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The Secrets of Station X: The Fight to Break the Enigma Cypher (Pan Grand Strategy Series)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  233 ratings  ·  31 reviews
When the British military commandeered Bletchley Park in 1939 no one would have guessed that by 1945 its inmates would have contributed decisively to the Allied war effort.

A melting pot of Oxbridge dons and maverick oddballs worked night and day at Station X to decode the Enigma cypher used by the Germans for high-level communications. That they succeeded, changing the cou
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Paperback, 295 pages
Published December 20th 2011 by Biteback Publishing (first published 1998)
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(showing 1-30 of 731)
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I first visited Bletchley Park (BP) before significant funding was secured to restore buildings and exhibit extensive displays. Then there was an extraordinarily wonderful atmosphere. The weeds were growing, just as if the press of wartime codebreakers and ancillary staff had vacated the site only a year before. Evidence of the removal of equipment could be seen; whilst more forlornly awaited in situ and in odd corners for repair and restoration. I saw only a handful of other visitors that day, ...more
Gerry
Who would have realised that when 'Captain Ridley's shooting party' arrived at Bletchley Park in August 1939 that a legend was about to be created. But it was to be a secret legend because no-one was to know what was going on at the establishment as those that worked there were not even allowed to tell their families what they were doing.

Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair had bought Bletchley Park in the spring of 1938 as an evacuation site for both MI6 and the Government Code and Cypher School. And they
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Carolyn
This was a riveting read about codebreaking at Bletchley Park in the second world war. British Intelligence, known as GC&CS before the war and GCHQ after the war, could crack almost any code and did. Peaking at an employment level of 10,000 in early 1945, Bletchley Park codebreakers decoded, read, and analyzed the most vital and secret transmissions by the Germans. Experts say that their work shortened the war by one to three years.

The Official Secrets Act that all Bletchley Park staff had t
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Chris
Short history of the Codebreakers, with the focus on more than Turning. In other words, if you saw the recent movie, you should read this. Of particular note is the fact that Smith's source include many women.
Chris
Without saying too much, this book was sometimes a fairly heavy read, but then, the subject is a complicated on, and therefore on occasion, I struggled to understand how certain things worked. It could maybe have been a good idea to include some more examples of how the cyphers worked and how the Germans en-cyphered their messages and as to how they were broken.

However, what a story it was. Breaking the Enigma, first by hand, then by the electronic Bombes then finally with the birth of the first
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Sue
I really enjoyed this book. I found it absolutely fascinating to think that all the people who worked there kept it a secret for so long. It also made me realise how lucky I am that they did everything they did under such circumstances. The first hand accounts were wonderful and (even though I would never want to go through six years of war and uncertainty) almost made me want to walk through the corridors and experience it all with them. If you like non-fiction war tales, but without the fighti ...more
Kerry Howard
This was the first non-fiction book about Bletchley Park that I read and was the start of my fascination with the Government Code and Cipher School codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park during World War 2. The book accompanied the BBC programme of the same name.

Michael Smith is an excellent author and captured interviews with codebreakers and other BP veterans that are unfortunately no longer with us. It is therefore an important account of first hand interviews that are now preserved for fut
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Robin Thomas
This was very interesting though at times difficult reading. A story of the code breakers at Bletchley Park during WWII. They worked on and cracked German, Italian, and Japanese code. And also ended up creating the world's first electronic computer. The people working there were a very diverse lot. Many extremely brilliant people (some quite eccentric) such as mathematicians who had been university professors. Codebreakers were also drawn from graduates of the best universities. At the beginning ...more
Ted Brayton
I have read a LOT about World War II, and probably watched twice as much in movies and documentaries, but never learned more about the war from a single source than I did in this book. Picked up this book on a visit to Bletchley in 2012. Talk about being happy to be able to finally put a face together with a name! Not for everyone, but if you have read more than three books about the war, then you should read this one next.
Julian Walker
Although much is now known about the wartime goings on at Bletchley Park, Michael Smith vividly brings it to life with detailed character portraits and a voyeuristic look at the politics of secrecy.

