Saturday 27 March 2021

Guest Review: Bletchley Park: The Secret Archives By Sinclair McKay

This is beautifully slipcased presented collector’s edition of the best selling title, The Lost World of Bletchley Park, a comprehensive illustrated history of this remarkable place, from its prewar heyday as a country estate, its wartime requisition and how it became the place where modern computing was invented and the German Enigma code was cracked, to its post-war dereliction and then rescue towards the end of the twentieth century as a museum.

Removable memorabilia includes:

  • 1938 recruiting memo with a big tick against Turing’s name
  • Churchill’s ‘Action this day’ letter giving code breakers extra resources
  • Handwritten Turing memos
  • Top Secret Engima decryptions, about the sinking of the Bismark, German High Command’s assessment of D-Day threat and  the message announcing Hitler’s suicide
  • A wealth of everyday items such as call-up papers, security notices and propoganda posters

Newly redesigned interiors with 25% new content, high end slipcase package featuring removable facsimile documents, this is an essential purchase for everyone interested and wanting to experience the place where code-breaking helped to win the war.

Review: Having read “The Secret Listeners”, a book describing the exploits of the Wireless Interception Service during the Second World War and written by the same author, I was keen to read this book about Bletchley Park. Although famous nowadays as the home of the codebreakers who decrypted the raw material supplied by the Wireless Interception Service, Bletchley Park was originally an estate with a Victorian mansion in Buckinghamshire. In 1938 the estate and house were bought by the government and converted into the secret establishment known as Station X. The following year, the Government Code and Cypher School moved from London to the estate. It was here that an eclectic and highly talented collection of civilian and military personnel worked to break enemy codes. To assist them in this, sophisticated calculating machines such as the “Bombe” and “Colossus” machines, the forerunners of today’s computers, were developed.

The book covers the history of the estate and house; its conversion to a wartime code breaking centre during the war; the staff who worked there and how they spent their off-duty hours; the machines that were developed; and what happened after the end of the war, when the estate became a training centre for the General Post Office for a time before falling into disrepair. In the 1990s, the Bletchley Park Trust was formed to preserve the site and convert it into the museum and tourist attraction that it is today. The final chapters bring the story up to the present, covering the place of Bletchley Park in popular culture with films such as “Enigma” and “The Imitation Game” and the television series “The Bletchley Circle”.

At 176 pages long, the book is quite short and the chapters, of necessity, fairly brief and, at times, frustratingly superficial. It is more a pictorial history of the estate and this is probably it’s strongest point in that there are numerous images throughout, although in some instances, the captions of the images appear to be incorrect. In the acknowledgements section of the book, it states that some of the material appeared in a previous publication by the author “The Lost World of Bletchley Park”, and some of the images are the same as those used in “The Secret Listeners”. However, at the back of this book is a sleeve that contains removable copies of various documents relating to the codebreakers’ work, including a memo from Winston Churchill agreeing to a request from some of the staff for extra administrative support. Overall, I found this to be a fascinating, though brief, history of the Bletchley Park Estate.

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

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