In one of my previous posts, I discussed the current books I was reading: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by J.K.Rowling (still reading) and The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay. Last week I finished Sinclair McKay's book and after reading the last page I knew I wanted to share with you guys the details of the book, my thoughts and whether it was worth the read ❤
The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WWII Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women Who Worked There is about the lives of those who worked at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, England in World War II codebreaking and decrypting German and Japanese messages. Sinclair McKay explores all the different aspects of life at the park from the Engima, Bombe and Colossus machines, recreational time, romance and relationships, the Blitz, D-Day and time after the war when Bletchley wasn't needed anymore. Throughout the book, he uses quotes from Bletchley Park veterans, memoirs and references from other published material to describe how it was personally for those who spent nearly six years as part of the Bletchley Park community.
"Bletchley Park's cracking of the Enigma code was one of the greatest achievements of the war. Now, for the first time, here are the stories of the ordinary men and women who made it happen..."
"At the secret codebreaking centre of Bletchley Park, debutantes, factory workers, students and Wrens were thrown together with Britain's most brilliant brains, united in work of almost unbearable intensity, and even greater importance. But there was far more to their days (and nights) than the long hours spent decrypting enemy messages. "
"From world-class concerts by visiting musicians and amateur dramatics to ice-skating on the frozen lake and furtive romances sealed down quiet country lanes, Sinclair McKay's acclaimed book reveals what life was really like for the young people who clandestine efforts were instrumental in winning the war."
Personally, I love history and any fiction or non-fiction books based on the First and Second World War are my favourite. I've already got quite an extensive collection of books based in World War II, so I was excited to read something that wasn't fiction and instead based all on fact, memories and testimonies from those who experienced life at Bletchley Park during WWII.
I visited Bletchley Park Museum in Buckinghamshire back in April. It was overwhelming learning how much these men and women actually did throughout the war and the pressure they were under to decrypt thousands of messages a day. From visiting the museum and grounds of the house it has helped me piece together parts of the book and understand what life at Bletchley Park was like for these men and women codebreaking.
Sinclair McKay goes into such extensive detail about the mechanics of the machines (Engima, Bombe, Colussus, Heath Robinson) such as how each machine worked and how they were manned by Wrens and engineers with such skill in machinery that they were able to build more and have them moved to places of importance such as a location in Middlesex. They were using these machines to decrypt messages and following the stories of veterans like Sheila and Oliver Lawn, Jean Valentine, Mavis and Keith Batey and Sarah Baring really brought it to life. He describes how those who were decoding messages and signals from German High Command and from U-boats had the pressure of working hours on hours sometimes stuck on one message, trying to crack it and find out what moves the German navy, air force and army were going to make next.
Sinclair McKay has the skill of delivering all this information, testimonies and facts without overstimulating you as a reader. Sometimes it was hard to read the book when I was tired as you are being given a lot of complex information on machines, decoding methods and the movements of the German army throughout the war.
Reading this book with all the memoirs and recollections from veterans has opened my eyes to how it wasn't just the men in the field protecting our country and winning the war but also those who had to fight the war back in England finding out what the German, Japanese and their allied forces were planning. There were so many times throughout the book where I was in utter awe at what these men and women achieved in those years of war. With all the pressure and stress they were under they did an incredible job of maintaining motivation and efficiency, but I guess in wartime they had to!
His attention to the smallest details shows throughout the book.
He clearly put a lot of time into researching every part of life at Bletchley Park and getting even the smallest of facts. Collecting the memories of those who experienced it all first hand would have taken time and patience, so Sinclair McKay did a great job in getting all the information he possibly could from archives and the Bletchley Park Trust, giving the men and women of Bletchley Park the recognition they deserve!
What other books do you recommend I read? Let me know in the comments below!
See you on Wednesday ❤