Voices of the Code Breakers: Personal Accounts of the Secret Heroes of World War II

By Michael Paterson | Go to book overview

7
TOWARDS VICTORY
IN EUROPE

If you had to have a desk job, it was
satisfying to have one you believed was
extremely important to the war effort as
well as offering a heavy mental
challenge, i
.

In 1942, the tide turned against Hitler. His forces suffered resounding defeats in Russia, North Africa and the Atlantic. The years of triumph were over and there would be no more German victories. Instead, Wehrmacht troops would find themselves fighting costly rearguard actions in the east, the west and the south, while behind their backs their homeland was systematically laid waste by the Allied bombing offensive.

For the rest of the conflict, Anglo-American codebreakers would decipher messages that reflected a steadily mounting despair on the part of enemy commanders as manpower and materiel ran out, territory was given up, and the Führer maintained a stubborn refusal to grasp the realities of the situation. In fact Hitler knew as well as his generals that, without a miracle (and he fervently believed that one would occur), the war was lost. He was aware that he could not hope for a separate peace with the Western Allies and that there would be no mercy after surrender. His insistence on fighting to ‘the last man and the last bullet’, was dictated as much by desperation as by determination.

Bletchley Park and its maze of outstations had continued to grow, and the estate resounded with constant hammering and sawing as carpenters laboured to erect yet more wooden huts. When Japan entered the war, a section had to be created to deal with Far Eastern intelligence. Alan Stripp was recruited from Cambridge and described the setting in which he worked:

The administrative offices were in the
mansion itself, which also housed Nigel
de Grey, one of the team which had
solved the Zimmerman telegram of
January 1917 [seeChapter 1], and at
one stage Colonel John Tiltman worked
there too. He had already done brilliant
pioneering work on Japanese and other
military codes and played an important
role in expanding and recruiting for the
Japanese section. At first most of the
rapidly expanding staff worked in the
huts, with trestle tables and folding
wooden chairs. More and more huts
were built until they sprawled over
most of the grounds, whether singly, in
pairs or grouped in T or H patterns.
They were urgently needed, because the
number of staff was growing out of all
recognition. In 1939 the official budget
had provided for Head, Assistant Head,
three chief, 14 Senior and 18 Junior
Assistants, together with clerks, typists,
telegraphists and others making some
150 in all, plus a handful of ancillary
staff. By late 1942 the total had risen to
about 3,500, and by early 1945 to over
10,000
.

A large percentage of the staff continued to work in the temporary huts that had proliferated all over the grounds. A few more substantial buildings had also been erected, though the bustle and clutter inside was much the same. ‘E’ Block was a square, two-story concrete building. On its top floor a central passageway ran its whole length between rows of long tables covered with clattering equipment and piles of paper. Each was staffed by four operatives, and from the confines of this claustrophobic room

-130-

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Voices of the Code Breakers: Personal Accounts of the Secret Heroes of World War II
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iv
  • Foreword vi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Codes and War 3
  • 2- Bletchley Park 26
  • 3- 1940- A Fateful Year 46
  • 4- Battle of the Atlantic 60
  • 5- North Africa and Italy 78
  • 6- The Resistance 102
  • 7- Towards Victory in Europe 130
  • 8- War in the Pacific 149
  • Endnotes 175
  • Chronology 176
  • Bibliography and Sources 179
  • Acknowledgments 181
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