Bletchley Park to tell story of the Battle of the Atlantic
THE story of the Battle of the Atlantic, which almost saw Bletchley Park’s codebreaking efforts uncovered, is set to be told.
The codebreaking base will host an event, featuring three expert speakers, that will examine the conflict which raged throughout World War Two.
The Battle of the Atlantic came close to seeing the Allies defeated and threatened the security of their Ultra secret – the success of the Codebreakers at Bletchley Park.
Britain was dependent on supplies delivered across the Atlantic from America, Canada and elsewhere in the Empire.
Early in the war, German U-Boats routinely and successfully attacked merchant ships bringing food and other vital goods to Britain.
This is where Bletchley Park entered the story – although, at the time, it was crucial no-one found out how the Allies became able to avoid the wolf-packs of the German Navy.
Bletchley Park’s first break into Naval Enigma – codenamed Dolphin – early in 1941 had a significant impact on the Battle of the Atlantic.
Information decrypted in Hut 8 helped reduce the destruction wrought by the U-Boats, which were travelling in groups known as wolfpacks. Hut 8 was paired with Hut 4 and these two halves of a united operation provided crucial day-to-day intelligence in the desperate battles between the Allied convoys and the U-Boats, which were determined to cut Britain’s vitally important supply lines.
But a revised Enigma was introduced in early 1942, prompting a ten-month blackout for the codebreakers, after German naval commander, Admiral Dönitz, become suspicious Enigma may have been broken.
The moment was described by Hut 8 worker, Shaun Wylie, quoted in Michael Smith’s bestselling ‘Station X, The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park’ as “...a grim time. We were very much frustrated. We realised that our work meant lives and it ceased to be fun.”
In Mr Smith’s later book, ‘The Secrets of Station X’, Mr Wylie recalled the moment he learned they had broken into the new Enigma, ten months later: “I was having breakfast and somebody rushed in and said ‘We’re back into the U-Boats.’ I asked which it was and it was the one that meant we were going to be able to go on getting into the U-Boat traffic.
“That was terrific, it wasn’t just a one-off. We were going to be able to do it steadily. It was a great moment. The excitement was terrific, relief too.
The day long event will take place on Saturday, March 16 and will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Speakers on the day will be Jock Gardner, Dr Malcolm Llewellyn-Jones and Innes McCartney.
Mr Gardner served in the Royal Navy for 30 years, specialising in anti-submarine warfare before he joined the Ministry of Defence, where he was an expert in the Battle of the Atlantic; while Dr Llewellyn-Jones was a warfare specialist instructor in the Royal Navy who now works at the Naval Historical Branch of the MoD.
Mr McCartney is a nautical archaeologist, historian and author, specialising in shipwrecks.
Tickets cost £45 and will also include a guided tour of the unique historic site, as well as lunch and light refreshments throughout the day.
More details about the event can be found at www.bletchleypark.org.uk
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