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Enigma: Page 2 | click here for Page 1


Thanks to books, plays and films (most recently The Imitation Game movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing and Keira Knightley as his girlfriend), most of us know a bit about the British codebreakers. Less well known is what happened before the War. The battle to break the Enigma code started long before Alan Turing became involved at Bletchley Park. The code was broken for the first time in 1932 when Polish mathematicians used photographs of Enigma manuals sold to the French secret service by Hans Thilo Schmidt, an impecunious German spy. It was the information about the code collected thanks to the treachery of the ‘Enigma spy’ that enabled the Bletchley Park codebreakers to make their first cryptographic breakthrough.

Even after Alan Turing and the Bletchley Park codebreakers broke the Naval Enigma code for the first time, they still needed up to date Enigma settings in order that they could carry on breaking it. The only way to obtain such settings was to ask the Navy to capture them. Such captures helped the codebreakers keep up with the changes made to the Enigma machine and its operating procedure. The most famous captures were of the codebooks in two U-boats, U-110 and U-559 in May 1941 and October 1942 respectively. The capture of U-559 was particularly dramatic because the men who retrieved the Enigma codebooks from inside the U-boat died during the operation to capture them, as the U-boat sank before they could escape. However there were many other captures of Engima codebooks at sea which were just as important, and they are all described in this book. To return to the Plot, click here

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New material contained in this special edition includes:

  • extracts from a secret report about planned ‘pinches’ of codebooks from German vessels – including Ian Fleming’s Operation Ruthless
  • how could the Germans not have known their code was broken
  • how Bletchley Park won the Battle of Matapan
  • who sank the Scharnhorst?
  • how U-boat U-570 was captured
  • Dilly Knox's failure to keep up with the Poles

All of this new material is based on information or analysis made available after the publication of this book’s original edition. In addition the new material includes personal accounts describing abortive attempts to capture Enigma codebooks from U-49 and U-501, and what happened when Royal Navy personnel boarded German vessels Polares, U-110 and U-559 whose crews had not thrown all their Enigma codebooks into the sea. Click here to return to 75th Anniversary Edition’s Home Page

Click here to go to Enigma page 1

Click here to buy in the UK
Click here to buy original version in the US
Click here to buy in the UK
Click here to buy original version in the US