Photos from Celebrating Bletchley Park event

On 19-20 March 2016 Bletchley Park veterans, authors, machine experts and enthusiasts gathered at Firle Place Riding School for the ‘Celebrating Bletchley Park’ event to talk about Bletchley Park – the work, the people, and the groundbreaking machines developed to break the German Enigma code.

I thought you would like to see some of my photographs from the epic two-day event. Check out the photographs on Pinterest here: https://uk.pinterest.com/bpresearch/celebrating-bletchley-park-event or click on the photo below.

Celebrating Bletchley Park

I’ve also added the photographs (with a few extras to the Pinterest album) to Google+ here: https://plus.google.com/+KerryHoward/posts/ht9bdEo1nQC.

This photograph of Sir Dermot Turing signing a copy of Prof: Alan Turing Decoded for author Michael Smith is one of my favourites.

Celebrating Bletchley Park

Beware of some book-buying fans!

I went to the event as a guest of Charlotte (Betty) Webb MBE, Bletchley Park veteran. Betty was interviewed with another veteran, Mary Every by author Michael Smith.

Other speakers included Sir Dermot Turing, Elisa Segrave (the event host), Dr. Joel GreenbergSinclair McKay, and Gordon Corera. Margy Kinmonth talked about grandfather, Admiral John Henry Godfrey and shared some photographic treasures from the family archive.

The technical side of the Bombe Machine was covered by Paul Kellar, MBE from the Bombe Restoration Team. Phil Hayes from the National Museum of Computing delivered an accessible explanation of how codebreakers were able to break the complex Lorenz machine. I particularly enjoyed his talk as it was a light bulb moment in my understanding!

Phil_Hayes

Phil Hayes, National Museum of Computing

You can read more about the event and the speakers who delivered fascinating talks then spent time mingling with the audience. Click here to learn more about Celebrating Bletchley Park and the speakers.

The event’s Bookshop was delivered by City Books of Hove. As advertised by Sir Dermot Turing below, the speakers with books for sale at the event signed extra copies. Contact City Books to see if you can get a signed copy of your favourite Bletchley Park book.

Celebrating Bletchley Park

Sir Dermot Turing signing books for City Books, Hove.

A special thanks must go to Elisa Segrave, John Warburton and Lisa Gordon for organising such a fantastic event.

Clicking on the highlighted names of the speakers will take you to their books on Amazon UK. If you purchase their book through these links, I earn a few pennies commission (this does not affect the price you pay) which goes towards running this site. If you prefer, you can exit and go to Amazon direct or buy signed copies from City Books.

MBE for Bletchley Park Veteran Charlotte Webb

Charlotte Webb can still keep a secret

Charlotte Webb can still keep a secret

I received a telephone call today with some very exciting news. Charlotte Webb, Bletchley Park veteran, tireless speaker and advocate for all things Bletchley Park, has been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Go Betty.

Charlotte (known as Betty)  has received this honour for ‘voluntary services for remembering and promoting the work of Bletchley Park’.

The letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirming the MBE arrived about 7 weeks ago, but Betty was sworn to secrecy until the list became public. No risk of the news leaking there then – we already know she’s good at keeping secrets.

Click here to read the formal notice of Betty’s MBE in the London Gazette.

Betty, now in her 90s has delivered in excess of 100 talks about her time at Bletchley Park and its growth into a World Class Heritage attraction. She regularly appears on the television, radio and newspapers to help spread the Bletchley Park story worldwide.

Betty is absolutely delighted with the news. She said “I am very surprised and greatly honoured.”

This is a much deserved honour and I am sure you will join me in congratulating Betty. When I visit her next week I will take her a bouquet of flowers from all the Bletchley Park Research readers.

You can also listen to Betty talking about her war years on the Bletchley Park Podcast:


Betty has written a fascinating book about her time at Bletchley Park, the Pentagon and beyond. It includes a chapter about some of the events she has been involved with to promote Bletchley Park.

You can buy Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon in print or e-book format at Amazon UK, Amazon.com or at your regional Amazon store.

Betty will be at the Annual Veteran’s Reunion celebration at Bletchley Park on 6th September 2015. You never know, you might just get the chance to have your book signed.

 

Have you seen this photograph of Joan Clarke from1936?

