Secret Days, Codebreaking in Bletchley Park

With the ending of the Cold War, an increasing number of accounts 
of work at Bletchley Park and its out-stations has been published. 
The author has produced a graphic human presentation of life at 
Bletchley Park and is one of the last surviving codebreakers of 
Hut 6. Most highly recommended.

NAME: Secret Days, Codebreaking in Bletchley Park
FILE: R2382
AUTHOR:  Asa Briggs
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, frontline
BINDING: soft back 
PAGES:  202
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: British School of Codes and Cyphers, Bletchley Park, Enigma, 
Ultra, Anglo-American code-breaking, Hut 6, secrecy, Cold War, WWII, 
Second World War, World War Two, intercepts, traffic analysis, pattern 
analysis, threat analysis
ISBN: 978-1-84832-662-0
IMAGE: B2382.jpg
LINKS: Current Discount Offers 
DESCRIPTION: With the ending of the Cold War, an increasing number of 
accounts of work at Bletchley Park and its out-stations has been 
published. The author has produced a graphic human presentation of 
life at Bletchley Park and is one of the last surviving codebreakers 
of Hut 6. Most highly recommended.

Great Britain had been a very early developer of traffic analysis, 
using radio/wireless intercepts. The Royal Navy had established a 
number of radio sites before the outbreak of World War Two. These 
sites monitored radio traffic from across the world and were able 
to locate the position of a transmitter, on land or aboard ship, 
by triangulation. At that time, transmissions were wireless 
telegraphy, using one of a number of standard code systems, such as 
Morse code. This was not intended to prevent a signal being read, 
but rather to provide a published standard code that could enable 
radio operators to transmit and receive quickly, and to understand 
the signal. During the efforts to rescue survivors of the Titanic 
tragedy, there are claims that efforts were delayed by 
misunderstandings resulting from some ships using American Morse 
and others using the form taught by Marconi to merchant shipping 
operators that became International Morse Code.

The Royal Navy had no specific code-breakers at that time and, as 
encryption was employed for military and covert operations wireless 
transmissions, this meant that they were frequently unable to decode 
the precise meaning of intercepted traffic. However, they learned 
much by locating the position of a transmitter and from seeing the 
relative volume of transmissions. Using these techniques, the Royal 
Navy was able to know in advance that the German High Seas Fleet was 
intending to sale en mass for what was to become the Battle of 
Jutland. Without that knowledge the battle might have been fought 
close to the British Fleet at Scapa Flow and even resulted in 
bombardment of British ships at anchor.

Taking the Royal Navy's experiences of early traffic analysis, the 
BSCC was established and expanded after WWI. The objective was to 
build a cadre of specialists who would be able to break enemy codes 
and learn far 
more from signal intercepts. By WWII, the British had developed a 
capability that today would be called Sigint and Elint. This 
required a network of intercept stations that were assigned to 
monitor all available frequencies, both for transmissions between 
enemy locations, Signals Intelligence, and to search for radar 
transmissions, Electronic Intelligence. In the case of the later, 
this was to enable the British to develop 'Window' which was metal 
foil strips of the wavelength of German radar that would be dropped 
by bombers to blank out the radar set on the ground and in night 
fighters. Increasing use was made of ships and aircraft as intercept 

Also, before WWII, Polish intelligence had learned of the German 
Enigma machines that were being used to produce very strong 
encryption and description for their radio transmissions. The Poles 
managed to acquire some enigma machines and provided examples to the 
British. This was a vital head start and key to the breaking of 
Enigma enabling the British to learn in detail what the Germans were 
doing, strategically and tactically.

Naturally, all of this work was highly secret and even within the 
British code-breaking operations very few people had anything like a 
full picture of the capabilities and the content of the German 
signals. This extended to the use of the highly sensitive material. 
The British might know in advance of a U-boat attack on a convoy and 
the progress once the attack started. However, if they responded, on 
the basis of this intelligence, they could disclose to the enemy that 
they had broken their codes, prompting a code change. As a result, 
painful choices had to be made and this led to higher ship losses, 
but an acceptable price to pay to preserve the secret of the code 

The author has personal direct experience of the work in Hut 6 
Bletchley Park and the advantage that much of the Enigma code-breaking 
work has now been de-classified. He provides an absorbing account of 
the work within his experience and provided a wider picture from 
detailed research, but this is a valuable partial account. He kept 
his secrets until the 1970s and the whistle blower was a very rare 
bird in an age of patriotism and honour. This book is the first time 
that he wrote about his work in Hut 6.

In today's world of widespread multi-format communication, the 
whistle-blower is rampant, which may make it difficult for readers 
today to fully understand how people are happy to betray friends, 
country and anyone for the flimsiest of reasons and, equally, may 
make it difficult for readers today to understand how people like 
the author so loyally preserved secrets even from close family for 
most of their lives, or why they now share their experiences.

Four sisters were an example of this trust and honour. One, a 
mathematician, worked in the US on the Manhattan Project designing 
and building the first plutonium bomb. The second sister, also a 
mathematician worked at Bletchley Park as a code breaker and on the 
first electronic computers used there to automate signals processing. 
The third, a physicist, worked in Britain on development that led to 
the British hydrogen bomb. The forth, a party girl, flew warplanes 
from trainers to Spitfires to heavy bombers with the ATA. None of 
them knew during WWII what the others were doing. The ATA pilot was 
the first share her war experiences, the others not until the 1970s. 
Hardest was for the second sister, who married an American intelligence 
officer and moved to the US. She had to put up with the Americans 
crowing about inventing the electronic computer years after she had 
worked on the real firsts developed and built in Great Britain but 
which she had promise not to talk about.

This welcome book lifts the lid on intriguing secrets from WWII 
which continued to be sensitive as Britain had to decode Russian 
traffic through the Cold War. The excellent text is supported by 
photo-plate sections including one with full colour images.