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Enigma: The Battle for the Code (Cassell Military Paperbacks)

Enigma: The Battle for the Code (Cassell Military Paperbacks) [Kindle Edition]

Hugh Sebag-Montefiore
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

Timing is all but even Hugh Sebag-Montefiore could hardly have dreamed when he started researching this book four years ago that its publication would coincide with the release of the Hollywood blockbuster U-571. The film claims that it was the Americans "wot won the war" through the bravery of two of its sailors who climbed aboard the crippled sub and made off with an Enigma machine and assorted codebooks before it sank. But then Hollywood has never let the facts get in the way of a good profit. As Sebag-Montefiore points out it was a British officer, Francis Fasson, together with Able Seaman, Colin Grazier, who climbed down the turret of U-559 to retrieve the codebooks and, furthermore, their capture was only a small, if important, part of the Enigma story. However, this book is neither an exercise in point scoring nor full of dramatic new revelations. Its purpose is to chart the entire Enigma history from 1931, when a cipher officer, named Hans Thilo Schmidt, working in the German Defence Ministry, first passed secrets of the code to the French to the end of the War. As such it is extremely welcome. There have been a fair number of books on various parts of the Enigma story--not least the work of Alan Turing and the Bletchley Park boffins--but there have been few that have so thoroughly charted the early years of the 1930s when Polish cryptographers battled to read Enigma messages. Thus Enigma becomes part of an ongoing story, not something just bolted on to a dramatic narrative of the Second World War. Sebag-Montefiore has unearthed a few new primary sources, who add colour and insight rather than anything new, but he does have an engagingly easy style not found among many historians and the book is an extremely accessible read. For all its thoroughness, though, there are some things that the author cannot explain. Why did the Germans not realise the code was broken when all the evidence pointed that way? And how did Enigma work? Sebag-Montefiore devotes a lengthy appendix to a simplified explanation of the latter--but this reader is still none the wiser. Maybe some things will always remain a mystery. --John Crace


"In a crowd of books dealing with the Allied breaking of the World War II German cipher machine Enigma, Hugh Sebag–Montifiore has scored a scoop."
––The Washington Post

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2772 KB
  • Print Length: 566 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0304366625
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (21 July 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005AVJ0G4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #92,984 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Hugh Sebag-Montefiore (HSM) gives a well written & well researched history of the Enigma. HSM has interviewed a significant number of the main players in the story which leads to a much fuller background to the story which no doubt had very significant impact on WW II. The book was written after a large amount of historic data was released from the Public Records Office which accounts for when the book was published, this too adds to quality of read. I also liked the way in which HSM used appendices to include some of the more technical details of the cipher breaking techniques, this allowed the story to remain readable without losing the more complex information to those who will be interested in understanding it.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive research, poor writing. 7 Feb 2003
By Davywavy2 VINE VOICE
As bibliography in the back of this book indicates, it's an exhaustively researched piece of work, seemingly leaving no stone unturned in the authors quest to tell the whole story of the cracking of the enigma code from its inception in the early 30's right through to the end of WW2. It may be that this exhaustiveness is what leads to the books' greatest weakness - the leaden, lumpen prose in which it is presented.
The breaking of Enigma was a major acheievement by British intelligence and undountedly lead to the war being shortened, possibly by years; it is a tale of individual courage and of genius, and of the constant race against time to break the messages of the day in the hope of protecting british shipping in the Atlantic.
Sadly, none of this excitment or even interest is conveyed in the writing, and whenever a player in this grand tale seems about to develop a life of their own the authorial hand moves quickly to push them back into the grey, uninvolving prose.
This is a shame; it's a great story, worthy of being often told - but this book - whilst crammed with facts - does not tell a story, more lists dates and names and forces the reader to try and find their invlovement or interest where they may.
Five stars for research and information, one star for writing. A tremendous shame.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This book describes the sheer hard work that went on with breaking the Enigma code - not just from the code breakers at Bletchley park but the guys who risked their lives in recovering secrets from the Germans to boarding booby trapped U-boats. It describes many of the successes and failures particularly at sea with the interception of the U-boat supply ships to the sinking of the Scharnhorst and the ultimate deceptions before D-day.
Read this an find out there was much, much more to Enigma than Alan Turing (although he was pretty amazing too!).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply great reading 1 Nov 2010
This is another enjoyble reading, follwing the other one: "Station X".

