Interception To Action

02 Broken

Secrecy shrouded the fact that Enigma had been broken. To hide this information, the reports were given the appearance of coming from an MI6 spy, codenamed Boniface, with a network of imaginary agents inside Germany.

While this was pure fiction, there was a real network monitoring the Germans’ every move. The ‘Y’ Service, a chain of wireless intercept stations across Britain and in a number of countries overseas, listened in to the enemy’s radio messages. Thousands of wireless operators, many of them civilians but also Wrens, WAAF personnel and members of the ATS, tracked the enemy radio nets up and down the dial, carefully logging every letter or figure. The messages were then sent back to Bletchley Park (Station X) to be deciphered, translated and fitted together like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle to produce as complete a picture as possible of what the enemy was doing.

Intercept to Action

The process of breaking Enigma was aided considerably by a complex electro-mechanical device, designed by Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman. The Bombe, as it was called, ran through all the possible Enigma wheel configurations in order to reduce the possible number of settings in use to a manageable number for further hand testing. The Bombes were operated by Wrens, many of whom lived in requisitioned country houses such as Woburn Abbey. The work they did in speeding up the code breaking process was indispensable.

In October 1941 after receiving a letter from some of the senior codebreaker’s decrying the lack of resources being afforded them, Prime Minister Winston Churchill directed:

‘Make sure they have all they want extreme priority and report to me that this has been done.’

From that moment on Bletchley Park began receiving a huge influx of resources and a major building programme ensued to create the space necessary to house the ever increasing workforce.