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Enigma: The Battle for the Code

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  604 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews


Winston Churchill called the cracking of the German Enigma Code “the secret weapon that won the war.” Now, for the first time,
Paperback, 448 pages
Published February 1st 2004 by Wiley (first published January 1st 2000)
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Rebecca I have read this book and there is a really good Bibliography in the back and very good appendices. It is an Amazon Kindle book and you can get it for…moreI have read this book and there is a really good Bibliography in the back and very good appendices. It is an Amazon Kindle book and you can get it for free at

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(showing 1-30 of 1,477)
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Jan 04, 2013 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
High seas derring-do.
North Atlantic U-boat wolfpacks.
bombes, cillis, Banburisms, cribs, bigram tables, rodding, Verfahrenkenngruppe.
Top Secret.
Dolphin and Shark Nets.
Depth charges.
Machine-gun the conning towers.
Forced boarding parties.
Cryptology geniuses.
Disappearing codebook ink.
Winston Churchill.
The Enigma Machine.

This is how you write non-fiction. Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, Enigma: The Battle for the Code

During WWII my grandfather was playing professiona
Kristi Thielen
Sep 18, 2013 Kristi Thielen rated it it was amazing
Engrossing, detailed account of the effort to crack the code that the German military used during WW2. The technological work it took is centerstage, but the human cost in achieving and maintaining the work is also revealed.

"Maintaining" is a key word here: like many who have heard of the sucess at cracking Enigma, I assumed there was only one such code and that the code - once cracked - remained so. In fact there were several such codes. And because the Germans altered them, there were "blacko
Nov 14, 2015 Bevan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of the breaking of the Enigma code in World War 2 is a fascinating one. It is filled with brilliance, daring, danger and betrayal. Hugh Sebag-Montefiore has written an exemplary history, combining extensive archival research with gripping prose. Churchill was as aware as anyone of the importance of the success, or failure, of codebreaking efforts at Bletchley Park. He described those who worked there as “The goose that laid the golden egg and never cackled”. Secrecy was of the essence. ...more
Jim Leckband
Sep 16, 2014 Jim Leckband rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Loose Lips Sink Ships" always seemed a bit farfetched to me. Not after I read this book.

The tale of the cipher breaking of the German military master code machine "Enigma" is incredible. Sebag-Montefiore (hereafter SM) limits the tale to only the info that is needed to forward the story of how Enigma was broken and stayed broken. A lesser book would have had histories of codes and ciphers, a chapter on previous cipher machines, a chapter on the creation of the Enigma and so on. SM starts with t
Jan 28, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it
In World War 2 the Germans used a coding machine called Enigma to encrypt their messages in order that the Allies would not be able to read them. This coding technique had been introduced to the German armed forces in 1931 and from that time both Poland and France had agents endeavouring to break the code. This book works chronologically through the main characters who were involved with a variety of attempts, schemes, ideas, spying and espionage techniques from that time until the end of World ...more
Keith Slade
Interesting book about how the British were able to figure out the German codes during the War. I skipped the detailed mathematical explanations of how they did it, though, which was mostly at the end, in the Appendixes.
I found out Alan Turing did a lot, but he worked with much decoding already done by a Polish team earlier, and had help from others too. The vanquished U-Boats and the rescuing of their codebooks, and other stories, such as the espionage in France were interesting too. This book
Dec 04, 2014 Colin rated it liked it
In documentaries and films about the subject of this book – the ‘Enigma’ code used by the Germans forces in WW2, there is always an impression given that the ‘boffins’ at Bletchley Park cracked the code, and then everything was fine and dandy. The real story, like the code, is much more complicated. People who enjoy the type of programmes etc above may know, or have heard, that the Germans typed their intended message into a gadget which resembled a typewriter. This was connected to another gadg ...more
Before WWII started the German military build several cipher computing devices. These devices had wheels within them with letters and number and you could type in your plain text and the machine would code your text for you and then that could be sent to other members of the military with the machines and as long as they matched the settings of the sending machine they could read out the real message.