As we draw closer to the publication of Women Codebreakers, I wanted to share a previously unseen photograph of Joan Clarke (later Murray). More photographs as well as her letters and notes also feature in the book.

It was taken in 1936, the year she matriculated to Newnham College, Cambridge to study mathematics.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

Joan Clarke (Murray) 1936

The book will definitely be out next week. Keep your eye on Amazon, or better still, sign up to the Bletchley Park Research Newsletter and I’ll drop you an email with the date. I will talk about the delays once it’s finally out.

Please feel free to share the photograph of Joan so we can all get to know her, but I ask that you also link back to this post or to http://www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk/research-notes/women-codebreakers/.

women codebreakers, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

Debs of Bletchley Park & other stories

Author & Bletchley Park's chief historical advisor.

Author Michael Smith

When author Michael Smith was asked first asked to write about the debutantes of Bletchley Park he firmly said ‘No.’

No?

You can imagine the publisher’s raised eyebrows, and that moment of surprise, which eventually turned to understanding when one the most knowledgeable writers on the subject explained:

‘I said no because there weren’t that many – they weren’t all Debs, but I said I will write about the women of Bletchley Park. I think their story is important. I think we see things from a male perspective because that’s the way the world was seen in those days. We talk about the women being small cogs in a big machine, which is true to some extent but if you take the cogs out, the machine doesn’t work.’

So with the publisher’s blessing Michael Smith wrote a book that explores all classes of women at all levels of the Bletchley Park hierarchy, from Joan Clarke in Hut 8 who became one of the most senior codebreakers at Bletchley Park, Pamela Gibson (now Rose) in Hut 4 who worked in a top civilian rank as a senior Administrative Officer to a junior Wren laboriously manning the Bombe machine and the filing clerks, down to the lowest rung of a very important ladder.

‘The Treasury tried to keep them in junior ranks because that was cheaper and they were quite blatant about that. At one point commander Travis, the Head of Bletchley Park said to Joan Clarke “I think we might have to make you a Wren if we are going to pay you what you need.” So a junior Wren working on the Bombe was paid more than Joan Clarke who was one of the leading codebreakers.’

The book is entirely from the perspective of the women. Only three men get quoted – Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, and the husband of one of the veterans, who went on to work as an actress.

‘He saw this “vision of loveliness step out on the stage.” It was such a lovely quote that I wasn’t going to leave it out.’

To launch ‘The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories‘ Michael Smith introduced six of the women featured in the book to a frenzy of media interest gathered in the Bletchley Park Mansion:

Copyright & Reproduced with permission of www.mkweb.co.uk 2015

Copyright & Reproduced with permission of www.mkweb.co.uk 2015

Lady Marion Body, from Stanford Dingley in Berkshire, was a Foreign Office civilian working on Japanese encoded messages alongside HRH The Duchess of Cambridge’s grandmother and great-aunt. She recently briefed the Duchess on what her grandmother and great-aunt did at Bletchley.

Jean Pitt-Lewis, from Monmouth in Gwent, was a Foreign Office civilian and member of Dilly’s Girls, a group of young women who worked with Bletchley’s chief cryptographer Dilly Knox to brea Italian and German secret service Enigma messages. The secret service messages were vital to the Double Cross deception which ensured the success of the D-Day landings.

Betty Webb, from Wythall in Worcestershire, was a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). She worked on German police messages in the Mansion at Bletchley Park. These messages revealed the beginning of the Holocaust with the massacres of thousands of Jews on the eastern front. Betty then moved to Block F to paraphrase intelligence reports based on Japanese Army messages decoded and translated at Bletchley.

Marigold Freeman-Attwood, from Haddenham in Buckinghamshire, was a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, the Wrens. She worked on Colossus, the world’s first digital electronic computer, which was used to break the coded messages sent by Hitler’s High Command.

Margaret Mortimer, from Bramble Edge in Dorset, was a Wren working in the Newmanry Registration Room receiving German messages from the intercept site at Knockholt, near Sevenoaks in Kent on punched paper teleprinter tapes, preparing them for running through Colossus and logging the results.

Jean Tocher, from Poole in Dorset, was a Wren in the Bletchley Park Naval Section working on the ‘Allied Plot’. This was a chart of the world covering all four walls of one room on which a number of Wrens plotted the movement of all the allied ships and their German, Italian and Japanese opposite numbers.

