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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, insightful and inspiring book
The men and women of Bletchley Park, who repeatedly broke German military cyphers throughout the Second World War, made an incalculable contribution to the allied success. This book, written by one of the code-breakers provides a fascinating insight into the process.
Despite the core subject, this is not really a book about cryptography, but about how to manage...
Published on 5 April 2002 by Andrew Johnston

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Very technical and somewhat egotistical
Rather less good than I was hoping. Whilst acknowledging the very significant role that Gordon Welchman played in the Enigma story, it might have read better, with a little more modesty. In other books about Ultra and Bletchley Park, it is patently obvious that GW put people’s backs up in period and later by some of the things he wrote in this book. In addition,...
Published 4 days ago by Mr. R. Wilson Laidlaw


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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, insightful and inspiring book, 5 April 2002
By 
Andrew Johnston "(www.andrewj.com/books)" (LEATHERHEAD United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes (Paperback)
The men and women of Bletchley Park, who repeatedly broke German military cyphers throughout the Second World War, made an incalculable contribution to the allied success. This book, written by one of the code-breakers provides a fascinating insight into the process.
Despite the core subject, this is not really a book about cryptography, but about how to manage people and technology to solve complex, important problems. Welchman was the "glue" between the pure ideas men like Alan Turing, and the code-breaking production line. His talents were clearly in building the organisation, and liaising between the different parties so that interception, decoding, understanding and using the intelligence became a repeatable success.
Welchman's insights into British wartime society and bureaucracy are keen and frequently very humourous. Many of his insights are equally applicable today, in business as well as military circles. For example an individual's promotion, prestige and salary should not depend solely on the number of subordinates.
Although he was very modest about it, it is clear that Welchman was no mean cryptologist himself. The book does attempt to explain several of the ways in which Enigma was cracked, but I found the primarily verbal explanations difficult to follow. However, this doesn't prevent an understanding of the principals, and how different methods were applied at different points during the war.
The book does have some limitations. Because he was not personally involved, he explicitly refuses to discuss the effort focused on the German naval codes so important to the Battle of the Atlantic, and generally says little about the use of the intelligence information.
Sadly, the current edition of the book omits much of Welchman's advice on the analysis of battlefield communications, and how to keep such communications secure. However, one observation has been retained - it was a fundamental mistake to believe Enigma was secure simply because of the enormous computing power required for a brute-force attack. This should perhaps be noted in our Internet age, when so much depends on the assumed difficulty of factoring large numbers.
If I have a criticism of the book, it's the rather poor production in places, with very faded photographs and occasionally blurred text. Figures are sometimes absent when they are most needed, e.g. when first explaining the Enigma machine. I read this book having only recently attended an excellent lecture and actually seeing an Enigma - otherwise I would have struggled at such points.
Nonetheless this is an excellent, insightful and inspiring book, containing a range of lessons relevant today, and I thoroughly recommend it...
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Insight to Code breaking in World War II, 5 Mar 2010
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This review is from: The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes (Paperback)
The is a more complete book specifically on how the Enigma code was broken and dealt with at Bletchley park than
Herivelismus and Top Secret Ultra (though they're very good also and concentrate on more specific elements of the story). Welchman was involved early on and was involved with some specific element of code breaking but also sheds light on the importance of his prominent role into organising the handling of all this information to make the most of it. Reading it it did feel like he'd missed a trick not selling it as a management book but later on he does lightly touch on this point himself.

The book is 254 pages of medium size print split in to four parts over 13 chapters with 3 appendices. Some diagrams, pictures and specific example of documents intercepted and fed on an included.

Part one: Backdrop to Hut 6
Part Two: The First Year
Part Three: The Rest of the War
Part Four: An Addendum (Explaining the difference between the Polish Bomba and British Bombe

A fascinating topic this is and is written in a pleasant easy to read style covering the pre war Enigama, Polish code breaking, handing this to the British and French and how Bletchley took it forward once it got harder to crack.

What is fascinating is the how the leverage of technique they used to get a foot hold into breaking the code, how precarious it all was, how innovative people were (punched holes in paper helped them crack the code!), how organised they were and how much the broke. One of the interesting background stories is the proper secret squirrel operation the Poles undertook when a German parcel was incorrectly posted and they had a weekend to work their magic on it then return it as was.

Welchman covers the two important contribution he made to code breaking, one of which was already independently being developed, as well as the planning and implementation of the hut's organising and the strong links he formed with the signals teams to produce a well oiled machine.

