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The Secret Listeners: How the Wartime Y Service Intercepted the Secret German Codes for Bletchley Park

The Secret Listeners: How the Wartime Y Service Intercepted the Secret German Codes for Bletchley Park [Kindle Edition]

Sinclair McKay
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

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Product Description


'A fascinating read'

Milton Keynes Citizen

‘McKay’s focus is rather on the personal experiences of the individual Y Service operators — it brings home not only the reality of what these people were doing but also the daily privations endured with remarkable resilience by so many in that war. As with those at Bletchley, the silence of that generation, their disciplined restraint for decades afterwards, is as impressive as their achievements. They felt the powerful pull of common cause and (mostly) had the privilege of knowing that their contribution was significant. Awful as it was for much of the time, for many nothing that followed ever quite lived up to it. We should be grateful that the survivors are talking now.’

Alan Judd Spectator

'As McKay argues in this well-told story, the Y Service has been "sadly and curiously" uncelebrated. Yet were it not for all those encoded messages relayed with such care, the codebreakers at Bletchley would have had little to go on. It was their efforts that made the revolutionary leaps of Bletchley possible. They should be commemorated properly as having played their parts in one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century, he says. And he has done them proud.'

Brian MacArthur Daily Telegraph

‘Sinclair McKay has gathered together memories, from published works and from interviews with surviving veterans. This book is full of delightful episodes.’

The Book Dad

‘Sinclair McKay’s account of this secret war of the airwaves is as painstakingly researched and fascinating as his bestselling The Secret Life Of Bletchley Park, and an essential companion to it.’

Daily Mail

‘Their contribution enabled the code-breakers to achieve their break-through, something that, in turn, shortened the war and saved countless lives.’

Good Book Guide

The veterans who monitored radio traffic and transcrived Morse code are given full, overdue credit in this intriguing book

Saga Magazine

Product Description

Follow-up to the bestselling The Secret Life of Bletchley Park, the hitherto-untold story of how young men and women across the world listened in to and intercepted the enemy’s radio traffic so that Bletchley Park’s codebreakers could turn the course of the war. Before Bletchley Park could break the German war machine’s codes, its daily military communications had to be monitored and recorded by “the Listening Service” – the wartime department whose bases moved with every theatre of war: Cairo, Malta, Gibraltar, Iraq, Cyprus, as well as having listening stations along the eastern coast of Britain to intercept radio traffic in the European theatre. This is the story of the – usually very young – men and women sent out to far-flung outposts to listen in for Bletchley Park, an oral history of exotic locations and ordinary lives turned upside down by a sudden remote posting – the heady nightlife of Cairo, filing-cabinets full of snakes in North Africa, and flights out to Delhi by luxurious flying boat.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4977 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1845137639
  • Publisher: Aurum Press (4 Oct 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781310904
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781310908
  • ASIN: B0091849OU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #53,745 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Sinclair McKay is a features writer for The Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday. He is also the acclaimed author of the bestselling 'The Secret Life of Bletchley Park'.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Human and Personal Story of Y-Service 12 Oct 2012
By A.K
I bought this book because I really enjoyed the author's previous one on Bletchley Park.

Like the last one, it is beautifully human and makes you realise all the extraordinary things people did for their country with such quiet dignity and without fuss or fanfare. The last book focussed on the lives of the people code-breaking at Bletchley park, but this one is about the men and women who were scattered around the world listening in on German communications and meticulously transcribing (and sometimes decoding) the messages to send back to Blecthley (often while also batting away incendiary bombs!).

It's only in recent years that the men and women of the 'Y-Service' (as they were called) have been allowed to talk about their time serving their nation, and it is amazing how humble they are and how woefully un-sung their praises have been. This is a riveting account of the lives of real people.

