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Enigma: The Battle For The Code (Cassell Military Paperbacks) [Paperback]

Hugh Sebag-Montefiore
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Oct 2004 Cassell Military Paperbacks

Breaking the German Enigma codes was not only about brilliant mathematicians and professors at Bletchley Park. There is another aspect of the story which it is only now possible to tell. It takes in the exploits of spies, naval officers and ordinary British seamen who risked, and in some cases lost, their lives snatching the vital Enigma codebooks from under the noses of Nazi officials and from sinking German ships and submarines.

This book tells the whole Enigma story: its original invention and use by German forces and how it was the Poles who first cracked ¿ and passed on to the British - the key to the German airforce Enigma. The more complicated German Navy Enigma appeared to them to be unbreakable.

Frequently Bought Together

Enigma: The Battle For The Code (Cassell Military Paperbacks) + The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre by the Men and Women Who Were There + Alan Turing: The Enigma
Price For All Three: 20.97

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (7 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0304366625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304366620
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,233 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

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
5.0 out of 5 stars hard going at times, but very entertaining 3 Aug 2006
The book at times could be hard going, especially when reading the deciphering codes. But it was very entertaining and gave a very good insight into just how many different countries and people that were involved. There were so many people who risked their lives and were lucky to get away with it. A must for anyone, I am not a huge follower of war stories generally, but it was well worth the time to read it, the research that took place was immense.
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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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugh Sebag-Montefiore's meticulous "Enigma" 10 Dec 2011
Hugh Sebag-Montefiore is a punctilious and meticulous historian able to delve into the many recently opened sources (at time of publication) and build a fascinating and creditable narrative from the many thousands of references and pieces of information garnered from them. This is not a skill all writers have but it makes this lengthy book (600 pages) very readable.

It is a fascinating period which is only just coming to light with the opening of many previously secret records and which, as the film U-571 showed, is open to misinterpretation, theft and colusion. In the cold and dingy pre-fabs of Bletchley Park or the much more threatening cold of the North Atlantic, the battle for the code raged.

For anyone interested in this vitally fundamental element in winning the last war, this is essential reading. I read it for more information on Alan Turing and gained so much more too.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 5 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 6 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 10 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 10 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 11 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 12 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 14 months ago by Bookaholic
5.0 out of 5 stars History + Adventure
A great story in a great book, that has it all: espionage, adventure, courage, emotion... and mathematics! (and if you don't like math, don't worry... just skip the appendix!).
Published 14 months ago by Pedro Homem de Gouveia
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow!
What an impressive volume and covering such a fascinating subject. As always the book arrived a spromised in perfect condition and I'm looking forward to delving into this... Read more
Published 15 months ago by jonathan clift
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting with geeky apppendices
A very detailed history of the allied forces codebreaking attempts. The main body concentrates on the events rather than the procedure . Read more
Published 16 months ago by Peter
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