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The Ultra Secret [Hardcover]

F.W. Winterbotham
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Oct 1974
Operation Ultra was designed to intercept and decode German signals sent using Enigma, the top-secret German cypher machine. F.W. Winterbotham, was the man responsible for the organization, distribution and security of Ultra. This is his personal account of the operation.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld and Nicolson; 1st edition (24 Oct 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297768328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297768326
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 10.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 554,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Group Captain Frederick Winterbotham was born in 1897. He was educated at Oxford University and served in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War. Between 1930 and 1945 he was chief of the Air Department of the Secret Intelligence Service. Throughout the war he was based at Bletchley Park, and he was awarded the CBE in 1943. He died in 1990. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What they did With Ultra not how they Cracked it 18 Feb 2010
By Hagrid's Umbrella VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
This is an excellent book that focuses on the use of the intelligence they derived from breaking the German encoded signals (mostly from the famous Enigma machine) not how they broke it. Its a very interesting insight to how they distributed this information with the Special Liaison Units and the extreme care they took with their reactions to ensure the Germans didn't guess they were reading their signals. They always tried to provide an alternative means for obtaining the information.

Winterbotham is in an interesting position as he handle the overall operation of distributing this information to the field, strategic decision makers and he regularly briefed Churchill on the information gleaned. It covers some very important events but also has small interesting detail as well such as the fact he often had to stay up late on a Saturday night to brief Churchill after he'd watched his regular Saturday night film.

The book is broken down into the major campaigns of the war across 22 chapters and 190 pages of small print; no pictures. Covering battles in Europe, Africa and Asia. The one area not touched on too much is the Atlantic which was handled separatly by the Navy itself.

The writing style is easy to read and engaging. This doesn't claim to be a history of the war but cover how intelligence (Ultra) is use in the field and strategically, and the level to which it was used. However given how many areas it is used in it does feel pretty comprehensive and put some of the battles in perspective.

I read the 1974 published edition and it does gives a brief account of how the code is broken but from the other books I've read this is not correct. Try The Hut 6 Story for details of what went inside Bletchley Park.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Account 3 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback
The best account I have read. Straightforward and identifies the relationship with Churchill as key. Other accounts may be good for the techy but this is for everyone. All should appreciate the work, the importance and the sheer dedication that was required.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique perspective on the Ultra secret 22 Jan 2006
By PJC
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book now appears dated, being one of the first books to be written following the de-classification of the Enigma and Ultra wartime secrets in 1974. It shows how the much reported information was distributed amongst the allied command structure and the extreme care taken to protect the secret. Subsequent books have shown some of the 'facts' in this book are perhaps not too accurate however, the book contains a unique perspective on the organisation that ensured the maximum benefit was gained from Ultra without revealing the source. Only 4 stars due to it's dated content and perhaps the need to be reviewed using modern declassified knowledge.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant insight into a well-kept secret 22 Dec 2012
By T. D. Dawson TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When, nearly 30 years after the end of World War II, Group Captain Frank Winterbotham finally got permission to publish the story of Bletchley Park and Ultra it is easy to see the incredulity, fascination and near disbelief caused by this 1974 book.

Frank Winterbotham was, from before the start of the war, responsible for the overall security of Ultra and for passing the information derived from breaking the German Enigma ciphers to a small and carefully selected group of military commanders including, of course, Winston Churchill himself.

That incredulity and near disbelief is entirely due to the fact that, from very early on, our military commanders were - in effect - looking over the shoulders of the German High Command (including Hitler himself) and reading the vast majority of the radio messages to and from their army, navy and air forces.

Early on in the war the shortage of resources - of both men and weapons - meant the information could not always be used to the full. Nevertheless 'The Ultra Secret' shows how, in the autumn of 1940 and without ever divulging the source, Air Chief Marshal Dowding made brilliant use of Ultra in repulsing the Luftwaffe's attempts to destroy the Royal Air Force and to bomb the UK into submission.

'The Ultra Secret' is a fascinating story that, nearly 40 years after it was written, is well worth reading. It is also interesting to read Ronald Llewellyn's subsequent (1978) book Ultra Goes to War which fills in many of the points that, at the time, Winterbotham was unable to explain fully. Two other books,
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enormously revelatory book 31 Mar 2012
By Frank D
Format:Hardcover
After more than 40 years, this is still arguably the most significant book on the explanation of destruction of the German war machine in the West in World War II.

Word for word, no other book so succinctly explains the single most important reason behind for the Anglo-American triumph over Hitler's armies - and simultaneously dulls the reputation of many of the `great' Allied military machismo's.

No postwar gung-ho, breast-beating memoir can be properly adjudged without reference to the up to (according to some sources) 90 000 decoded Enigma signals per month in mid-1944 that were fed to all the top American and British commanders as Ultra intelligence and spliced into Intelligence summaries at the lower echelons as well.

Winterbotham, who was in charge of the distribution of the Ultra intelligence to the highest levels, was perfectly placed to assess the critical impact of this information.

As much as Ultra resolves one mystery, it opens two others: How was it possible that the German military, who were continuously checkmated at the strategic and tactical level in every major operation from Battle of Britain, North Africa, Italy and finally Normandy, never realised or figured that their signals were being intercepted...? Overweening complacency, arrogance, stupidity alone can surely only explain this partly?

And, given that the Germans were adept at cryptography (they had also designed and cracked the`voice scrambler' system used by the British and Americans at the beginning of the war) never appeared to have been able to read the higher codes of the Allies..... Surely the Allies could not have been using the cumbersome OTP system alone....? Postwar Allied accounts are strangely mum on this issue.....
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
What I expected
Published 1 month ago by Wooster
5.0 out of 5 stars Ultra Secret
Quite enlightening. I have read several books on the work of Bletchley Park and the breaking of the Enigma and other codes, but this book is different. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Shedman460
5.0 out of 5 stars Ultra Secret
A fascinating and historically interesting read. Will add more when I have completed the book. Group Captain Winterbotham was a remarkable man.
Published 20 months ago by Richard
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultra Secret
I read another title by the author "The Nazi Connection" and was keen to read his earlier work,I knew it would be out of print and was very pleased to find the book online, it is... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Mayfield43
5.0 out of 5 stars This important book should be reissued
Frederick Winterbotham was at the heart of the Ultra secret throughout the war. Unlike so many books on this since, his revelations as to how the intelligence was used (and... Read more
Published on 19 Nov 2011 by J. O. Jonkler
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultra Secret
The item arrived in good time, and in the condition the purchase description given. Good service.
Published on 29 April 2009 by T. Hollomon
4.0 out of 5 stars An in-sight view at the Enigma decyphering project
Memories of an RAF official who was deeply involved in the effort for decyphering Enigma-generated cyphertexts. A good book on one of WWII's most exciting facts.
Published on 11 Dec 2000 by STEFANO CRIVELLARO
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