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Alastair Denniston (Hardback)

Code-breaking From Room 40 to Berkeley Street and the Birth of GCHQ

WWII All Frontline Books Espionage & the SOE Frontline: WWII

By Joel Greenberg
Frontline Books
Pages: 308
ISBN: 9781526709127
Published: 1st September 2017

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As featured in The Sunday TelegraphUnsung hero of Bletchley Park to finally be recognised as book 'rectifies damage of Imitation Game'

New book to shed light on Royal Navy WWII codebreaking hero via Forces Network, includes BFBS interview with the author

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Some of the individuals who played key roles in the success of Bletchley Park in reading the secret communications of Britain’s enemies during the Second World War have become well-known figures. However, the man who created and led the organisation based there, from its inception in 1919 until 1942, has, surprisingly, been overlooked – until now. In 1914 Alastair Denniston, who had been teaching French and German at Osborne Royal Navy College, was one of the first recruits into the Admiralty’s fledgling codebreaking section which became known as Room 40. There a team drawn from a wide range of professions successfully decrypted intercepted German communications throughout the First World War.

After the Armistice, Room 40 was merged with the British Army’s equivalent section – MI.1 – to form the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). Initially based in London, from August 1939 GC&CS was largely located at Bletchley Park, with Alastair Denniston as its Operational Director.

Denniston was moved in 1942 from military to civilian intelligence at Berkeley Street, London. Small at first, as Enigma traffic diminished towards the end of the Second World War, diplomatic and commercial codebreaking became of increasing importance and a vital part of Britain’s signal intelligence effort. GC&CS was renamed the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in June 1946, and moved to the outskirts of Cheltenham. It continues to be the UK’s signal intelligence gathering organisation. With the support and assistance of the both the Denniston family and GCHQ, Joel Greenberg, author of Gordon Welchman, Bletchley Park’s Architect of Ultra Intelligence, has produced this absorbing story of Commander Alexander ‘Alastair’ Guthrie Denniston OBE, CBE, CMG, RNVR, a man whose death in 1961 was ignored by major newspapers and the very British intelligence organisation that was his legacy.

★★★★★ I found this book very exciting as it explained signals intelligence very clearly and then unfolds the story relying entirely on source material. This begins in Room 40 with the subsequent setting up of GC&CS in 1919. The preparation for Bletchley Park and the complex dynamics that developed. Pivotal new material reveals the role of Berkeley Street and the American relationship. If you want to KNOW about the origins of GCHQ this is the book.

Amazon, Candida Connolly

★★★★★ Extremely well-researched book uncovering a little-known story about the development of Bletchley Park and GCHQ as centres of excellence in code-breaking and intelligence gathering. It is well written and fascinating. Alistair Denniston was a man who recruited Alan Turing and other people outside the usual field of crypt-analysts and in doing so changed the way intelligence services worked. He was instrumental in instigating the 'special relationship' between the British and US intelligence services, which continues to this day. Very little has been written about Denniston previously; he appears in indexes and is mentioned in passing in many other books about Bletchley, but this is the first one to focus on his role, both in Room 40 at the Admiralty during the First War and his subsequent service during WW2. It's a nicely published hardback book, with high production values. Should go a long way towards negating the image of Denniston served up in the film 'The Imitation Game'. I recommend highly.

Amazon, Alison M. G. Finch

★★★★★ An excellent book, demonstrating clearly the importance of Denniston's crypto work in both WW1 and WW2. It was Churchill himself who, in 1919, nominated Denniston as head of a new organisation - the Government Code & Cypher School - and in 2012, it was the head of GCHQ (successor to GCCS) who publicly paid tribute to Denniston's pioneering work in the late 1930s, and especially his crucial realisation that mathematicians would be essential in the age of machine cryptography. Many writers on Bletchley Park have rather lost sight of Denniston when he moved to London in 1942, as GCCS Deputy Director (Civil). Joel Greenberg shows how industrous and successful Denniston was in this new role, with thousands of decrypted nessages being passed to the Admiralty, the War Office, the Air Ministry, MI5, etc. This book reveals the true Denniston, in complete contrast to the pernicious fabrications of 'The Imitation Game'.

Amazon, Mark Baldwin

As featured on

Sky News

As featured in

The Sunday Telegraph 3/9/17

As featured in

Bookseller 07.04.17
 Joel Greenberg

About Joel Greenberg

JOEL GREENBERG is an educational technology consultant who researches and writes about Bletchley Park and its role in WWII. His research focuses on how technologies designed and developed there impacted on early computer developments. He is a volunteer supporter of Bletchley Park and a member of its management team.

Perfect Partner

Gordon Welchman Bletchley Park's Architect of Ultra Intelligence (Hardback)

'A magnificent biography which finally provides recognition to one of Bletchley's and Britain's lost heroes.' Michael Smith The Official Secrets Act and the passing of time have prevented the Bletchley Park story from being told by many of its key participants. Here at last is a book which allows some of them to speak for the first time. Gordon Welchman was one of the Parks most important figures. Like Turing, his pioneering work was fundamental to the success of Bletchley Park and helped pave the way for the birth of the digital age. Yet, his story is largely unknown to many. His book, The Hut…

By Joel Greenberg

Click here to buy both titles for £45.00
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