Today Howard Craston, Bletchley Park Research reader and Friend of Bletchley Park shares his top 6 books on Bletchley Park.
I first got interested in Bletchley Park after reading the Robert Harris novel “Enigma”; I had really enjoyed his previous book “Fatherland”. Although Enigma is a fictional book the decrypted messages used in the book are real. Channel Four (UK TV station) did a great four part documentary called Station X in 1999 and I bought the accompanying book by Michael Smith.
I was fascinated that such a secret could be kept for so long. My book collection has now expanded to well over 70 books on Bletchley Park and Codebreaking.
My top 6 books on Bletchley Park:
The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war (Amazon UK link) ISBN 9781894940957
This is an updated version of the original book that accompanied the Channel Four TV series, and includes information that has been declassified since the original book was published.
Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1933-1945 (click title for the Amazon UK link) ISBN 9781848326361
I think that this is the best book on the battle against the naval Enigma and the U boats. It is extremely well researched account written by the world’s foremost cryptanalysis historian.
Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park (Amazon UK link) ISBN 0192801325
A collection of Bletchley Park stories written by some of the key personnel of Bletchley Park during World War 2.
Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges (Amazon UK link) ISBN 0045100608
A brilliant biography of Alan Turing, Mathematician and genius, who is probably the most famous codebreaker at Bletchley Park. Subject of the new film ‘The Imitation Game’.
The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes by Gordon Welchman (Amazon UK link) ISBN 9780947712341
Written by the head of Hut Six, This book when originally published was the first book to actually tell how the Enigma Cipher was broken.
Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park’s code-breaking computers by Jack Copeland & Others (Amazon UK link) ISBN 9780199578146
The definitive history of the worlds first electronic computer, built to help crack “Tunny” the codename given to the messages of the German High Command, encrypted on the fiendish Lorenz cipher machine, which was much harder than Enigma.
I have picked these books because they give a very good picture of what happened at Bletchley Park during World War 2. The secret was kept for 30 years after the war and although a lot of veterans have written accounts of their time at Bletchley Park, the very nature of the secret work during the war and the “need to know” culture prevents them from giving an overall view of what went on, as they can only write with any detail about the section that they actually worked in.
Please be aware that there are many other good books on Bletchley Park and the ones I have listed are purely my personal choice for a good starter reading list about the best kept secret of World War 2.
I will be writing further reviews on Bletchley Park books and other World War 2 codebreaking books and codebreaking in general.
You can find Howard on Twitter @borneobat
Do you have a favourite book on Bletchley Park that you’d like to share?
Leave a comment below – we’d love to hear your recommendations.