Before Bletchley Park could break the German war machine’s code, its daily military communications had to be monitored and recording by "the Listening Service" - the wartime department whose bases moved with every theatre of war: Cairo, Malta, Gibraltar, Iraq, Cyprus, as well as having listening stations along the eastern coast of Britain to intercept radio traffic in the European theatre. This is the story of the - usually very young - men and women sent out to far-flung outposts to listen in for Bletchley Park, an oral history of exotic locations and ordinary lives turned upside down by a sudden remote posting - the heady nightlife in Cairo, filing cabinets full of snakes in North Africa, and flights out to Delhi by luxurious flying boat.
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The Wartime "Listeners" for the Codebreakers
This is a series of 'biographies' from ordinary people whose lives were changed, and often enhanced, by the urgency and drama of their vital information gathering work leading up to and during World War II.
I enjoyed the descriptions of life for the, often very young, 'listeners' as they were posted all over the world; to Cairo, Gibraltar, Iraq, Cyprus, North Africa, Delhi. But I also enjoyed the descriptions of the unusual 'listening centres' in the British Isles, mainly along the east coast. The people of all ranks in the service came to adjust, each in their own way, to their new assignments.
One of the 'listening centres' was based at Wormwood Scrubs. There is a charming account of how Hugh Trevor-Roper, then a research fellow in Oxford, had to 'endure' working in east Acton and, oh dear, having to live in nearby Ealing.
I found many of the individual stories very moving, particularly in view of how young the men and women 'listeners' were.
I am pleased that, after the recent attention given to the 'codebreakers' of Bletchley Park, recognition has now been given to these numbers of individual information gatherers. Without their work of monitoring and recording the daily German military communications, the team at Bletchley would not have been able to break the German war machine's code.
Well read and informative