Sunday 16 July 2017

Guest Review: The Secret Listeners by Sinclair McKay

Follow-up to the bestselling The Secret Life of Bletchley Park, the hitherto-untold story of how young men and women across the world listened in to and intercepted the enemy’s radio traffic so that Bletchley Park’s codebreakers could turn the course of the war. Before Bletchley Park could break the German war machine’s codes, its daily military communications had to be monitored and recorded by “the Listening Service” – the wartime department whose bases moved with every theatre of war: Cairo, Malta, Gibraltar, Iraq, Cyprus, as well as having listening stations along the eastern coast of Britain to intercept radio traffic in the European theatre. This is the story of the – usually very young – men and women sent out to far-flung outposts to listen in for Bletchley Park, an oral history of exotic locations and ordinary lives turned upside down by a sudden remote posting – the heady nightlife of Cairo, filing-cabinets full of snakes in North Africa, and flights out to Delhi by luxurious flying boat.

The Secret Listeners: How the Wartime Y Service Intercepted the Secret German Codes for Bletchley Park by [McKay, Sinclair] 

Review: This book describes the exploits of the Wireless Interception Service, or Y Service, during the Second World War. This was a highly secretive organisation comprising armed forces and civilian personnel whose task was to listen in to encrypted enemy wireless communications, usually transmitted in morse code, and transcribe the sequences of letters that were being sent. These wireless intercepts were then submitted to the codebreakers at Bletchley Park. Hence, Y Service was responsible for intercepting and supplying the raw material to be decoded. However, the young men and women of the Y Service were posted not just to various listening stations around the United Kingdom, but to locations abroad nearer the front line, or even to an isolated island in the Indian Ocean.

The author, Sinclair McKay, had written previously "The Secret Life of Bletchley Park", so "The Secret Listeners" complements this earlier publication. It is based on archival material and interviews with numerous surviving veterans of Y Service. The book gives a fascinating insight of the work of this little-known organisation and the dedication of the operators who worked round the clock in sometimes difficult conditions to intercept and transcribe enemy communications.

Although I enjoyed the book, I do have a major criticism of the standard of proof reading since there are several obvious typographical errors. In addition, there are a number of glaring geographical errors, such as Harwich transposed from Essex to Suffolk, and Skegness transposed from Lincolnshire to Yorkshire. In addition, a map at the front of the book shows Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo in Egypt, transposed to Algeria

To order your copy, just click the link! UK or US

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