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on 26 December 2010
Mrs Batey is to be congratulated on a well written and perceptive biography of Dilly Knox. It deserves to become one of the standard works on Bletchley Park.

Alfred Dillwyn "Dilly" Knox was a classical scholar of eccentric manner who was recruited as a codebreaker into "Room 40" of the Naval Intelligence Division at the beginning of World War I, where he contributed to many of the successes of that organisation. After the war's end, rather than returning to academe, he became a member of the Government Codes & Cypher School (GC&CS) and continued the developement of cryptanalytical techniques.

Dilly was a key participant on the British side in talks with the French and Poles over Enigma. He moved to Station X at Bletchley Park at the beginning of WWII. His skills were put to good use, including recruiting suitable people from civilian life as the organisation expanded. He did not fit easily into the larger system and argued with his superiors, his frustration probably exacerbated by knowledge that cancer would soon kill him. Latterly forced to work from home (his importance can be judged by the fact that this was allowed), he died in February 1943 having been appointed CMG shortly before.

Mavis Batey (Mavis Lever in 1939; she would meet Keith Batey at Bletchley) was one of "Dilly's Girls". Her achievement here is to use her personal knowledge of her subject, and of the work of Bletchley Park, to produce a balanced account of Dilly Knox's personality and achievements. Despite her obvious affection for Dilly, this is not a hagiography. She describes the awkward elements of his character, but puts his disputes with his superiors in proportion, something other recent writers, of a more journalistic bent, have failed to do. (With hindsight, Dilly's eccentricities probably resulted from mild Asperger's,like other BP geniuses, although Mrs Batey does not raise this).

She uses her own experiences to counterpoint the narrative, but never intrudes. The contribution that Dilly and his team made to victory at the Battle of Matapan is rightly given a chapter to itself, which Mrs Batey adroitly also uses to demonstrate how timely intercepts were fitted into operational outcomes.

Mrs Batey manages to include much telling detail. It is intriguing to discover that Dilly's wife (who as his secretary in WWI had to put up with his habit of taking baths in the office) encouraged him to stay in GC&CS when he was contemplating a return to Cambridge, thus paying an enormous service to her country. The accounts of Knox's fondness for Lewis Carroll, and his own Carrollian pastiches are amusing (though she seems unaware that such pastiches were common in Dilly's generation).

Anyone with any interest in Bletchley Park and the people who made it work should read this book.
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on 11 January 2010
A beautifully written and enlightening account of a fascinating era in British Intelligence. It is written by a woman who played a key part in deciphering Enigma codes at Bletchley. Her knowledge of events and the people involved is utterly enthralling
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on 11 September 2015
Some highly educated appreciation of a genius codebreaker a well educated man a schoolfriend of such gifted people like John Maynard Keynes. Dilly's Knox's first love was discovering researching and printing modern examples of Ancient Greek Texts he was an expert in conducting very deeply involved appreciations of the fascinating literature of The Ancient Greeks.

It was his decypherning of disparate fragments of ancient greek writings. that made him a master craftsman in the alchemy of codebreaking This task involved works which not always directly attritutable to the cognoscentii who created them . It needed a long term commitment inpiration to organisation to collect these rare socially diffused texts that made Dilly's Knox an expert in breaking all kinds of Enigma's.

That is the story and well worth reading about and it may well be entirely consistent with the truth - but where is truth in this day and age -I don't know?
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on 26 June 2013
For those interested in the extraordinary work carried out at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, this is a well written account of the life of a brilliant code-breaker, written by another code-breaker, still happily with us. The appendices explaining some of the processes used are particularly interesting. Given the extreme secrecy necessary at Bletchley Park and the severe restrictions imposed until quite recently, the few books published are complementary so I would also recommend the accounts written by Michael Smith and by Gordon Welchman.
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on 16 February 2015
They bang on about turin and how he was subsequently treated for homosexuality after all he did for the war effort etc etc. This book explains how a man with a natural ability to fill in gaps helped everyone. I am personally saddened that the media and press think bletchley park/turin. Dilly was the man as much as turin and all at bletchley park were great at what they did despite eccentricities. Mavis has done a wonderful job at capturing a unique moment in the cottage and bletchley park. The abwer code, who else could have cracked it except for a team of fantastic minds and dilly looking for the lobster and not the crab. The book itself from the opening chapter where Mavis confirms an italian admiral had not been seduced by a mysterious female agent and that she was on deck to decipher the message through the bletchley park system to absolve and clear the families name, its a totally captivating book. Tracing the real history of the enigma machine and the roles the polish and french played in it all. We could even now turn to tommy flowers for a bit of contemplation. Thankyou Mavis Batey may you rest in peace.
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on 29 February 2016
Most people interested in Bletchley have heard of Alan Turing but Dilly Knox was fundamental to cracking Enigma. His background in decoding ancient papyri gave him enormous ability to see "outside the box" and recognise patterns in German decrypts. It also speaks volumes for the English virtue of recognising genius in the most unlikely of places and allowing it to flourish, hence so many boffins and "odd bods" being employed at Bletchley. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 5 January 2011
A wonderful biography of the man at the heart of the Enigma project, by a colleague and friend who knew him well.
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on 28 December 2010
Another angle on this ever unfolding story. An engaging read. I would have liked to have seen a bit more technical explanation but accept that this might deter some people.
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on 2 September 2011
It's interesting to learn about the men who worked on breaking the codes and the problems they had to solve. I find it fascinating.
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on 24 February 2014
German military texts enciphered on the Enigma machine were first broken by the Polish Cipher Bureau, beginning in December 1932. This success was a result of efforts by three Polish cryptologists, Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski, working for Polish military intelligence.

[...]
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