The only criticism I'd really make is this book replaces the original Part four with Welchmans article on the Bombe/Bombe. May be it was a bit dated but could be interesting to read his view on what could have been learnt from his experience back in the 80's.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comments to Amazon, UK, 21 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes (Paperback)
Dear Sir, I have read the original version of "The Hut 6 story" and liked it very well. I have visited Bletchley Park twice, with my familie, and I have also had my own ENIGMA machine! The new verson of Gordon Welchman's book is just as good, if even better, than the original.
Thank you for your mail to me.
Nils Mathisen
Sr.eng. NRK (R)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every penny, but....., 28 May 2014
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This review is from: The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes (Paperback)
It is always a problem when you come to a book "out of sequence" - this book should be read first, before you read the subsequent histories by other people - especially Hinsley.
It is a big gap that some of the original edition has been left out - no doubt for political reasons - as Welchmann's views of 'the secret state' are now more relevant than ever.
The next book to read is Simon Singhs book about codes - which helps to explain how we got from there to here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, captivating, gripping, and unputdownable, 6 May 2014
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This review is from: The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes (Paperback)
Here we have a publication that takes you deep within the code-breaking fortress of Bletchley Park – and some!

Told by a very modest man at the very top of his game, this publication is filled with VALUABLE WARNINGS about the subversive clandestine EVER PRESENT threats that surround us, and how prolonged secrecy has been prejudicial to Britain’s advancement and wealth in the computer race, as well as posing a serious threat to national security.

Here Gordon Welchman OBE sends out a clear warning – much needed today – that we must NOT neglect the NONMILITARY means by which an enemy may seek to UNDERMINE OUR NATIONAL WILL by using our rapidly advancing technology AGAINST us and we must ALWAYS be in a constant state of PREPAREDNESS.

Taking the reader on a wonderful thrilling journey of enlightenment, Gordon Welchman poses the question ‘will the security measures we plan today be adequate in the technological environment of tomorrow?’ as he examines the ‘special means’ enemies consistently deploy to undermine the well-being of our society such as infiltration by hacking, sabotage, theft, jamming, and spoofing, before taking us deep within the clandestine operations and methods that smashed through a machine-generated cipher that was allegedly ‘uncrackable’.

Here we learn about how a freely-available BRITISH publication on ‘the art of war’ that Gordon Welchman considered was ‘too risky to be let out’ was obtained ten years later by Adolph Hitler – who then re-invented his military might to utilise the techniques the publication contained – with DEVASTATING results – results that took TWO NUCLEAR BOMBS to appease!

Educated at Trinity College, Gordon Welchman then provides a WONDERFUL explanation of how the Enigma machine functions to scramble the plaintext into (seemingly) gibberish, and how re-entering the transmitted ‘gibberish’ at the receiving end revealed the plaintext, before modestly describing how his imaginative attack on the TENS OF BILLIONS of POSSIBLE permutations – permutations that were instigated by the SENDER at his own whim - can be reduced to a MILLION or so by exploiting a very simple mathematical principle based upon the MATHEMATICAL RELATIONSHIP of two DICE.

As you are keenly interested, permit me to explain.

Simply put: given a six-sided die with each side numbered one through six, the ODDS of throwing any given value is ALWAYS one CHANCE IN SIX on each and every throw.

Put another way, the odds of NOT throwing the ‘wanted’ value is FIVE chances in SIX on each and every throw – and this can be exploited in a very clever way.

Given TWO dice – each die numbered one through six - the ODDS of throwing any given value is ALWAYS ONE chance in six on the first die MULTIPLIED by ONE chance in six on the SECOND die – giving a ONE CHANCE IN THIRTY SIX of throwing the ‘wanted’ value on each and every throw - and a thirty-five to thirty six chance of NOT throwing the ‘wanted value’ on each and every throw. This is what the encryption method relied upon

HOWEVER - the VALUE of the FIRST dice thrown ELIMINATES a HUGE amount of PROBABILITIES.

If one was to throw (say) a FOUR on the first die, the ONLY numbers available are based upon on the AVAILABLE VALUES of the SECOND die.

In my example these are:

Die one = 4 and die two = 1 = 4+ 1 = 5;
Die one = 4 and die two = 2 = 4+ 2 = 6;
Die one = 4 and die two = 3 = 4+ 3 = 7;
Die one = 4 and die two = 4 = 4+ 4 = 8;
Die one = 4 and die two = 5 = 4+ 5 = 9;
Die one = 4 and die two = 6 = 4+ 6 = 10;

Hence the numbers 2, 3, 4, 11 and 12 are NOT POSSIBLE if the first die lands on a FOUR – so a HUGE hole is smashed in the number of PROBABLE permutations (in the case of two dice = 36 - from double one through to double six) to just SIX POSSIBLE permutations – in this example - five through ten (representing just six POSSIBLE letters in THAT position).

Try it! Throw a die; look at the number on the top face; and now PREDICT the values of the two dice BEFORE you throw the second die – and watch 36 of the PROBABILITIES disappear to just SIX POSSIBILITIES.

Having done that, throw the second die to see which one of your six predictions ‘turns up’.

The next level of attack is to take each of the six possibilities at each position and look at successive letter pairings – this time looking for letter sequences that are gobbledegook – for example - using words in the English language – in any given word, the letter ‘P’ cannot be followed by the letter ‘D’, or the letter ‘F’, or the letter ‘G’, or the letter ‘J’ and so on – and so letters could be swiftly ELIMINATED because their SEQUENCE did not make any sense. This is akin to playing ‘word search’.