The book is different to Michael Smith’s other books on Bletchley Park. I love his books because they are a detailed blend of the technical art of codebreaking and the eclectic mix of characters who inhabited the secret wartime site. He has gone out of his way to make the bookaccessible to a wider audience by ‘dispensing with all the techie stuff.’ The book explains the technical aspects such as Colossus and the Enigma busting Bombe, but in simple terms. To broaden the appeal he has kept the focus on the human story and personal testimony of the women who continue to fascinate us. After all it is their experiences that continue to fascinate us.

Michael Smith told me that laid down his Bletchley Park pen for the time being (or possibly permanently) to finish his novel. The novel is in the final stages of completion and he’s keen to get it back to it. Michael even gave a top-secret hint, saying ‘It’s second world war and one of the main characters is a woman working in a very secret job’.

I don’t know about you, but now I’ve devoured  The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories published by Aurum Press, I am eager to read his novel.

You can listen to my interview with Michael Smith on my new Retro Researcher Podcast on Audioboom. The interview is a fascinating insight into the story of the book and the women who feature in it. The interview includes the quotes found in this article.

You can also listen to Episode 31 of the Bletchley Park Podcast to hear more about the launch of Michael Smith’s book and hear the stories directly from the women of Bletchley Park. The episode also includes my interview with Michael Smith and Jean Pitt-Lewis. Click this link to listen at https://audioboom.com/boos/2882464-the-bletchley-park-podcast-e31-telling-the-world.

Thank you to Jessica Duncan for allowing me to reproduce the group photograph of the Bletchley Park women.

Waiting for Joan Clarke

Joan_Clarke_Murray_WW2_Horizon_1992The last week has been hectic and very exciting. I’ve worked hard on the planned launch of ‘Women Codebreakers – The Story of Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever and Joan Clarke’. The relatives of Margaret and Mavis have been fantastic with their support. But something very exciting has happened.

I’ve had an exciting breakthrough and finally made contact with Joan’s family.

In the last few days I have interviewed two relatives who have been amazingly helpful. Joan’s niece, who I interviewed yesterday is sending some photographs. I am hopeful that I’ll be able to speak to another nephew over the next few days.

The result of the interviews is an added depth and richness to my understanding of Joan Clarke. I had been able to peek under the curtains of the past, dig under the stones of related material to build a picture of Joan’s life for the book. So when I set the date for publication I had a story of Joan utilising facts from published work as well as new information I have obtained from the family history research and interviews. But finally speaking to family has blown that out of the water in the way that only personal detail can.

It explains the reasons behind Joan’s shyness as well as an insight into her quirks, relationships and passions. I now need to finish weaving these details into the existing narrative of the book so readers can understand the real Joan Clarke too. It also means reformatting the eBook ready for launch.

For anyone who has pre-ordered the book that launch date was today. I’ve agonised over what to do – do I release what I have today on the day of The Imitation Game’s release in the US and do a later update, or do wait so that I can have Joan’s full story in the book from the start? I’ve changed my mind a million times, left it to the last minute but I’ve finally decided….

I’ve decided that the real Joan Clarke is worth waiting for.

This means the book isn’t going to be available today as planned. This is painful to say as it will disappoint, and possibly alienate people who are expecting the book today. But I think I will be short-changing them when I know I can offer more in light of the family interviews.

It’s all well and good that I work through the ‘eleventh hour and three quarters’ to get it finished (we’ve all been there before – I know I have), but I need to give Joan’s family time to revisit the memories of Joan as they go through papers and photographs to send over. The book will be better for it.

At this point I am going to delay the book by just over a week, so it will be the 7th December. I hope to get some of the photographs by then.

For those eagerly waiting to read it – I am very sorry and I hope you understand. Your support in this is much appreciated. I love the hunt of the research, but you can never tell when something special turns up. These last few days have been very special and I want to do justice to the new information so that this tribute to three inspirational women is the best it can be.

 

Photograph at the top of the page is taken from the 1992 Horizon programme ‘The Strange Life and Death of Dr.Turing’. Reproduced from the programme with the kind permission of its director, Christopher Sykes.

New Women Codebreakers Book Cover and Limited Pre-Order Pricing

women codebreakers, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.ukI am very excited to share with you the smashing cover for the Women Codebreakers of Bletchley Park book cover. Designed by the fabulous Mark Stephenson at Launch Creative, the cover is everything I hoped for.

