOTE, I DISSENT. A FAST NEVER PREVENTS A FATNESS. I DIET ON COD. (A palindrome by Peter Hilton, pp. 160)
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With many colourful anecdotes and vivid descriptions, this is the first authentic account of daily life at Government Communications Headquarters, Bletchley Park, the most successful intelligence agency in history. Described by Churchill as the 'secret weapon' that 'won the war', the men andwomen of Bletchley Park here combine to write their story in full.This book gives fascinating insights into recruitment and training, together with a full and accurate account of codes and ciphers and how they are broken.

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Some codebreakers at

famous park share their stories

about secret work.

(legallypuzzled)

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