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Bletchley Park's Secret Source (Hardback)

Churchill's Wrens and the Y Service in World War II

WWII Greenhill Books Greenhill: WWII Espionage & the SOE Women of History Military

By Peter Hore
Greenhill Books
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 16 pages of plates
ISBN: 9781784385811
Published: 2nd March 2021
This Week's Best Sellers Rank: #4


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The World War II codebreaking 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. Together, these incredible stories build a picture of World War II as it has never been viewed before.

For anyone who likes historical fiction this is a must read. Bletchley Park code breaking activities are well recorded. This read is about the Y service, one of the biggest guarded secrets. It is both fascinating and captivating to read the story of the wireless operators, many of whom were civilians, and how they passed what they heard to intercept stations across the world. An enjoyable and insightful account of how some messages were decoded and used to track the enemy. The individual stories are moving and emotional, the strength and bravery of individuals is palpable across the pages. Well written, enjoyable and informative.

NetGalley, Valerie McGurk

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fantastic read. I was interested from the first page all the way to the last. I wasn't bored and felt like I had a bunch of facts just thrown at me. Never random, I enjoyed reading this book.

NetGalley, Norma Carroll

About Peter Hore

Captain Peter Hore, RN, now retired, is a former Head of Defence Studies for the Royal Navy. He is the author of numerous books, and is currently Associate Editor of Warships: International Fleet Review. He is also a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a fellow of the Society for Nautical Research. He recently wrote Henry Harwood: Hero of the River Plate.

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