Mark transformed my idea of a wartime propaganda style poster bringing together the images of Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever and Joan Clarke brilliantly. It’s eye-catching and fun with a little nod to an era of hand coloured photographs.

I actually felt emotional when I saw it.

My plan to launch in line with the release of The Imitation Game didn’t go to plan (see the post ‘Waiting for Joan Clarke’ for an exciting update & the reason for the change of date).

How exciting.

As a special pre-order reward for those of you who buy it from this website. When it goes live on Amazon, the price will jump up to £3.99.


UPDATE: Pre-orders direct from this website has now ended. It will be available to purchase from 10th January 2015.

 

women codebreakers, book cover Launch creative also designed by Bletchley Park Research logo and can wholeheartedly recommend them to you for any design work. You can contact Mark at www.launchcreative.co.uk.

Mair Russell Jones Hut 6 codebreaker remembers Turing

Welsh codebreaker Mair Russell-Jones recognised Alan Turing's genius by Robin Turner, Wales Online
16 November 2014

The son of a Welsh woman who worked alongside World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing has spoken of how she “clearly recognised” his superb intellect soon after meeting him at Bletchley Park in World War 2.

German language skills, music training and talent for crosswords were the reasons Mair Russell-Jones was ‘headhunted’ by the Foreign Office for the Government Code & Cypher School operation at Bletchley Park. She worked in Hut 6 where the German Army and Air Force Enigma cyphers were broken.

In this article published in the Welsh Times, Gethin recalls how his mother often talked about Alan Turing and expressed her outrage at the way he was treated.

You can buy Mair’s book (written with her son) My Secret Life in Hut Six in bookstores, including Amazon UK and Amazon.com. This is a book definitely on my Christmas list for 2014.
.

Breaking Enigma was not the hardest codebreaking puzzle

The Telegraph - Breaking the Enigma code was the easiest part of the Nazi puzzle by Michael Smith
15 November 2014

Writer and Bletchley Park expert, Michael Smith talks about The Imitation Game and explores a World War 2 puzzle even greater and more challenging than Enigma – the SZ-40 Lorenz machine.

Michael Smith Author www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

You can also watch a video explained how the Lorenz was broken by clicking here.

Michael Smith’s book on the female codebreakers, ‘The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories’, will be published by Aurum in January. Can’t wait until then?

Buy his excellent book The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war.

Bletchley Park

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon, Charlotte Webb, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon (BookTower Publishing, 2014)

The extended second print edition of Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon is now available to buy on Amazon. The ebook version is available to pre-order and will be available on 17 November 2014.  Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon (Amazon UK), or Secret Postings on Amazon.com

The second edition includes lots more images, including extracts from a rare brochure Charlotte purchased at the Pentagon in 1945 detailing the design, construction and management of a building needed for the 32, 000 workers employed to work there in World War 2. (image copyright Department of Defence).

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon

The blurb:

At 18 years of age Charlotte Vine-Stevens leaves college and volunteers for the ATS, the Womens’s Army. After basic training she is given a travel warrant and instructions to go to Bletchley Station. Between 1941 and 1945 Charlotte finds herself stationed at the Government Code & Cypher School’s codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park.

After working with Major Ralph Tester in the Mansion, she moves to the Japanese Section in Block F to paraphrase deciphered Japanese messages. In 1945 this work leads Charlotte to see out the war in the Pacific at The Pentagon. (Image copyright Charlotte Webb).

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon

Secret Postings follows Charlotte’s life from a childhood in rural Shropshire, to a turbulent pre-war Germany, a World War 2 adventure at Bletchley Park, The Pentagon and beyond.

Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon (Amazon UK), or Secret Postings on Amazon.com. Alternatively search for the book on your region’s Amazon site to buy your copy. Soon it will be available in other online bookstores and the ebook is available for pre-order.

Reader Review: Howard Craston’s Top 6 Bletchley Park Books

Today Howard Craston, Bletchley Park Research reader and Friend of Bletchley Park shares his top 6 books on Bletchley Park. 

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, Bletchley Park

Howard Craston in Block C at Bletchley Park, June 2014

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

The Secrets of Station X on Amazon.com

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

Seizing The Enigma at Amazon.com

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

Codebreakers on Amazon.com

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

Alan Turing: The Enigma on Amazon.com

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’.

