A melting pot of Oxbridge dons, maverick oddballs and regular citizens worked night and day at Station X, as Bletchley Park was known, to derive intelligence information from German coded messages Bear in mind that an Enigma machine had a possible 159 million million million different settings and the magnitude of the challenge becomes apparent That they succeeded, despite military scepticism, supplying information that led to the sinking of the Bismarck, Montgomery s victory in North Africa and the D Day landings, is testament to an indomitable spirit that wrenched British intelligence into the modern age, as the Second World War segued into the Cold War Michael Smith constructs his absorbing narrative around the reminiscences of those who worked and played at Bletchley Park, and their stories add a very human colour to their cerebral activity The code breakers of Station X did not win the war but they undoubtedly shortened it, and the lives saved on both sides stand as their greatest achievement....
|Title||:||The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war|
|Format Type||:||Kindle Edition|
|Publisher||:||Biteback Publishing 31 Oktober 2011|
|Number of Pages||:||169 Pages|
|File Size||:||695 KB|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Secrets of Station X: How the Bletchley Park codebreakers helped win the war Reviews
After reading Neal Stephensons Cryptonomicon I was looking for a book about Bletchley Park and found this highly recommended book for my Kindle for less than 2 Euros.
Station X a history of the British effort to decrypt the secret foreign military and diplomatic traffic of the Germans, Russians and Japanese. As a history, it begins with the roots of this effort during World War I and the inter-war period. My interest in this topic is due to my interest in computer security, and the story of Bletchley Park ("Station X") is a nexus of events in cryptography, cryptanalysis and computer engineering. And of course of the craft of intelligence.The book makes clear that the encryption implemented by Enigma was or would have been practically unbreakable, were it not for the mistakes that the Germans made in implementation. The substitutions were not truly random. Letter and letter pair frequency in German were not completely randomized. The codes were vulnerable to known plain text attacks: Standard message texts were used repeatedly. Messages were sometimes sent in weaker ciphers that had already been broken, providing further known plain texts. This book provides real-life examples for students of cryptography about to strengthen ciphers and how to attack them.The Bletchley park code breakers were also assisted by German faults in key initialization and propagation. Soldiers in the field used non-random, guessable initialization sequences. And eventually, code books with random keys were captured. All of these factors made what was certainly a monumentally challenging task of code breaking possible.No one should underestimate the manual work that went into the cryptanalysis, to reverse engineer each modification to the Enigma engines, to identify the daily keys based on partial texts and garbled interceptions. The code breakers were hard working geniuses, worthy of respect from generations of cryptologists.Another important achievement of the Bletchley group and their supporters was the introduction of machinery to speed up the trial and error matching of the possible substitution and scrambling sequences. Some were designed by memorable names such as Turing, but others were invented by engineers at the Postal Service.The Bletchley code breakers built on a history of prior achievement. The talent and skills of the British began with the Foreign Office code breaking efforts during World War I. And the first to decipher Engima codes were Polish scientists who shared their understanding and methods with the British during the run-up to World War II.I enjoyed the level of detail and biography in the book, and the flow of history it depicts. I would have appreciated more description on the manual methods used to break the codes, before the machines came into use, and that were required on a daily basis to determine the keys as they were changed.There is a 4 part BBC documentary from 1999 also called Station X. Many of the same people were interviewed for the documentary and for the book, and many of the quotes are identical. Nevertheless, the visual presentation of the documentary and the detail of the book are complementary. The documentary is available on YouTube. I recommend both.
I was betrayed by the folks who gave this book 5 stars....this book is horrendously dry and boring. If I read a good book in bed at night, I will stay up all night reading because I am interested. This book, by contrast, put me to sleep in about 30 seconds every time I tried reading it. The book basically talks about the people who worked at Bletchely park and their personalities. Very little about the enigma machine or how the code was broken. It reads like a soap opera, very touchy feely with lots of focus on the emotions of the people at Bletchley park. In addition, almost every single page has a long one paragraph first person quotation which completely breaks up the flow of the book. Would have been much better to simply paraphrase.I tried for several weeks and gave up; just could not read more than 3-4 pages at a time without being bored out of my mind.
In preparation to a trip to Bletchley Park (BP) this year I obtained this book to provide background and to understand more about this aspect of WW II. To my surprise this was the underling factor that contributed to winning the war. Michael Smith does an extraordinary job of compiling many interviews, diaries, correspondence and records of BP and chronologically organizes the material into a story that is easily followed.I was especially interested in the Bismarck, Operation Barbarossa, Dieppe, U Boat North Atlantic War, Sword Operation of North Africa, Overlord, and Double Cross which BP played decisive and significant parts in each. Reading the Nazi mail allowed the Allies to play them like a fiddle! By way of attrition then at Normandy siege warfare the Allies were able to overcome the Nazi advantage in short time, all through Ultra.Although I have read a great deal about the Enigma machine and still do not totally comprehend its working, the chapter on Colossus, the first computer, developed at BP provides more understanding. This book does provide the importance of Station X and the individuals who interacted there. It appears from this account the UK Nerds won WW II.
I'm interested in cryptanalysis mainly to understand how this science is used covertly. The only way to discover this is to read its history that has been declassified and then use imagination to understand the present post Snowden world. This book fills that need and more because there are excerpts from survivors of the BP data spill. Smith combines the technical at a simple level with the human story. It is a nice read.
This is an entertaining, very readable narrative about the immensely important code breaking operation at Bletchley Park during World War II. A lot of ordinary people and some eccentric geniuses came together in this ramshackle estate in the countryside and helped to mortally wound the German war effort. The story is interleaved with reminisciences of people who were there and that provides insights into the time, the place, the struggles, the ups and downs and the occasional frivolity that got them through it all.