Review of 'Station X: The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park'

Station X: The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park by Michael Smith

station_x.jpg This book, written to coincide with a television documentary of the same name, tells the story of Bletchley Park, the second world war site where British intelligence managed to crack the encryption codes used by the Axis powers including, notably, those generated by the Enigma machine. Starting with the early days before the war the book delves into the comings and goings in the park, how it hugely expanded over the years then disbanded shortly after the war ended, it's purpose taken now up by the GCHQ. This is very much a history of the park only occasionally digressing into the specifics of the code-breaking process and as such is a very human story.

“Station X” shies stay away from some of the slightly more contentious aspects of Bletchley, such as the prosecution of one of it's heroes, Alan Turing, for being a homosexual (this is only touched on briefly along with his tragic suicide), preferring instead to concentrate on the huge successes of the men and woman called to use their talents to decrypt the military communications during the war. It is interesting to read of the diverse range of backgrounds of these people and the methods used to recruit them such as a “prize” in a local newspaper for completing a particular crossword.

At the time this book was written the veil of secrecy surrounding Bletchley Park was only just being lifted and the public being made aware of the true impact of the people staying in the grounds of this manor house a short distance north of London – They are rightly acknowledged to have shortened the war by a considerable amount of time and saved a large number of people's lives.

At only 184 pages (including index and a colour image section) “Station X” is interesting book that provides a great overview of Bletchley Park and the role it played in the war. Easy to read though a bit factual with a number of details that may occasionally lose the reader (such as the names of those involved). If you are interested in the story it is recommended you seek out the documentary this book accompanies.

Aside: The site itself is now a wonderful museum and well worth a visit, please see the information on my Buckinghamshire page.

Rating:

Review Date: 2019-12-14


Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: Channel 4 Books

Publication Date: 1998

ISBN: 0752221892