Click here to watch the trailer for The Imitation Game.

 

The Hut Six Story : Breaking the Enigma Codes by Gordon Welchman  (Amazon UK link) ISBN 9780947712341

The Hut Six Story on Amazon.com

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

Colossus on Amazon.com

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.

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, Enigma, Bletchley Park, Hut 6

Solving Enigma’s Secrets (Redditch, Worcestershire: BookTower Publishing, 2014)

www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk, Enigma, Bletchley Park, Hut 6 Solving Enigma’s Secrets – The Official History of Bletchley Park’s Hut 6
Edited by John Jackson ISBN 978-09557164-3-0 (BookTower Publishing, Sep 2014, 480 pages)

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The original history of Bletchley Park’s Hut 6 was considered so sensitive, it was only declassified in June 2006.

For the first time the wider public can read the story of Bletchley Park’s epic battle with the Enigma-enciphered messages of the German Army and Air Force, as written by the codebreakers.

This momentous struggle is told anonymously by the men and women working in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park, who recorded their experiences in a top secret report at the end of World War 2.

Where the German forces went the Enigma machine went with them. The daily changing cipher keys and the continuous security improvements put a constant strain on the quiet heroes of Bletchley Park.

This specially edited version of the original three volumes, which includes all of the volume on cryptography, is a lasting tribute to their unrelenting pursuit of the innermost secrets of the Nazi war machine and to their genius in overcoming all the odds.

Download a Free sample of Solving Enigma’s Secrets here before you buy.

If you buy the PDF version you get the ebook version for FREE prior to its release on 19 October 2014 (just send me a copy of your receipt).

Buy Solving Enigma’s Secrets PDF version on Selz

The print book (rrp £13.99) will be available to purchase on Amazon by Friday 26th September 2014

The Kindle version of the book is available for pre-order on Amazon UK by clicking here (release date 19 October 2014) and

Amazon.com, Amazon.com.ca, and Amazon.com.au or just go to your regional Amazon site.

Links for Kobo, iBooks and Nook to follow soon.

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3 women codebreakers at Bletchley Park

women codebreakers, Joan Clarke, Margaret Rock, Mavis Lever, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.ukWith all the buzz and excitement around the forthcoming movie, The Imitation Game I think it’s a brilliant time to really celebrate the few women codebreakers at Bletchley Park who were actually breaking Enigma codes alongside their male peers.

Rumour has it that the movie will include some areas of  ‘artistic licence’ to add to the relationship between Alan Turing and Joan Clarke (one of the few women codebreakers at Bletchley Park).

I don’t have a problem with a bit of fictional embellishment but I think it is vital to keep the facts at hand too.

So, I’m compiling my research into three women codebreakers- Margaret Rock, Joan Clarke (later Murray) and Mavis Lever (later Batey) and publishing a short e-book to pay tribute to these inspirational women at a time that one of them is portrayed in a leading movie role.

women codebreakers, www.bletchleyparkresearch.co.uk

This short e-book ‘Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park’ will be available on Amazon at the end of November 2014. If you would like to be notified as soon as it’s listed, then click here to keep up to date on the Women Codebreakers e-book news.

I would love to see their faces at the top of the Amazon charts for the world to see and discover – but I’m going to say that, aren’t I!

I have already provided links to some of the available information about Margaret, Joan and Mavis on a dedicated page – Click here to read more about these women codebreakers .

Decoding The Bletchley Circle – Sinclair McKay, Charlotte Webb & Jake Lushington talk to Ann Fisher

Author Sinclay McKay joined Bletchley Park veteran Charlotte Webb and Jake Lushington, the Executive Producer of The Bletchley Circle on the Ann Fisher  ‘All Sides’ radio show on WOSU.

Listen to the 52 minute replay of the Ann Fisher All Sides episode ‘Bletchley Circle Code Breaking: Real and Imagined’ here. It is a fantastic and enlightening discussion about the true story of Bletchley Park and its influence on the fictional drama of The Bletchley Circle.

“It is poetic to me that at Bletchley Park back in the day before the war the people who owned it often invited the community to the grounds for festivals and that sort of thing. It was shut off to them for a long time and now they are back again…people know about it and its very popular .” 