THAT dear reader is the basic premise of how Gordon Welchman and his team attacked the Enigma – and regularly ‘cracked’ it – except he was dealing with three ‘26 sided’ ‘dice’ – the alphabetic scrambling rotors in the machine – two of which were ‘thrown’ and remained on ‘hold’ - and one which would be ‘nudged’ for 26 ‘attempts’ – with each ‘held’ dice (rotor) AUTOMATICALLY reducing the number of POSSIBLE permutations in the manner I have illustrated – just like ‘playing’ a ‘fruit machine’ using ‘hold’ and ‘nudge’ – except you could not see the fruits – or COULD you? Read the fascinating insightful book and find out HOW you could ‘see’ the hidden fruits (and much much more besides).

The ciphertext was considered to be ‘cracked’ by a person – and ‘hacked’ by Turin’s ‘computable machine’ (called a bombe) – thousands of which were deployed to swiftly find the solutions to the HUGE volume of traffic - detected from as far away as Stalingrad using a very sensitive radio receiver known as a TRF that doesn’t ‘reveal’ itself on the ether – unlike a ‘superhetrodyne’ receiver – which DOES – which was gainfully exploited to eavesdrop, and is now gainfully exploited to detect reception of unlicensed TVs (and tell you which TV channel you were watching at the time that they book you – tee hee).

Of course SPEED of decoding is of the essence if one is to make use of the information obtained, so as to be able to swiftly intercept the enemy and strike a huge blow first - or take decisive and effective evasive action – action that saved MILLIONS of lives and tipped the balance from failure to success against all of the ODDS. To bring speed to the process required a HUGE technological leap – a technological leap that changed the world FOREVER!

If you wish to discover the inner-workings of an Enigma machine and see how such a formidable cipher was swiftly cracked in a matter of weeks by the melding of two minds – the mathematical genius of Gordon Welchman and his powerful ‘method of attack’ on Enigma - who joined forces with another British mathematical genius - ALAN TURIN - which led to Turin inventing the COMPUTER – then THIS masterwork is for YOU!

If you wish to see the huts for yourself, and see demonstrations of the REAL working equipment, and meet and shake the hands of the REAL people who worked on cracking and hacking Enigma, then visit BLETCHLEY PARK in Bletchley - and be AMAZED!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Very technical and somewhat egotistical, 22 July 2014
This review is from: The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes (Paperback)
Rather less good than I was hoping. Whilst acknowledging the very significant role that Gordon Welchman played in the Enigma story, it might have read better, with a little more modesty. In other books about Ultra and Bletchley Park, it is patently obvious that GW put people’s backs up in period and later by some of the things he wrote in this book. In addition, this book is very technical and even though I am interested in Cryptology and have read a number of books on the subject, I got both rather lost and somewhat bored by the excess of very technical detail.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book well written., 26 April 2014
This review is from: The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes (Paperback)
Gordon Welchman worked at Bletchley Park, on the most important British de-ciphering operations of the war [WW2], from 1939 to 1945. Here, unsuspected by the Germans, the famous Enigma codes were broken, almost continuously throughout the war. Welchman was a leading figure at Bletchley Park; his brilliant mathematical mind, and imaginative attack on apparently insuperable problems, were of inestimable value in shaping the course of the war and hastening victory.

No other book has explained so thoroughly how the job was done, and how so often a flash of genius, an inspired insight, or even a stroke of luck, tipped the balance from failure to success, against all the odds.

Gordon Welchman, a talented mathematician, was educated at Marlborough, and Trinity College, Cambridge. He had taken up a post as a fellow of Sidney Sussex College when the war started, and he was an obvious recruit for the expanding codebreaking operations at Bletchley Park. He was awarded the OBE for his war work. After the war he emigrated to the USA, and continued to work on computers and their applications to security and communications. He died in 1985.

Utterly fascinating; though at times I needed to keep pen & paper next to me in order to slowly work through some of the very mathematical sections (I have to confess to skipping others); this was well worth the effort.

What I really love about this book is that, for a talented mathematician, the author writes in good clear English; and he doesn’t restrict himself solely to the technicalities. I enjoyed learning how operations were ordered on and off site, and how the community both worked, socialised, and yet maintained the absolute tightest of secrecy. Truly awesome. One doesn't need a mathematical/scientific brain to read and enjoy this book; but if you do, you'll get more out of it.

Both times I have read this book after a visit to the Bletchley Park site (now a museum, next to The National Museum Of Computing), near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. Highly recommended
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breaking Enigma codes, 30 Nov 2012
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This review is from: The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes (Paperback)
More detailed mathematics than in most books about WW2 Bletchley Park codebreaking. If you want to really get into how it was done read this book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bletchley P{ark, 31 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes (Paperback)
One of the semional books about Bletchley Park. Gordon Welchman was a brilliant organiser as well as a remarkable brain
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, rather specific, 29 Mar 2014
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This book goes into some detail about activities of code breakers at Bletchley Park. A rather personal book instead of the big Picture.
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The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes
The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes by Gordon Welchman (Paperback - Dec 1997)
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