Reviews

Enigma - the Battle for the Code, Hugh Sebag-Montefiore

Phoenix, 2001

Mark Haddon

'No episode in the Second World War has captured the modern imagination more strongly than the cracking of the Enigma code by the boffins at Bletchley Park.

Yet was this what really happened? Without for a moment belittling the work of Alan Turing and his team of eccentric codebreakers, this book shows the extent to which the breaking of the all-important Naval Enigma code was reliant on more traditional forms of cloak and dagger: the...capture of ships and U-boats...and the betrayal of his German homeland by...an old-fashioned traitor...'

Phoenix

'

 

Most books of this type are designed to give the reader an insight into the story behind the breaking of the World War II secret code from the point of view of only the British codebreakers' efforts. One such example was Channel 4's documentary 'Breaking the Code' a number of years ago.

Where this book differs is its approach to considering the code-breaking efforts of Britain and her European allies. Rather than merely focussing on the work of the code-breakers at Bletchley Park, England, this work looks at how the Enigma code was broken by the British, French and Polish. It graphically describes the capture of code material from German U-boats and the spying carried out for the common end of breaking the code that allowed the Nazis to continue to evade their enemies.

The book describes the different approaches taken to break the German Army, Airforce and Navy Enigmas, as well as the 'smaller' codes used by small supply ships when signalling ships in the Naval Enigma. A lengthy appendix graphically illustrates some of the methods of code-breaking employed, including Alan Turing's 'bombes' for working out the Enigma machine settings on any one day. The book also contains a useful chronology and informative epilogue, as well as an extensive notes section explaining some of the sources of material in the book.

'Enigma - the Battle for the Code' can be treated simply as a non-fiction 'story' if only the main text is read. However, when the appendices are read in conjunction with the main text, a thorough illustrated technical description is provided that may be of more interest to the scientific reader. A good read - if you saw the television documentary and want to know more, this is for you.

 

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Reviewed on 12/08/2004 by Sam

 

Reviewed item details

Publisher: Phoenix
ISBN: 0-75381-130-8
Main text 346 pages

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