All Sides with Ann Fisher is a two-hour, daily public-affairs talk show covering the issues and events that shape life in central Ohio. Listener involvement is an integral part of the show’s ethos with participation welcome via telephone, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

Ann has enjoyed a 30 year career in journalism and joined WOSU in 2009. You can read more about Ann here.

 

Sinclair McKay – Bestselling Author and Journalist

When asked what he thought of The Bletchley Circle by Ann Fisher, Sinclair McKay said “Any television show that does anything to honour what these women did can only be a brilliant thing.”

You can find out more about Sinclair McKay‘s books on Amazon UK, including his latest book The Lost World of Bletchley Park: The Illustrated History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre. More than any book on Bletchley Park this book is brimming with previously unseen photographs of Bletchley Park. If you want to step back in time and get a good idea of that lost world then this is the book for you.

You can also find out more about the book and Sinclair McKay on Amazon US and Amazon CA.

 

Charlotte Webb – Bletchley Park Veteran, Author & Speaker

“Going back to civilian life was quite difficult. We still had rationing in this county and it was not easy to get a job if you could not tell your prospective employer what you had been doing because they viewed you rather suspiciously.” 

Betty has done over 100 talks about her time at Bletchley Park and written her story in Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon currently only available in print form in the UK. PDF copies are available worldwide on the premium reading service Scribd by clicking here.

You can also read more about Betty here.

 

Jake Lushington, Executive Producer of The Bletchley Circle and Head of Drama for World Productions

Jake has a long career in theatre and television. His sensitive approach to recreating the history of Bletchley Park from the look and feel of the show from its settings, fashions and characters is a testament to the popularity and devoted ‘Lady Nerds’ fan base that surrounds The Bletchley Circle.

You can read more about Jake on the World Productions website here.

The Bletchley Circle – Series 1 And 2 [DVD] is available on Amazon UK. Series 1 is available in US and Canada, with Series 2 available on pre-order. Happy watching.

 

Dear Codebreaker – Finding Margaret Rock Video

Dear Code Breaker Margaret RockI’ve prepared a short video introduction to Dear Codebreaker to tempt you while you wait for the launch of the book.

It’s been a very tricky few weeks. The highs of celebrating my 40th Birthday and the lows of a project that isn’t going to plan. Dear Code Breaker will be available on 1 August 2013.

In the meantime, I’ve prepared a short (but not perfect) video, introducing my Margaret research. There is a glimpse of some of the photographs and letters that will be included in the book and accompanying website.

 

 
Last week the story of Margaret was featured in The Portsmouth News (a few details about me and the book aren’t quite right). Click here to read the article.

Another very exciting bit of news is that Etc Magazine have included my research about Margaret in their Hampshire edition of the magazine. It’s a double page spread on page 76 & 77. Click here to take a look. You will see a rare photograph of Dilly Knox, who Margaret worked with at Bletchley Park. He is stood on the right of the photograph behind Margaret.

I think the article looks great. What do you think?

Kerry Howard Profile

Five Great Bletchley Park Books To Buy as Christmas Presents

Thinking about buying Bletchley Park books for someone this Christmas? Here are my five recommendations:

 1.The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war

This is the 2011 edition of The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war, by Michael Smith which has the best informed overview of Bletchley Park that you’ll ever come across.

Starting from 1938 when Bletchley Park’s fascinating journey as a codebreaking centre began, the book takes the reader through the growth and successes of the nearly 10,000 personnel recruited to help the Allied war effort. Using the stories of the codebreakers who worked there and original documents held at the National Archives, Michael Smith constructs a detailed story about the personal experiences and operational challenges faced by those at Bletchley Park faced until 1945.

It is both readable and thought-provoking. Its target audience are those who want a good introduction to the subject as well as some of the technical details of how machine and hand cyphers were broken, the introduction of first programmable computer, Colossus and the codebreakers who wrote directly to Churchill to ask for more resources.

Michael Smith’s writing prowess and passion for the subject means constructs an engaging and digestible history of Bletchley Park during World War 2, which is tricky for such a complex and technical subject.  It contains detailed notes on sources and references as well as a comprehensive index.

This is definitely the book for someone who wants an introduction to  the meat on the bones of the Bletchley Park story and wants to understand it as a human story as well as an operational and technical journey. Does this sound like the person you are buying for?