Unbeknownst to the Germans, Polish agents had gotten ahold of one of these machines (code named
John Mccullough
Feb 09, 2015 John Mccullough rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Enigma" is part of the story of how the Allies broke the German message code and were able to determine Nazi military movements during WW II. I decided to read it after seeing the very, very condensed version of one person's involvement in the story - Alan Turing's role as portrayed in the movie "he Imitation Game." The story really begins in Poland in the late 1920's when a group of brilliant Polish scholars and decoders cracked the original enigma code. From then until the bitter end of the w ...more
Glenna C
Feb 13, 2015 Glenna C rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Lots of good historical detail. Ultimately depends on the reader knowing more detail about WWII itself and the significance of individual battle exploits. Interesting in small doses but as a continuous narrative not as well done.
Sep 05, 2016 Peter rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, at-sea
A big book of episodes in dire need of an editor or an author without a chip on his shoulder, it was unclear which. The chronology is at times difficult to follow and at least once the author contradicts himself. E.g., he states that after a certain date, “at no time thereafter were the [relelvant German codes] not being read. He then goes on to outline several times subsequent to that date when the code breakers experienced black outs for a variety of reasons.

The author shows his naval backgro
G.J. Griffiths
Apr 09, 2016 G.J. Griffiths rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating and at times a difficult read. Fascinating of course because of all the real-life events, efforts made to gather code machines and code files, and the endless work required by so many people of all abilities during WW2. It was difficult to read about the heroes at sea, lives lost, by Naval and Merchant vessels, due the constant and significant threat from German U-boats, without deep sadness. I also had difficulty getting my head around some of the technicalities involved ...more
Feb 09, 2015 Dina rated it liked it
Very interesting story depicting the decryption of the Enigma codes and how the decryption affected actual battles during the war including how the blind spots (sometimes for months) in the decryption led to major losses. The book focuses primarily on the naval Enigma which was the hardest to crack, and its security was tightened multiple times over the course of the war. It also discusses the need to keep the enemy from knowing the code had been decoded--and the times the secret was nearly blow ...more
Mert Bartels
Identifies the parties involved by the Allies in and before WWII who for years endeavored to break the Nazis methodology behind the cipher machine named Enigma. W. Churchill claimed the success of cracking the German code was the secret weapon that won the war. Interestingly, there were several countries and a few secret labs in Britain that used brilliant mathematicians to attempt breaking the code used by the German war machine. Object of breaking the code was to identify German ships on seas ...more
May 18, 2012 Tim rated it liked it
Bought at Bletchley Park on visit there in April 2012 and read over the next few weeks.
This is not the current cover (in UK anyway). Reissued 2011 as 70th anniversary edition with some extra appendices which (along with a new introduction) update the information in the light of documents declassified in recent years. The emphasis in this book is solely on the Enigma material and does not discuss the important work Bletchley did on the "geheimschreiber" teleprinter code ("Fish") and the Colossus
Jeff Latten
Dec 21, 2013 Jeff Latten rated it really liked it
This book has something for everyone with an interest in the history and significance of the Enigma machine. For the technophiles, there's a very detailed and somewhat complicated explanation of the various coding methods, keywords, code wheels, machine settings and so forth. Some of the leaps of logic are a bit of a stretch but the essence of how difficult this cryptography was shines through. Realizing that all this took place prior to the existence of computers gives one a deep appreciation o ...more
Sep 01, 2008 Kay rated it really liked it
A terrific book! More than the technical story of cracking the Enigma code, Sebag-Montefiore tells the absorbing story of how the seizure of all-important codebooks from captured U-boats and ships, combined with information supplied by double agents, gave the analysts at Bletchley Park the material they desperately needed to break the code. Unlike other accounts, this one places the Royal Navy's heroic efforts at the center of the tale. It also gives credit to the Polish cryptographers who pione ...more
Sep 25, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
To those familiar with the enigma story there's not too much new stuff (although the activity of the German traitor is interesting) but that aside this is a good account. It's well written and rattles on at a fair pace. A lot of the code-breaking detail and technical stuff has been shoved into the appendices which one can study at leisure whilst the author concentrates of the derring-do.
May 09, 2015 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, ww-ii
Densely packed with information about what codes were broken when, this book provides information about the results (or lack thereof) of being able to read messages throughout WWII. It also provides a glimpse of the personalities of the code breakers.
IMO, this is a "man's book" -- full of information, but without much personal story. Though I found much of it interesting, I skipped a but (like some of the descriptions of how many wheels a particular Enigma machine had, which wheels were used, an
Aug 30, 2016 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This books traces the history of the Naval Enigma code battle - principally at Bletchley Park, but also the various other aspects and involvement by other countries: Poles, French & USA.
It was particularly interesting how the book linked the cracking of the code at various stages to the actual military activities that were occurring. It also debunked the idea that Alan Turing was the only man responsible and gave full credit where due across everyone.
Of particular interest is Harry Hinsley,
Oct 17, 2015 Rebecca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a great book about the real story of Enigma. It involve my favorite characters that did not get a lot of attention to the Polish cryptographers, a german spy and Betchely Park and what effect it had on the land and sea war. If you are interested in history, codes and WWII battles. This is a great book. It is a very authentic with appendices, notes, chronology and notes like a textbook but a very educational and should be taught in all computer classes. Read this before you read the Alan ...more
Apr 05, 2015 Lthmath rated it it was amazing
It was really fascinating to read about the breaking of Enigma from a historian point of view and to see all the other implications it had in the WWII in general. The book also offers some more technical explanations about breaking the machine and how it worked, so it was great food for my brain.
Jan 22, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
This book was very interesting and informative. At times, it did get a little too technical for me to understand. That is when I handed the book to my hubby(who is a computer engineer) to read and explain in laymens terms.

