The Secret Life of Bletchley Park Written by Sinclair McKay a review

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay, a review.

Few people today are unaware of Bletchley Park and its vital work during World War 2, cracking the German Codes. Although many of us now know of the Enigma machine and have heard of Alan Turing there is much about Bletchley Park that wasn’t known, even amongst its veterans.

Mr McKay has taken the opportunity to talk to as many of the surviving Bletchley veterans as he could, to learn more of the Park’s back story. He sheds light on what went on behind the scenes. How mainly young, men and women drawn from all over the country came to work together on one of the most secret and important projects of the war.

The lives of the listeners, translators, code breakers and those who analysed the intelligence are discussed the problems of accommodation and travel are covered as is the social life of the park.

It is a fascinating book and illustrates the remarkable calibre of the people who worked at the park. Their tremendous sense of loyalty, is something to marvel at. Many took the secret of their vital wartime careers to the grave, children and spouses unaware of the value that work.

It is possible that had the true value of Turing’s work been more widely known he wouldn’t have been subjected to the terrible treatment that led to his early tragic death.

This is a testament to part of a great generation that did so much for those of us who followed, a story that needed to be told.

7 responses to this post.

  1. The sad fact is that, at that time, it was believed that his ‘treatment’ would benefit him. It took a wider shift of awareness to alter preconceptions.


  2. We were fortunate to see Mark Baldwin give a “lecture” at our local theatre a couple of years ago about Bletchley Park and the Enigma Machine, I confess that it was partly a mistake because I thought it was a play rather than a lecture, but it was well worth going and Mark Baldwin joked after the interval that he couldn’t have been too dull as there were any gaps where the audience had rushed off to the local.
    Although he wasn’t dismissive of Turin’s part he said that he might not have been so successful without the initial ground work by the Poles and a Blue Plaque has been erected there to recognise their invaluable part in Enigma.
    With the benefit of hindsight I doubt that society or the law would have taken a more lenient view of his homosexuality as it was illegal and the treatment was an “acceptable cure” Baldwin’s view was also, which was shared by Turin’s mother that he didn’t commit suicide but it was an accident as he wasn’t always careful with his experiments.
    That aside, it was a dreadful loss as I’m sure that he had so much more to offer the world of science and technology.


    • There was a significant Polish and French contribution early on in the war and before the war. If I remember correctly it was the Poles who cracked the wiring system connections used with the plug board, The Poles worked on Russian codes if I understand correctly after the outbreak of war. Turing’s death raised a number of questions, I have seen the suggestion that he was murdered. It was a life that should not have been lost. He had a lot more to give the world. It annoys the hell out of me that those who as Cathy says are stuck in the forties in terms of attitude towards homosexuality, are not principled enough to forego using computers to spread their opinions.


      • Baldwin said that Poland had been monitoring German communications since the end of the First World War and gifted their information to Britain just before Germany invaded Poland. I think Baldwin mentioned the various theories surrounding Turing’s death but believed an accident was the most plausible and would cause less “ripples” in the press.

      • Unfortunately it isn’t likely we will get to know the truth about Turing’s death. The spy in the bag murder suggests a possibility to me, that he may have been subject to a blackmail attempt and wouldn’t cooperate.
        We lost a brilliant man too early in his life.

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