 

2. The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre by the Men and Women Who Were There


The second Bletchley Park book recommendation I have is by Sinclair McKay’s book,The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre by the Men and Women Who Were There, which has spent most of its publishing history on the bestseller list and has propelled Bletchley Park firmly in to the mainstream.

The success of this book is because it is firmly pitched at the general reader. It is a social history mostly drawing on the information contained in other books on subject. Sinclair McKay weaves the story together to build a visual world in the reader’s mind of what Bletchley Park could have been like during World War 2.

It is less technical than Michael Smith’s book but then again,  it is not designed as a technical history. The clear focus is the people – the fun, the atmosphere, the boffins, the débutantes, the challenges and hard graft. This basis on personal reminiscences is told within the overall journey of Bletchley Park from 1939 to 1945.

The style of this book is journalistic, pacy and easy to read. It is a great read for the uninitiated and will inspire the reader to read more about the work that was undertaken. It’s target market it clearly defined as the general reader and as such has a mediocre bibliography.

In summary, this is a great starting point for a general reader who wants to hear about what life was like at Bletchley Park. It has a light tone and will appeal to those who love learning more about the experiences of those who worked at Bletchley Park.

3. Britain’s Secret War 1939-1945: How Espionage, Codebreaking and Covert Operations Helped Win The War

Bletchley Park Book

Britain’s Secret War is another Michael Smith book. I mention it here because it makes an impressive Christmas present. It’s a large case bound book brimming with fascinating information, photographs and copies of original documents.

It’s not just about Bletchley Park but codebreaking and espionage in general during World War 2.

This visually masterful book is heavily laden with photographs of key players and key events around the short and informative written sections that work together and independently of each other. The sections also include brief biographies of some of the most distinguished men and women in the field. A sample of the internal page layout can be found on the Amazon page. Use the link for the book title above to see it.

I hate to call it a ‘coffee table’ book but it’s absolutely perfect to leave on the table to pick up and read snippets here and there. You don’t need any prior knowledge to read this book, just an interest in the subject.

Even though this is full of well written, fact filled text, the photographs alone make this book worth buying. At the time of writing this I notice this book is available on Amazon at half price too. £15.00 – what a bargain!

4. Dilly – The Man who broke Enigmas

Bletchley Park Book If you want to read a biography of one of the most significant Bletchley Park Codebreakers as written by another codebreaker, who worked with him during World War 2, then I highly recommend  Dilly: The Man Who Broke Enigmas by Mavis Batey.

In fact, I recommend this book as a general overview of Bletchley Park as well as a sensitive and honest portrait of this eccentric genius.

The book deals with the subject chronologically, starting with Dilly’s childhood and education, the beginnings of his career in the Admiralty’s Room 40 during World War 1. The story continues with Dilly’s meeting in Warsaw with the Polish codebreakers before life at the Bletchley Park war station gets into full swing.

The book also covers the now famous success Mavis had as a codebreaker in her own right. A feat that resulted in the Battle of Matapan in 1941 – the first naval success of World War 2, which kept the Italian fleet out of the remainder of the war. Of course, the story would not be complete without Dilly’s work on the Abwehr (German Armed Forces intelligence services) Enigma machine, probably the most significant success of wartime codebreaking.

Mavis Batey has an engaging writing style and tells a fascinating story of Dilly’s recruitment as a codebreaker up to his untimely death in 1943. It covers his eccentricities and his successes against the Enigma. Mavis keeps the subject light throughout the book, so it is a fascinating read for the general reader and those with a specific interest. She keeps the technical details to the appendices, which explains more about breaking the enigma cyphers and techniques such as ‘rodding’ and ‘buttoning up’.

This book is a great introduction to a man synonymous with codebreaking and provides a great introduction to codebreaking leading up to and during World War 2. It surprises me that this book isn’t higher up on the Amazon charts: it’s a real gem.

5. Double Cross – The True Stories of the D-Day Spies

Bletchley Park ResearchYou can’t beat a good book about spies. There is something enticing, daring and fascinating about those leading double lives and get away with it (sometimes). Double Cross: The True Story of The D-Day Spies has a broad appeal to Bletchley Park fans as well as anyone interesting in a bit of true life espionage.

