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Capturing Enigma: How HMS "Petard" Seized the German Naval Codes (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – Illustriert, 23. Oktober 1999

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An attack by a British destroyer on a German U-boat in the Eastern Mediterranean in October 1942 altered the course of the entire war. The capture of secret German Enigma coding material from U-559, at the cost of the lives of two of HMS Petard's crew, enabled Bletchley Park's codebreakers to crack a new Enigma system introduced to cover a maximum U-boat offensive. After ten critical months with no U-boat signals intelligence available, this was the crucial factor in defeating Hitler's Atlantic U-boat wolf packs before they could starve Britain into defeat in the winter of 1942-3. Had it been possible to release the facts of her triumph at the time, the name of HMS Petard would surely have ranked alongside that of Nelson's Victory in the annals of British history. Because of the top secrecy about Ultra messages that lasted nearly four decades, the Petard's achievement remained unknown, her fame unrecognized. This text is the true story of how HMS Petard attacked and captured U-559 in the darkness of a Mediterranean night.

With the use of vivid eyewitness accounts, the author describes how two of her crew swam across to the sinking, abandoned U-boat (ahead of a boarding party in a whaler) went below and passed key signals documents up the conning tower before being trapped when U-559, leaking from damage caused in the Petard's earlier depth charge attacks, sank. Both men were later recommended for posthumous awards of the Victoria Cross but the Admiralty, concerned this might draw unwanted attention from German Intelligence, instead ordered posthumous awards of the George Cross, the highest civilian award for bravery.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Stephen Harper served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War as a coder on HMS Petard on her second commission, from 1945 to 1946. After the war he followed a career as a journalist and was Foreign Correspondent for the Daily Express for over twenty years, and later Chief Foreign Correspondent. He is the author of Last Sunset (Collins, 1978), Miracle of Deliverance (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985), and two novels. He now lives in Surrey.


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Capturing Enigma 3. Oktober 2000
Von Bill Mahoney - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The story of HMS Petard's capture of an enigma machine and related codebooks probably deserves no more than a chapter in a history of World War II. Whilst it is a story of great bravery by a few individuals, it is a lightweight story. Time and again, the author repeats the basic story of the ship, its crew, and their actions. Frankly, there just isn't enough material to fill a book or to hold a reader's interest. Save your money!
The focus should have remained on the value of Ultra to the British 11. April 2007
Von Charles Ashbacher - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
It is impossible to overstate the value of the British decryption specialists in the Allied victory in World War II. The project, given the overall codename Ultra, allowed the British to read the secret dispatches the German military was sending out to their forces. By knowing what the Germans were going to do, the British navy and air forces were able to organize and concentrate their limited forces and meet the challenge.

The HMS Petard was a destroyer in the British navy and in October of 1942 it engaged in a battle with the German submarine U-559. When the German crew abandoned the submarine, three British sailors swam over and removed some of the German code books. Two of them went down with the sub. The codebooks allowed the British to break the codes the Germans were using to control their submarines and enabled the British to prevail in the battle of the Atlantic. Like the air battle over Britain, this one was also very close. The British Isles are completely dependent on supplies arriving by ship and if the Germans had been more effective in sinking Allied shipping, the British would have been starved and forced to surrender.

The action of the HMS Petard was so secret that the British navy refused to give the two sailors who gave their lives a suitable military decoration. This was in fear that it would tip the Germans off that their codes had been compromised. Fortunately for the British side, the German High Command never became aware that their codes had been broken.

Given such powerful material, you would expect this to be a very good book. It is not because the author is so repetitive and non-sequential. He jumps back and forth in time and many situations are repeated, albeit in a different guise. He also describes the actions of the Petard throughout the war, which is a tangential subplot off the main plot, namely the value of Ultra. It would have been a better book if the emphasis would have remained focused on Ultra.
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