Bletchley Park’s Secret Source written by Peter Hore and published by Greenhill Books – 19.99 – Hardback – Pages 224

The World War II code breaking station at Bletchley is well known and its activities documented in detail. Its decryption capabilities were vital to the war effort, significantly aiding Allied victory. But where did the messages being deciphered come from in the first place?

This is the extraordinary untold story of the Y-Service, a secret even more closely guarded than Bletchley Park. The Y-Service was the code for the chain of wireless intercept stations around Britain and all over the world. Hundreds of wireless operators, many of them who were civilians, listened to German, Italian and Japanese radio networks and meticulously logged everything they heard. Some messages were then used tactically but most were sent on to Station X – Bletchley Park – where they were deciphered, translated and consolidated to build a comprehensive overview of the enemy’s movements and intentions.

Peter Hore delves into the fascinating history of the Y-service, with particular reference to the girls of the Women’s Royal Naval Service: Wrens who escaped from Singapore to Colombo as the war raged, only to be torpedoed in the Atlantic on their way back to Britain; the woman who had a devastatingly true premonition that disaster would strike on her way to Gibraltar; the Australian who went from being captain of the English Women’s Cricket team to a WWII Wren to the head of Abbotleigh girls school in Sydney; how the Y-service helped to hunt the German battleship Bismarck in the North Atlantic, and how it helped to torpedo a Japanese cruiser in the Indian Ocean. 

I always find it fascinating to read books about Bletchley Park and what went on there, it kind of did the hard work of the war that doesn’t get enough praise or recognition for what they accomplished. Most of the people working at Bletchley Park were women ‘Churchill’s Wrens’ a group of hardworking, diligent, and intelligent women. Working on the frontline of fighting a war from on the technical and wireless frontline. Bletchley Park was just all about the celebrated Enigma code, it was also about shipping, u-boats, convoys from all around the world. This book is full of personal individual stories from those who worked which are very good and heartbreaking in some cases. This book has been very well written by the author Peter Hore and a book I very much enjoyed. It was certainly something I hadn’t known much about before but it was great to learn about the women and men and their work.

By Ben Davidson

Hello, I have been studying all aspects of history for about 25 years. I have a BA History from the University of Bedfordshire. My historical areas of interest are anything really, but I specialise in 19th - 20th century Britain, America and Ireland. I am also strongly aligned with most military history, really enjoying WW2 and the US Civil War. Chuck in the king or queen and Bob's your uncle.