Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park

The subtitle of this book written by Sinclair McKay is The WWII codebreaking centre and the men and women who lived there.

Recently we saw the film, The Imitation Game, which is largely about Alan Turing, one of the codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. ABC2 has also shown the British television mystery series, The Bletchley Circle, set in the early 1950s where a group of women who had worked at Bletchley Park use there codebreaking skills to solve crime.

Bletchley Park was an establishment set up at the end of the 1930s with the aim of collecting together a team of people to work on breaking the coded messages of enemy forces, primarily German messages. Eventually thousands of men and women worked at Blatchley Park and before they were employed they all had to sign the Official Secrets Act. They were not allowed to discuss their work with anyone not working within their section and could definitely not tell family and friends what they were doing at Bletchley Park. This secrecy continued until the early 1970s.

In this book, published in 2010, the author uses interviews with a selection of staff who worked at Bletchley Park to help tell the story of this large establishment. Some of the more famous people such as Alan Turing, Dilly Knox and Alistair Denniston (to name a few) are mentioned throughout the book but the story told tries to cover the work in the many sections of the organisation and investigates how the lives of the staff were affected by living in a world of secrecy. Much of the information relating to the work of the codebreakers was destroyed once the war was over so the author has to rely, to a large extent, on the memories of those involved. In sections there is repetition of some of the stories and I found myself skim reading parts of the book, however if you are interested in this important aspect of World War II it is a good book to read.

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