This is a most interesting book, both for its content and the way in which the autobiography has been salvaged and updated by Vickers’ commentary. Blinker Hall was one of the great heroes of WWI but almost totally unknown because he was Director Naval Intelligence – Most Highly Recommended.
NAME: A Clear Case of Genius, Room 40's Code-breaking Pioneer, Admiral Sir Reginald 'Blinker' Hall FILE: R2585 AUTHOR: Admiral Sir Reginald 'Blinker' Hill, Philip Vickers PUBLISHER: The History Press BINDING: hard back PAGES: 224 PRICE: £20.00 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: WWII, World War One, World War 1, First World War, The Great War, intelligence, code-breaking, USA, Zimmermann Telegram, Royal Navy, Sigint, radio intercepts, telegraphic intercepts ISBN: 978-0-7509-8265-8 IMAGE: B2585.jpg BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/yc83yvtr LINKS: DESCRIPTION: This is a most interesting book, both for its content and the way in which the autobiography has been salvaged and updated by Vickers' commentary. Blinker Hall was one of the great heroes of WWI but almost totally unknown because he was Director Naval Intelligence – Most Highly Recommended. This is a very valuable book because the work and achievements of British intelligence during WWI are even less visible than in WWII. The secret work of BCCS and Bletchley Park was maintained until the 1970s when an author was permitted to have his book about the work published. This was probably a major error by MoDSy in clearing the text and it opened the flood gates to books and video. With the welter of books about Bletchley Park and associated topics during the last few years, the real pioneers of British code-breaking are known partially and to very few people. One reason for that was probably that, until the 1970s, Britons in intelligence work knew how to keep a secret. Then WWII documents started to be de-classified and spark a rush of research. By then, WWI was a distant memory and largely confined to the Western Front, Gallipoli and Jutland. That is incredible because one man was the key element in winning the Great War. The Royal Navy pioneered modern intelligence gathering and processing. The Directorate Naval Intelligence was the first professional intelligence organization to understand the vulnerabilities and opportunities of the rush of invention from the mid 19th Century. It was uniquely placed because it was in effect the projection of Great Britain and the British Empire to the World, the greatest navy of the greatest empire. RN involvement in intelligence goes back very much further. However, the dramatic change point was the telegraph as the first of the generations of electronic communications systems. Before that, the RN had depended on fast cutters and semaphore to provide long range communications. That inevitably meant that important orders could take months to reach distant warships, requiring captains to make enormously important decisions on the spot and hoping that the decisions were not flawed by a lack of critical up-to-date information from the Admiralty. Equally, very important intelligence from a distant captain would take months to reach the Admiralty with the semaphore system connecting Portsmouth to London speeding the last few miles. The telegraph continued the traditions of the semaphore but spanned continents and oceans, carrying messages between forwarding stations at the speed of light. Telegraph codes were required to speed the process of keying the messages. The codes were known to many and eventually International Morse Code emerged as a global code system, making communication more reliable but also making it visible to a great many people who obtained unauthorized access to a message at some point in the system. The basic problem was that locations around the world were linked by forwarding stations where cables from cables from many places came together. At these points an incoming message would be printed and then resent by an operator over the next length of cable towards the intended destination. Eventually, that was replaced by 'store and forward' stations where an incoming message was printed as a punched paper tape. That tape was then torn off, taken to a punch reader connected to another cable and automatically read and transmitted, a system that was still in use well into the computer age. The result was that military and diplomatic organizations began to develop codes and cyphers that would then be further encoded with 'public' telegraph codes. This in turn created the requirement to set up code breaking units and find ways of intercepting messages that could then have their code broken. The first radio transmitters used telegraphy rather than speech, basically because speech required more technology and radio bandwidth. The result was that radio provided a means to communication directly between two points, either or both of which might be moving. Wire telegraph practices were then copied, setting a familiar system of preparing and sending messages. Inevitably, it meant that some 'store and forward' stations had both wireless telegraphy transceivers and wire telegraphic equipment. The Royal Navy was quickly realized that although radio communication answered so many prayers for command and control of naval vessels, it also created a very big danger. Anyone, anywhere, with a radio receiver could intercept messages without the senders being aware of this. Intercepted messages could be decoded by code-breakers, but radio activity itself betrayed possible military actions. The Royal Navy accordingly set up its own radio intercept stations at a number of places. Not only could these stations copy transmissions between others, but they could triangulate on the transmitters to identify the locations of the transmitters. The other side of the coin was that the RN began to develop and frequently change the codes they used, and to introduce a strict method of using their own transceivers aboard ship and on land. This included using only visual systems between ships in company or close offshore, while maintaining radio silence. When transmissions were necessary strict discipline was maintained, encrypting most signals and keeping the transmissions a short as possible. All of this understanding and skill was fed into DNI and Naval Intelligence began setting up teams and procedures to take full advantage of enemy communications. All of this capability continued to be refined and updated after 1918, through WWII and on through the Cold War. It remains the basis of British intelligence and of intelligence services around the world, explaining why so much has remained secret for so long. This book provides a fascinating glimpse and it also features strongly one of many great DNI intelligence coups. Blinker Hall and his teams were responsible for the Zimmermann Telegram interception, its decoding and its transmission by Britain to the USA. That telegram was the critical point at which the USA was brought into WWI and it ensured victory for Britain, the Commonwealth and their Allies over Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This is a great read and includes some fascinating images in the photo plate section.