Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by ADMIN-TOM
World War 2
Mention World War 2 to most young people and they will have a picture in their head of Nazi bombers being shot down by RAF fighter pilots, or the miracle of Dunkirk. Or they will have a blank expression, smile at you indulgently and swiftly move on, to another subject.
It’s easy for my generation to forget that World War 2 ended in 1945, seventy-eight years ago. A long time ago and ancient history to many. Even so, that vision of the dog fights during the Battle of Britain is still foremost in a lot of people’s minds. But the war wasn’t simply fought with guns, fighter planes, Navies and tanks. The was a secret war, a clandestine fight to discover what the enemy was planning and to find that information fast.
By the very nature of a world war, all sides needed to keep in contact with their armies in Africa, Navies on and under all the seas and oceans of the world, and aircraft in their thousands fighting the enemy in the air, on the ground and at sea. The obvious method of contact was radio. But you couldn’t just send out a message like, “Hello, Captain Smith. Can you pop over to Berlin and drop a few bombs, there’s a good chap.” No, that would not do at all. Messages needed to be transmitted vocally, of course, plane to plane, ship to ship, tank to tank and many mixtures in between. But what had to remain secret was the movement of fleets of ships , armadas of planes and marching armies all over the world. Mass movement of enemy forces, if detected in time, could be destroyed. That information had to be encrypted and transmitted.
Take, for example, a convoy of ships travelling from America to the UK, with tanks, planes and weaponry on board ready to be deployed when it arrived in Britain. No, make that if it arrived. Because there was a deadly chance a Nazi submarine U-Boat could be in the Atlantic, waiting for a chance to sink your ship. In fact, there were packs of Nazi submarines, all with full knowledge that shipping in convoy was plying the Atlantic Ocean on a regular basis. If you, as a commander of a convoy knew where these submarines where, you could make plans to avoid them.
Welcome to the world of codebreakers. Welcome to Bletchley Park in England, and a Nazi code machine called Enigma.