Code Breakers

...Images of the National Archives, from Pen & Sword

Title: Images of the National Archives Code Breakers
Author: Stephen Twigge
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-1-52673-080-0

This new 132-page soft-cover book from Pen & Sword and the National Archives is presented in the manner we have come to expect in their Images of War series. It focuses on the importance.value of code breaking for the UK Government. While it concentrates on WW2 it does add extra context with some earlier work going back as far as the reign of Elizabeth 1. At the end, the basics of how the work of Bletchley Park was moved on into the early part of the Cold War, and it's eventual move to Cheltenham where GCHQ is now established.
The first of 7 chapters tells us about The Secret Office and Room 40, which includes the work of Lord Walsingham on behalf of Elizabeth 1. As well as the background text, it is illustrated with images of original documents still held in the National Archives. THen it moves on to the formation of the Government Code & Cypher School, which was established in November 1919. That in turn leads into chapter 3, Ultra Goes to War. Ultra, the breaking of the Enigma Code, remained secret until 1974, a remarkable achievement in itself when you think about it. More imahes of once highly secret documents as well as photos of original Bombes, Collosus Computer and Enigma machines. Chapters 4 and 5 look at important areas influenced by the code breakers, in the Battle of the Atlantic and the War in the Far East, the breaking of the Japanese Purple code. That leaves chapter 6 to concentrate on perhaps the most famous of the Code Breakers, Alan Turing. Documents used to iillustrate this one include some which Alan Turing himself made notes on. The final chapter then rounds things off with the post war transfer of the code breakers intelligence efforts to the new GCHQ.
The informative text is accompanied by lots of illustrations from the National Archive collection. I like this for being able to see documents which are otherwise locked away in the archives and usually only seen by a lucky few who can visit. The story of the Code Breakers and Bletchley Park holds a fascination for many since the story became public, and the recent film, The Immitation Game. A very enjoyable addition to the whole Enigma story.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.

Robin