This is an astonishing account of the team of double agents that convinced the Germans that Normandy was not the target for  the D Day landings. The information contained in this book is so secret I can’t tell you more about Bronx, Brutus, Treasure, Tricycle and Garbo or I’ll have to kill you..

Read the book, it’s safer.

It’s also a complete steal at £2.99 on Amazon!

Bletchley Park ResearchAll the above Bletchley Park books are available in paperback. With the exception of Britain’s Secret War, they are also available on the Kindle. Why not splash out on one of the new Kindles (yum) and treat your loved one this Christmas.

My Kindle was bought for me last Christmas and has transformed my reading habits. It has been the best present ever.

The device to the right is the Kindle Fire HD 7″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB – With Special Offers. £159.00

What’s in my Christmas Stocking?

My son is of an age where I get to buy my presents from him. I decided my stocking filler this year will be a book I’ve coveted for a while; certainly since I watched Cambridge Spies : Complete BBC Series [2003] [DVD], and downloaded the recently declassified Guy Liddell post war diaries. That book is:

 My Silent War (Modern Library Classics (Paperback)) by Kim Philby, who was the ringleader of the infamous Cambridge spies. A man clearly with nerves of steel, he joined the Secret Intelligence Service in 1940, rose to the head of Soviet counter intelligence, and, as MI6’s liaison with the CIA and the FBI.

Philby was also privy to information about Bletchley Park, which suggests that although the Germans never knew about the Allied efforts to break the German Enigma cipher, there is a good chance that the Russians did!

According to Michael Smith, Philby mentions Dilly Knox and the Government Code & Cypher School and particularly, Dilly’s success against the Abwehr enigma cypher. I am officially intrigued, especially as this biography was written in 1967 – many years before the enigma secret was officially revealed.

 

Do you have any recommendations for good Bletchley Park Books this Christmas? Get in touch and let me know.

Merry Christmas

Kerry

Kerry Howard Profile

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I recommend these Bletchley Park books because I love them but I have created links to Amazon in a way that will earn Bletchley Park Research a small affiliate commission if a purchase is made through an Amazon link. All goes towards telling more untold stories about Bletchley Park.

Thanks again.

Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park 1939-1945

I’ve been receiving some requests and orders for copies of Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park 1939 – 1945 by yours truly and John Gallehawk.

It’s been painful to have to say the book is now sold out and I am not reprinting further copies until the revised and improved edition is released.

For those keen to still get a copy, I know that the Bletchley Park bookshop have the last few copies on their bookshelves. You can buy a copy here.

The data in Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park is totally sound and unique but I want to improve the text and the layout.

Let me tell you a bit more about the book.

It is a book mostly made up of tables taken from the official weekly returns taken between March 1941 and August 1945. It covers data for men and women civilian and service personnel, their accommodation, billeting arrangement, their eating habits, transport arrangements as well as figures for their departments and some work output.

The information covers figures for the Government Code and Cypher School operation and the Secret Intelligence Service at Bletchley Park and Broadway Buildings, London. There is also figures for the Outstations, such as Wavendon and Eastcote.

It took a year to compile to the data from the official wartime records held at The National Archives, and nearly as long to reproduce that data in tables and charts, then check and double-check to make sure the data was accurately recorded.

The book is mostly tables and it’s amazing to see the story of Bletchley Park unfold through the numbers. Those numbers really do the talking! However, I have decided to revamp it as John and I produced it as a book with speed in 2007 so that it could be ready for the 2007 Veteran’s Reunion weekend.

My knowledge and love of publishing has changed dramatically since then and I now have the pleasure of publishing other books about Bletchley Park and related World War 2 signals intelligence subjects at www.booktowerpublshing.co.uk. I have temporarily taken Figuring It Out at Bletchley Park out of print so that I can improve the text that accompanies the tables, correct some minor formatting errors and improve its layout.

I am also experimenting with a series of infographics to go with chapters so that those fascinating numbers have increased visual impact too.

As I overhaul the book, I will be reissuing related sections as eBooks and then producing a compilation of those sections once again as a printed book. I am experimenting with how best to present a book of tables compatible with Amazon’s Kindle, which historically has issues with presenting tables and images effectively. In the meantime there will be and EPub format for other devices as well as a PDF version for Scribd and this website.

I apologise for those keen to get their hands on a copy of this book. Rest assured that the next edition will be worth the wait. Thank you for your patience.