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The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war [Paperback]

Michael Smith
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 Aug 2011
When Captain Ridley s shooting party arrived at Bletchley Park in 1939 no-one would have guessed that by 1945 the guests would number nearly 10,000 and that collectively they would have contributed decisively to the Allied war effort. Their role? To decode the Enigma cypher used by the Germans for high-level communications. It is an astonishing story. A melting pot of Oxbridge dons maverick oddballs and more regular citizens worked night and day at Station X, as Bletchley Park was known, to derive intelligence information from German coded messages. Bear in mind that an Enigma machine had a possible 159 million million million different settings and the magnitude of the challenge becomes apparent. That they succeeded, despite military scepticism, supplying information that led to the sinking of the Bismarck, Montgomery s victory in North Africa and the D-Day landings, is testament to an indomitable spirit that wrenched British intelligence into the modern age, as the Second World War segued into the Cold War. Michael Smith constructs his absorbing narrative around the reminiscences of those who worked and played at Bletchley Park, and their stories add a very human colour to their cerebral activity. The code breakers of Station X did not win the war but they undoubtedly shortened it, and the lives saved on both sides stand as their greatest achievement.

Frequently Bought Together

The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war + Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park's code-breaking computers + Alan Turing: The Enigma
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Biteback Publishing (11 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849540950
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849540957
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 97,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Smith is the number-one bestselling author of Station X. He served in the British Army's Intelligence Corps and was an award-winning journalist for the BBC, the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times. He is now a full-time novelist and screenwriter.

Smith is the author of a number of books, including The Secrets of Station X; SIX: The Real James Bonds and Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews. He is currently writing a novel set in Germany during the Second World War and working on a screenplay for a feature-length animated movie. He lives near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire.


Product Description

From the Author

This book contains the most up-to-date history of Bletchley Park with the latest information from the national archives on what happened at Bletchley and what effect it had on the war. It naturally contains some of the same quotations from codebreakers that were used in Station X, my previous history of Bletchley Park, but is a completely new book which is 50 per cent longer than Station X, corrects some of the earlier misinformation surrounding the codebreakers and really is the better of the two books.

About the Author

Michael Smith is a former military intelligence officer and award-winning journalist and author. He is the author of many books, including most recently, Six: A history of Britain s secret intelligence services.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secrets of Station X 2 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback
"The Secrets of Station X" is a brilliant book. Through this compact publication, the author Michael Smith introduces the reader to the secret world of the World War Two code-breakers working under the guise of the Government Code & Cypher School based in Bletchley Park, a quirky English Mansion in the heart of rural Buckinghamshire.
Working his way chronologically from 1938 to 1945 the author calls on substantiated evidence and code-breakers' memories. With his easy read, writing style Smith tells the story of some of those people, the place they worked and the work they did, breaking into the enemy codes and cyphers.
By integrating the history of the Second World War with the work of the code-breakers Smith highlights the importance of their work, their frustrations and the tensions under which they were working.
With simple explanation of codes and cyphers the author explains the breaking into the Enigma cyphers, the working of the Enigma machines and that of the Bombe machines tasked to assist in breaking those cyphers; the building of Colossus to identify the wheel settings of the Lorenz machine used to encipher the teleprinter messages between Hitler and his high command. He also introduces, the often ignored, work undertaken on hand cyphers and in particular the breaking of the Japanese codes.
With 295 pages of substantiated facts 24 pages of notes and 9 index pages, this book is well laid out and well presented. To my mind, this book makes for good reading and is an ideal reference tool.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I have already read Station X by this author and Secret Life of Bletchley Park but neither of them were as good as this book. There seems to be far more in this book than either of the others. It reads very well and one only has to turn to the back of the book to see the broad and far-reaching research that was carried out in the construction of this book.

I didn't realise that most of the people at Bletchley were young woman in their late teens and early twenties and they do seem to have enjoyed themselves in all sorts of ways! But what is really good about this book is that it not only tell you how they lived, it also tells you what difference they made at each point of the war. They really did make a difference in a lot of ways.

