Images Of The National Archives: Code Breakers. This is a non-fiction book about the coding and cipher history of the British Secret Service.
Ciphers have been used for hundreds of years with documentation about them starting during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. They continued to be used through the Napoleonic wars and are most famous for their uses during both World Wars and later during the Cold War.
Alongside the easy to read explanations about codes, coding and their differences from a cipher, the author outlines the way coding changed and the impact of Alan Turing’s work at Bletchley during World War Two. The book is also a rich source of black and white images of a wide range of codes, de-coding, photos, letters and maps, many obtained from the National Archives.
I have an interest in the role of spies and have recently read another book about Ian Fleming and his inspiration for the James Bond stories. Several times while reading Code Breakers, familiar names and information about machines, like the German Enigma, cropped up which had me nodding along in recognition. As I said, the subject fascinates me, so I did enjoy this quick and easy read.
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The book reveals the story of British Codebreakers from the reign of Elizabeth I to the Cold War. It explores the use of ciphers during the Napoleonic wars, the role of the Royal Mail’s Secret Office and the activities the Admiralty’s ‘Room 40’ leading to the creation of the Government’s Code and Cypher School. The main theme of the book are the events of the Second World War and the battle to break the German enigma codes. The centre of Britain’s codebreaking operation was located at Bletchley Park in rural Buckinghamshire and it was from here that a hastily assembled army of codebreakers battled to decipher Nazi German’s secret wartime communications. The deciphered high-level signals intelligence was known as Ultra and had a major influence on the outcome of the war, most notably contributing to crucial successes in the battle for the Atlantic and the D-Day landings in June 1944. The book also reveals the work undertaken in the Far-East and the allied efforts to break the Japanese military cipher code named Purple. The book ends with a re-assessment of the work undertaken by the British code breaker and mathematician Alan Turing and a brief overview of the codebreaking operations undertaken by GCHQ during the formative period of the Cold War.