If you're after a meticulously researched history of the Y-Service then this won't be the book for you, but if like me you like to read the real stories of the people who lived the war and their first-hand stories of what they did, what it was like and how it changed their lives, then this is as good as any I've read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The wider Bletchley 6 Oct 2013
By AA1
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Much has already been written about the remarkable WW2 work at Bletchley but this volume covers the web of worldwide listeners who provided much of the source material for Bletchley. Often working in dangerous, uncomfortable conditions their dedication and concentration comes through in this very readable account. The topic has the potential to be a litany of personal histories but the author cleverly avoids this pitfall by humanising each chapter and allowing the reader to gain just a glimpse of what it must have been like. The fact that the enemy never got wind of the comprehensive allied code-breaking achievements must go down in history as one of the most remarkable achievements of human dedication, self discipline and self sacrifice.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Y Service 14 Dec 2012
I was not sure what to expect from this book, I guess the reason was that the Y service has had virtually no publicity and hence no general recognition of what went on. Clearly the work they did was extremely vital to the much publicised Bletchley park successes but has been left in the background. So it is right that the Y service activies have been given a much deserved exposure and the dedication shown by the operatives rightly praised. With no stand out "heros" the story tends to hop around a bit and gets a bit trivial at times but enjoyable and informative none the less. A timely reminder that we owe a lot to many unsung people.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
It gives an excellent background to the work of 'Y' Group operators whos efforts have been ignored up to now.
i would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Enigma and the work of Bletchley Park.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hidden secret 6 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Have only discovered in the last year that my late mother was at a Y station. She never mentioned it !
This book has given me an insight as to how she spent her war years. It really is an example of "well I didn't know that"'
time and time again. Oh why didn't she ever say anything ?
A well written and fascinating book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By roger.b
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book details the lives of the convert operators that monitored German and Japanese communications, usually coded, and both decoded their transmissions and for the overseas operators, forwarded the information to Bletchley Park. Most operators came under the official secrets act and therefore have been unable to discuss their WW2 activities, even to this day.
The book tells of the training, where they operated from both across the UK and overseas, both on land and on small islands in the tropics. Many names are included and tells of the long nights monitoring the enemy transmissions, it goes into their social life and of the various bases that they were stationed at. The volume follows from pre WW2 right through until the later 1940s when they were gradually demobbed! It isn't a technical book as such, its more of a social account of the operators, their lives and how they managed to maintain their monitoring activities and provided immense help in bringing WW2 to an earlier closure.
An interesting book but not for those seeking technical details of equipment.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice intro 2 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The wireless war is a little documented part of the second world war, however it it was the most important battle fought.
To date most of the accounts have concentrated on decripting enigma and the actions of Bletchley Park. However without the "Y" service there would have been no messages to proccess
This book is an account drawn on peoples direct experiance of working in the service.
The two reasons I have given this book only 4 stars are, firstly I think there is a lot more of this story still to come and secondly because it concentrates on personal experiances it does not actually give a full account of how the system worked or what it actually achieved.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael T George-Powell - G3NNO 30 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having held an Amateur Radio licence since 1959 I find this a fascinating book. In the 60s I knew an elderly radio amateur who made vague "hints" at what he had done during WW2 and had been able to retain some of his radio equipment when most other amateurs had their equipment removed by the authorities "for the duration". Having visted Bletchey Park just 3 weeks ago I learned more and this compliments with my reading the book. The book gives a good background on what the VIs did and how their efforts assisted in the final outcome. I now have to assume that my elderly friend was indeed a VI.
A good read for those interested in the code breakers, intelligence services, and in radio in the 1940s.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
v good
Published 13 days ago by D.M. Black
5.0 out of 5 stars The workings of Bletchley
Surrounded by secrecy for years it is only now that the secrets about Bletchley Park and the code breakers are coming to light. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Paul Nicholls-Whiteman
5.0 out of 5 stars How did Bletchley Park keep it secrets?
A fascinating story of secret work that no one knew about whilst it was happening and for many years afterwards How did they keep this very important work so secret?
Published 2 months ago by merle kerr
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read, explains the Y Service extremely well
Excellent book, well researched and written, engrossing reading about the Y Service all over the world, some brave operators out there
Published 2 months ago by D. W. Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a 'potted history' or coffee table lit......
Sinclair McKay knows his stuff when it comes to Bletchley and its codebreakers.

What I love so much about his writing is that you don't feel like you're reading a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Phoober
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read that describes important war work.
This book is an excellent history of the listening stations that intercepted radio traffic during the 1939-1945 war. Read more
Published 3 months ago by David Ball
4.0 out of 5 stars Radio listening service of WW2
Many interesting stories about the trials and tribulations of the Y-service. They listened in on enemy radio transmissions in Europe, North Africa and Asia.
Published 3 months ago by Frank Bason
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Listeners.
I have read two other books on Bletchley Park by Sinclar McKay and once again this book comes up to his high standard.
Published 4 months ago by derek ralph woodward
4.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Listeners - a good read
As one who worked in the 'Y' service for ten years in the Cold War years, this made an interesting read. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr T M Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Reading
Very interesting read and covers personable and interesting aspects of the subject not covered in earlier books on the subject.
Published 4 months ago by BP Sussex
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