This is definitely five stars for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read. 13 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book provides a very enjoyable read, very informative. I would recommend it for anyone interested in the story of Bletchley Park.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The solution. 17 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. It is authoritative, meticulous and detailed. The objective and informative core is liberally punctuated with a wide range of personal testimonies enabling a rich cross-section of first-hand accounts to put the cold facts into an endearingly human perspective. As well as getting a satisfying and logically assembled historic account, the reader is also rewarded with an impression of the people whose remarkable achievements in cracking and processing the secret codes was matched by their own supreme discretion regarding the nature and importance of their work. I was looking for a book that gave me a comprehensive account of the wartime activities at Bletchley Park. This is it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This enjoyable book describes the activities at Bletchley Park (BP) during WW2 and their influence on various stages of the war. The approach is similar to that in Sinclair McKay's book: 'The Secret Life of Bletchly Park' but in Smith's book, there is much more emphasis on the technical achievements and their impact on the war and less on what life was like at BP. For this reason I preferred this book, although it was good to get an introduction to the people involved through reading Sinclair's book first.

Smith's book describes how military commanders were reluctant to use `Ultra' information until it proved it's worth in the North African campaigns. At the start of the war, Naval Intelligence was jealous of the information from BP but soon accepted it's worth and used it to re-route convoys away from the U boat packs.

The achievements made by the key codebreakers; Knox, Tiltman, Turing, Alexander, Tutte, Welshman and others in breaking the Enigma and the Lorenz ciphers are described in essence as is the enormous accomplishment of Tommy Flowers in building the Colossus computer.

Smith frequently cites and copies whole pages of text from other sources, which I would normally find acceptable. However, in many of these cases he is repeating pages from a previous book of his own; entitled `Station X'. This seems like `padding out' to me and is perhaps the only criticism I have of the book. Nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed this book and give it 5 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 10 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
On of the most interesting books I have ever read. Its a wonder that Bletchley did'nt sink with all that brain power there. They were reading Hitlers coded messages before he did!
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rehash of an earlier book 10 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book seems to be no more than a rehash of Michael Smith's earlier "Station X", first published in 1998 but "revised and expanded" in 2004. Nowhere is this made clear, which is far from ideal. However, if you haven't read the earlier book this is a very good read, full of fascinating anecdotes, and probably worth 4 or 5 stars. If you have read the earlier book, don't bother with this one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So, So insightful and readable
What a wonderful work. Just facts and yet so so detailed and brings massive respect to all those who served their countries there. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Drum
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting
Very informative and interesting, even if it is difficult to keep track of who's who... though the maths baffled me a bit too if Im honest!
Published 4 months ago by Benjamin S Moor
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book
Fascinating book about a part of the WWII that is just not given enough space. I loved it too. Someone write some more......
Published 5 months ago by John Lynham
4.0 out of 5 stars Station X
Great account of what went on at a dark time in our history and of the men and women who made it happen. Highly recommended
Published 5 months ago by Cato
5.0 out of 5 stars Home of the Enigma
This book was interesting & informative. A very readable book. THere were so very many people involved in breaking the codes.
Published 6 months ago by Brenda Maynard
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter from Maidenhead
Having been to Bletchley Park and seen the book in the shop I purchased via Amazon as it was cheaper. It made for a very interesting read and follow up to the visit. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Peter C
3.0 out of 5 stars Incorrect information
Writers should get their facts right, until the 1960's, the GPO engineering department represented both telecomms and postal engineering. Read more
Published 7 months ago by groundmole
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Admirable and comprehensive history, with enough cryptographic detail for non-experts. Good bibliography for further reading. Worth considering 'The Code Book' by Singh.
Published 11 months ago by W. Stevenson
4.0 out of 5 stars A good background to Bletchley's doings.
Easy read. Good background to the workings of Bletchey park. A book you can pick up and put down and not loose the thread
Published 16 months ago by chris (devon)
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