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STATION X The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park

Michael Smith

Hardback - 075-2-221892

When I began guiding at Bletchley Park I found this book useful and still refer to it during my tours.

This book accompanied the Channel 4 programme of the same name and tells the story of Bletchley Park between the years 1938 to 1945. Titled, “Station X The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park”. The name, Station X is the reference used to denote the tenth house taken over by MI6.

The author, Michael Smith, writes on security and defence issues for the Sunday Times and New Statesmen. His service in the Royal Artillery and Intelligence Corp provides an understanding of special operations. His informal writing style presents an easy to read book covering the life and times of the code-breakers at Bletchley Park.

Smith introduces the reader to Bletchley Park’s mock Tutor, Gothic style mansion set in 60 acres of woodlands and gardens, which was once the country home of the wealthy Leon family and soon to become the secret wartime base of the Government Code and Cypher School.

From the initial dummy run in August 1938, under the guise of “Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party”, Smith guides his reader through to 1945 providing an insight into the highs and lows of the code-breakers’ work.

The author explains the workings of the Enigma machine and the processes used by Alan Turing, Hugh Alexander and Dilly Knox as well as the protocols introduced by Gordon Welchman, much of which would continue through to the cold war period and beyond.

He also covers the work done by John Tiltman and Bill Tutte, who in turn broke the Lorenz cipher and reverse engineered the Lorenz machine; Tommy Flowers and the GPO research team at Dollis Hill who helped to develop both the Tunny and Colossus machines enabling the code-breakers to identify the Lorenz machine’s wheel settings and decipher and read the teleprinter traffic between Hitler and the German High Command.

In addition the book is well illustrated containing wartime photographs of Bletchley Park, Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party, Alan Turing, Dilly Knox and Harry Hinsley, amongst others. As would be expected of the author it also provides a compact Source and Index section.

This book is well researched, peppered with personal accounts and memories with the skill of the author bringing wartime history alive. An excellent introductory book.

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