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Enigma: The Battle For The Code (Cassell Military Paperbacks) Paperback – 7 Oct 2004

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Enigma: The Battle For The Code (Cassell Military Paperbacks) + Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game + The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre by the Men and Women Who Were There
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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (7 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0304366625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304366620
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"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

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 April 2001
Format: Paperback
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Alan Eager on 25 Mar. 2002
Format: Paperback
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charlemagne the lesser on 12 Aug. 2014
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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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Davywavy2 VINE VOICE on 7 Feb. 2003
Format: Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bookaholic on 27 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
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 Folio Society ed. (2005) of this book for its historical content. I, however, would like to be able to contact the author (doesn't seem to be easy to do -- probably my fault) as on page 322, para 3, last line, it is stated that the "parents" of crew members only learned that they were alive when returned to Germany in 1947. I realize that repatriation of POWs was at times a lengthy process for a variety of reasons. I, however, note that there was a U.S. Navy Department public press and radio release dated May 16, 1945 (shortly after V.E. Day) which included this, "Fifty-eight survivors (including the captain) from the U-505's crew of 59 were rescued and imprisoned in the United States." I guess that my question is, "Did the story slip through the cracks and German authorities not get word about the U-505 POWs? BTW, the U-505 became a museum piece in 1954 (Chicago) and there is a fantastic website (kudos to the webmaster) about the U-505 and other U-boat subjects at http://uboatarchive.net/(less)" Despite my question, the book is an excellent read and details that things were more complicated than many are aware of. The heart of the story actually begins in 1931 with more than a little intrigue.
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