`Nothing like the Hollywood version at all' is this exceedingly well researched account of the true story of capturing the first Enigma machine. This work is so detailed that we are even treated to the thoughts of Commander Joe Baker-Cresswell RN who, at a crucial moment when poised to ram U 110, remembered how the Russians recovered a code book from a German cruiser grounded in the Baltic during WW1 and how that book was used to decode German messages throughout that earlier conflict. Wondering whether or not he was about to destroy a similar find, he ordered full astern just in time to avoid the intended collision, sent over a boarding party and was responsible for the capture of the first Enigma cipher machine of the War. In so doing he made one of the most valuable contributions to the eventual Allied victory.
Rarely have I enjoyed such a fascinating read and it says much for the outstanding way in which detailed, technical research is combined with sheer readability that this important historical work reads better than most novels. In order to provide the reader with a taste of what I mean, Baker-Cresswell and U 110 are introduced in the first two paragraphs of Page 1 where the author skilfully begins to set the scene for their historic encounter. By page 7 one is the officer commanding No 3 escort group charged with protecting a convoy from U Boat attack and the other is attacking that convoy. By Page 16 the badly damaged U 110 is forced to the surface where her crew abandon ship. Only now is Baker-Cresswell mindful of the grounding of the Magdeburg.
Pausing there, we are then treated to a full account of the grounding of that German cruiser in 1914 and the resultant effects of her captured documents. The next chapters are then devoted to a history of codes and the evolution of various devices used by different powers in trying to protect their secrets. Post-WW1, this led to ever more sophisticated means with equally refined counter-measures and straightforward spying. I found it fascinating to learn which countries were most proficient at breaking which other country's codes. All seemed to have different proficiencies.
Eventually the first British dedicated department for such activities was established and went on to become Bletchley Park. It was also interesting to learn of the type of genius they employed - mathematicians, linguists, scientists and even chess players all seemed to fit the bill.
It is not, therefore, until we reach Page 189 that the story of Baker-Cresswell's confrontation with U 110 continues and, as it does so, we are also treated to the minutiae of detail, the food, cigarettes and personal items found on that U Boat in addition to the sheer quantity of those items of far greater importance.
And so the story continues in what is, as I say, an immensely readable accounts of how the first Enigma was seized and of the vital role it played during WW2.
Altogether one of the finest works I have ever read and, as someone who spends considerable time immersed in research, I congratulate the author on an excellent job of work.
This is a really in depth account of the code breakers and how they really came to decipher the naval enigma code - really well researched covering a little history of the machine, the reasons Germany chose the enigma, how polish code breakers started the cause and how the British used the greatest mathematicians and captured documents to break the code with full accounts of raids and the effects of the enciphered info had on Britain etc) right up to the end of the war. If your are interested in the enigma machine or Bletchly park this is a must gripping read I read it straight over two days (unusual for me). The only small gripe i have is that its possibly too much information it constantly throws new names at you with history of their parents, wives and what they are wearing etc i found this confusing and unnecessary and so loses a star great read thou well worth it.
I had read 3 previous Bletchley-based accounts before this but , although well versed in the genius of Alan Turing , I really didn't know how the Enigma machine worked and why it was so hard to crack and how the eventual cracking succeeded.
I then came across this excellent , brilliantly researched , fast-paced narrative which not only examines the behaviour and motivations of the main players but also explains exactly what they did and how they did it.