Learn about the espionage wars between Britain and Russia


A decade of espionage rivalry will be discussed at Bletchley Park, in the latest in the Bletchley Park Presents lecture series.

Victor Madeira will talk about his book, Britannia And The Bear - The Anglo-Russian Intelligence Wars 1917-1929, on Sunday, April 19 at 2pm.

Decades before the Berlin Wall went up, a Cold War had already begun raging. But for Bolshevik Russia, Great Britain - not America - was the enemy.

For the first time Victor Madeira will tell a story that has been hidden away for nearly a century. Drawing on over 60 Russian, British and French archival collections, Britannia and the Bear offers a compelling new narrative about how two great powers of the time did battle, both openly and in the shadows.

And where cryptology was concerned, one man held the key to British successes: Ernst C. Vetterlein. Aside from breaking enemy communications, he mentored future luminaries like John Tiltman, who in 1942 became chief cryptographer at the Government Code & Cypher School. Yet despite 25 years of Crown service, Vetterlein remains largely a mystery, even to many former colleagues.

Britannia And The Bear tells the story of Russian and British espionage in those critical interwar years, revealing how British government identified crucial lessons but failed to learn many of them. The book underscores the importance of the “first” Cold War in understanding not just the second one but ​also ​events in places like Ukraine today.