I liked reading the personal stories more than the technical aspect of this book. I can connect better to human events stories.

I feel a bit cheated thought. For years I read and learned how the BRITISH broke the code when in fact it was the Polish code breakers. I almost feel
matthew mcdonald
Jan 10, 2016 matthew mcdonald rated it really liked it
I usually regret reading paperback history books, but this is actually pretty good. Mostly about how the naval Enigma traffic was read. Reads a bit like a le Carré spy novel. Arrests, treason, people escaping across borders, cyanide, murder, suicide, war crimes, etc.

A lot of detail. Principles behind the machinery used for encryption/decryption and the procedures used to break the encryption are given along with details of who said what to whom when during key events. The technical info was most
Aug 21, 2013 Varda rated it liked it
Recommends it for: WWII history buffs
The story of the Enigma Machine is the story of WWII. Without so many people risking and giving their lives to obtain its secrets, the Allies would never have won the war. That being said, I liked the book in spite of the fact that the technical details were sometimes way beyond my understanding. The fact that his is the consummate book on the subject and includes recently released classified information makes this the must read on the subject. On too many pages, I just found myself scanning bec ...more
Dani Goodwin
Jul 16, 2010 Dani Goodwin rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
An interesting and detailed account of the ‘battle’ of the Allies to decrypt the Nazi's secret radio communications during World War II. ( The first acquisition of Enigma manuals by the French Secret Service, the Polish pioneering work, the ingenious British codebreaking machines and techniques, the ‘extravagant’ (in a good way) American approach, the sea battles to capture Enigma codebooks, the role the Enigma intelligence played in the war... A very thorough story.)

What I did not like... I wis
Feb 05, 2016 Jaakko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written, with thorough explanations (and diagrams) of how the device actually worked. I would have liked to read more about the lives of the mathematicians working on Enigma as those were the most interesting bits, but I guess that would have been peripheral to the actual story of Enigma.
Jan 19, 2014 Joe rated it liked it
Churchill said cracking German’s complex ciphering machines was the reason the Allies won WWI. Here’s the gloves-off story including explanations of the complex ciphering, narratives of audacious U-boat “snares,” and the mostly crazy personalities who broke Hitler’s most-secret weapon. Rating: 3 out 5 ciphers.
Apr 02, 2015 Russ rated it really liked it
I found this fascinating, & it is worth reading if you want to get a more complete version of events that led to the British reading German Enigma codes for most of the last war. The credit is shared between the codebreakers and those brave souls in the navy who actually recovered code books to help with this. It also features probably the most accurate way of calculating how many years it shortened the war by... no clues, read the book
Mar 07, 2013 Mark rated it liked it
I wasn't very familiar with the Enigma history, so I learned a good deal and found the overall story fascinating. Something about the book's structure felt a little disjointed with the narrative jumping forward and back in time. I also wish I could have finished with a better understanding of how the Engima machines worked, but I recognize that it is a complex mechanism INTENDED to be difficult to understand. The author spent a good deal of text trying to explain it, but I personally would have ...more
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Hugh Sebag-Montefiore was a barrister before becoming a journalist and historian. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Observer, Independent on Sunday, and Mail On Sunday. His first book Kings On The Catwalk: The Louis Vuitton and Moët-Hennessy Affair was published in 1992.

Bletchley Park, the backdrop to much of the action in his first history book Enigma: The Battle For The Code
More about Hugh Sebag-Montefiore...

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