Well written, in the style of a novel, the author captures the excitement of the place and the far reaching consequences of the work performed by a motley crew of very humble people. I knew the basics facts about how important Bletchley Park was to the war effort, but this book expanded my knowledge i
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Liz
This was an interesting book but a little too dense for me. At least I know I could never have been a codebreaker! The machines sound really complicated. The parts I liked were the memories of the people who had been recruited to work at Bletchley Park. Each section didn't know what the other sections were working on. And I didn't know that the secrecy pact they had to sign was not lifted until the 1970's. They couldn't tell anyone what kind of work they were doing, not even their parents. It wa ...more
Kathryn
I wanted to read this after watching the first Bletchely Circle series last year. About a group of women involved in breaking the German's code, Enigma, in WWII and who come together about 10 years later to use the same methods of recognising patterns and looking for deviations that they used in breaking Enigma to solve a series of murders in London, it got me interested in Bletchely Park and the work that went on there. I had never even heard of Bletchely Park before this.

The book itself is in
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Bradley Hughes
Station X is a great telling of the story of England's cryptographic code breakers at Bletchley Park in World War II. The story of the brilliant women and men who helped defeat the Nazis and the beginnings of electronic computation.

One of the most collegiate collaborations between women and men engaged in intellectual endeavour in the 20th century. The brilliance of Alan Turing is also well elucidated in this book.
Rickard Schroeder
I thought this book was another interesting take on Station X. After reading a few other books fiction and non-fiction about Bletchley Park, I will put this up there with the others. Well worth a week of reading.
David
Mostly interesting. Some sections seemed more concerned with the logistics of running the place than I was interested in. And I would like to have more explanation of the coding/decoding process.
William French
This is a great book for anyone hoping to understand British codebreaking at Bletchley Park during WW2. Most books on the subject only deal with a part of the complex operation, probably a consequence of the rigid compartmentalization that was implemented to preserve secrecy. This book is refreshingly comprehensive in scope, covering the history of BP from its beginning to end and the process from 'Y Section' to the distribution of the finished intelligence product to military commanders. I boug ...more
Kristin
Read this since many of my WWII historical fiction books take place or reference Bletchley Park. Also, because a new movie with my SCB, BC, is coming out soon.

Well-written & very enlightening. Amazing to think how much of this information was unavailable for decades.

Mary
A brief, fascinating intro to a little-known part of WWII history. Recommended for all fans of "The Bletchley Circle" or of "The Imitation Game".
Lauren
I think the story of Bletchley Park is very interesting - I've even been there and seen a working Colossus - but this just didn't manage to hold my attention through some of the chapters. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for reading about cryptography and codebreaking; I'm not sure. It didn't feel as if there was a consistent narrative (obviously the war is the consistent element, but it's not really enough to hold the book together) throughout - each chapter stood more or less on its own.

Meh, mo
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Sue
This book really filled in gaps in information I've gotten from other books about WWII. Some rather amusing stories of stupid things Nazi radio/communications operators did. If they would have followed orders and security procedures better, the British probably would've been hard pressed to decipher Enigma and other codes. Anyone interested in WWII should read this one - it provides some background info for some major battles and engagements.
Aura
A really good sort of Primer to Bletchley Park.
Debs Taylor
Fascinating glimpse into the code breaking of the Second World War. All of those involved deserve the credit Smith gives them. My only difficulty was keeping up with the names of different codes and when codes were broken - although it all overlaps anyway.
victoria.p
Interesting and informational, but a little dry in the narration. I enjoyed the firsthand accounts, though, so maybe 3.5? Also, because I took a break in the middle, it was hard to remember what all the Huts and codenames stood for.
Derek
I really wanted to like this book. The topic was good. It was just so boring. Every other paragraph is an excerpt from someone so their was no fluid narative at all. Was good for reading 2 pages and going to sleep.
Steve
I've always been fascinated with how the British were able to break the Enigma codes. As I'm also researching Alan Turing for another project, it provides remarkable insights.
Alain van Hoof
Read the book in dutch. When you know something about breaking Enigma this book puts it into context and adds a personal touch. Great read.
Trish
Oct 15, 2014 Trish marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-military
30.2 Susan A's Task: My Favourite Subject Option 2: X & Y are common variables in algebra problems.
Tucktown
Extremely interesting, but found it difficult to follow the author's train of thought.
Laura
A very good book into all what was done at Bletchley Park during WWII.
Laurel
Very well researched and written book on a fascinating topic.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Michael Smith is a British former newspaper reporter, author and screenwriter. He is the journalist who obtained the documents collectively known as the The Downing Street Memos. For his he won, in 2006, a British Press Award for specialist of the year.
More about Michael Smith (British)...
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