Although I am start reading now this book, after a speedy delivery by BookLogic (received after one week in Italy), I have been captured since the first pages and so it will be for the next ones.

My advice is: reading this one and Station X. The latter is telleing much moore about the life inside Bletchley Park and how they spent their years inside there, an laternating moments of frustrations followed by great happiness every time that they broke a secret German Code.


enjoy the Reading!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enigma...The definitive work? 12 Aug 2000
By A Customer
A great deal has been written about Enigma over the years and, because so many of the major players are no longer with us, I can't imagine that any significant additions can be added to the story outlined here. I found the book anecdotal, dramatic and accessible. The author's journalistic background has obviously helped here! This is not dry history but a journey through the greatest story of WWII. The only criticism that I can level at this book is that it does not go into enough detail in places (especially with regard to the Army and Air Force Enigma battles). The Naval Enigma however is given the full treatment. Despite only giving the book 4 stars I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it!
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The breaking of the German Enigma coding system is now rightly acknowledged to have been the most vital single element leading to Allied victory during the Second World War. Since the 1970s when the Ultra Secret was first made public, a great deal has been written on Enigma; but much of what has been written or shown on TV in the UK, has lead to the widespread impression that the breaking of Enigma was solely down to a few brilliant mathematicians at Bletchley Park and Alan Turing in particular. As HSM shows, the breaking of the code was in fact a multi-national effort with the crucial role of the Polish cryptanalysts during the 1930s being well covered here. This book deals mainly with German Naval Enigma, and describes the efforts made to break into that most vital code and then to keep up with all the changes to the Enigma machine, code books, and systems, which the Germans made throughout the war. The role of the Royal Navy, and later the Royal Canadian Navy, and US Navy in capturing up to date Enigma machines, code books and documents during raids on German land installations and weather ships; or by courageously boarding crippled and sinking U-Boats is well detailed. Without these 'pinches' the cryptanalysts were often left searching in the dark.
HSM also shows that the Germans themselves often contributed to their own undoing through sloppy procedures both by those designing the system and by those operating it. Their worst error however was that they had convinced themselves that the Enigma system was infallible; so that despite often damning evidence to the contrary, Doenitz was always told that Enigma was secure.
With regard to the layout of the book, I have read the whole of the 'story' first and will go into the operational detail appendices as required.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars The navy Alonso did their bit
Fantastic detail. Makes one realize it was not afew boffins at Bexley . The navy capturing code books etc also played a vital and dangerous role .
Published 15 days ago by brianp
5.0 out of 5 stars makes sudoku look child's play
Published 16 days ago by Alexander J West
5.0 out of 5 stars 1st class service from Amazon
Excellent condition. Arrived 1.8.14. This book is to replace one lent out and not returned and I am looking forward to re-reading it very soon.
Published 24 days ago by Mrs. B. C. Kerr
5.0 out of 5 stars fab
bought to help me do my final year project. has been a good read and will be reading again in the future!
Published 6 months ago by me
4.0 out of 5 stars Too many commas
I found this book just after Turing's Royal Pardon was announced at christmas 2013 and I bought it in the expectation that it would put his role into proper context. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Richard Bramhall
4.0 out of 5 stars Enigma by Hugh Seberg-Montefiore
Being reader of all military I found the book well written and informative the area covering the principle people was enlightening. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Terry Heslop
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written account of WW2 Intelligence work
This subject is already popularised in many forms, books, DVD's, movies etc., but this account, by Seabag-Montefiore excels the lot. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr. M. Herbert
5.0 out of 5 stars Bletchley enigma
As a regular visitor to Bletchley Park found this book backed up the lectures at Bletchley. a very factual read and grateful such amazing people existed, as a war baby many thanks... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mrs. Jackie Y. Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars A complete picture
This book leaves no stone unturned and is probably as near as we will get to a definitive record of Enigma and the work at Bletchley Park during WW2. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Barron
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Historical Details
The Folio Edition is the 2001 update of the 2000 ed. of Enigma: Battle for the Code with "minor emendations" -- I placed this review elsewhere and share it here, "I enjoyed The... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Bookaholic
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