back to article Bletchley Park opens U-110 Enigma exhibit

An exhibit commemorating the 70th anniversary of the capture of an Enigma machine and codebooks from a German wartime submarine has opened in Bletchley Park. The exhibition contains photographs of the capture of the secret coding device of the U-boat 110 on 9 May 1941, as well as the first-hand account of the 20-year-old sub …


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  1. Rich 11 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Historical revisionism

    Several Hollyword studios have shown interest in the script for a film treatment of the evacuation of Dunkirk, where the US Navy rescues the British Army from the clutches of the Nazis and a small band of US Marines fights a desperate rearguard action against the massed SS Panzer divisions.

    Believe that and you'll believe... oh, forget it.

  2. LuMan


    You mean it WASN'T the Yanks that captured the device???

    Damn you to Hell, Hollywood. How DARE you produce an historically inaccurate film!! Next you'll be trying to convince us that Robin Hood can ride from the South Coast to the Midlands in an afternoon!

    1. Minophis

      Robin Hood

      Errr Actually I think they tried to convince us he walked it in an afternoon.

      1. Another One


        it wasn't the Midlands - it was Hadrian's Wall. Well - ok - he walked back again as well I guess?

      2. Dave 15 Silver badge

        you mean

        Some of the films from Hollywood aren't accurate - does that include James Bond?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Hollywood eejuts

      MAY 1941? Why thats several MONTHS before the US of A was initially attacked even.

      So the septics DIDN'T save the world? Must have been that nice Mr Gordon Brown instead.

      Next you'll be telling me Ben Affleck didn't win the Battle of Britain singlehanded.

    3. Scorchio!!

      Re: What???

      "Next you'll be trying to convince us that Robin Hood can ride from the South Coast to the Midlands in an afternoon!"

      And that 'Rabn' has an American accent.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who would be in Churchill's shoes?

    Having to make the terrible decisions to let British cities be bombed in order to not tip off the Germans and them subsequently changing their codes.

    1. david wilson

      @Who would be in Churchill's shoes?

      >>"Having to make the terrible decisions to let British cities be bombed in order to not tip off the Germans and them subsequently changing their codes."

      What /are/ you talking about?

      Even assuming that bombing plans had been broadcast via Enigma messages long enough ahead of time to allow decoding, given the limits of our air defences (particularly against night bombing), what amazing response *could* Churchill possibly have ordered to be deployed that would have caused suspicion?

      They already knew we had radar which could at least detect them approaching our coast (even if they were initially underestimating how effectively we were using it).

      1. Semaj


        He's talking about Coventry. It's well known that Churchill knew in advance of one of the big attacks on that city and couldn't tell anyone because of the source of the info.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What /is/ he talking about?

        The fact that we knew that bombing raids were to take place and that we could have done something against it would have tipped off German collaborators in the country that something was afoot.

        The War Cabinet took the decision not to forewarn the general population in order to minimise losses because they didn't know who was gossiping to the Germans about the current state of affairs, and they didn't want to risk exposing the fact that Enigma was broken. The same applied to any U-Boat sightings and possible evasive maneuvers that could have been taken by the convoys.

        People died, yes. But the fact that we used Enigma to minimise losses elsewhere, and eventually used it in Spain to bamboozle the Germans into believing that the landings of D-Day were to happen elsewhere, was worth the price. Or at least that's what war historians tell us.

      3. Naughtyhorse

        brace yourself

        Tory PM....

        cities in the north getting bombed..

        p'raps recent events is making me cynical

      4. Dave 15 Silver badge

        I had heard

        That we knew Coventry was going to suffer from the position of the guidance beams rather than from anything else. But yes Churchill did have to sacrifice some stuff 'for the greater good'.

        I am also certain I read that we actually had an enigma machine in a store cupboard from before the war - it had been obtained at a 'trade show' but we had decided it wasn't interesting.

    2. Blue eyed boy

      I presume you are referring to Operation Moonlight Sonata

      the bombing of Coventry. That disaster was nothing to do with the Enigma being broken. The intercepted messages pinpointed a raid for that night, centred on "Target 53" aka "Corn". Nobody knew at that time where that might be - everybody expected it to be somewhere in London.

      The cockup, if it can be called that, was in the attempt to jam the Y-Getat, the navigation beam in use by the Luftrwaffe at the time. The signal switched between beams just left of centre, and just right of centre, at 2000Hz. The spoof beams operated by the British had this keying frequency set to 1500Hz. The spoof signals didn't get through the highly selective receivers and were ignored.

      Churchill did *not* sacrifice Coventry to preserve German ignorance of the British decryption successes.

  4. Alan Firminger

    There is still an appetite for it

    I want to learn how the captured crew of U110 were kept incommunicado. And were they joined by the third, hostile, crew member of the Junkers 88 that flew to Scotland ?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not so

    It was mainly shipping that was allowed to be attacked to avoid tipping off the Germans that Enigma had been broken.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Churchill's Legacy ?

    > Who would be in Churchill's shoes? Having to make the terrible decisions to let British cities be bombed, Norfolk 'n' Goode

    Forming an alliance with Stalinist Russia and then handing over eastern europe to them in the aftermath of WW2. Promoting massive area bombing of German cities. It could be argued that the Blitz was a response to Fighter Command first bombing Berlin, in order to deflect german aircraft from bombing airfields in the midst of the Battle of Britain.

    1. SkippyBing

      Small point

      Bomber Command bombed Berlin, not Fighter Command. Fighter Command's aircraft were hard pushed to cross the channel, range not being one of the Spitfire's selling points.

      That the bombing of Berlin consequently shifted the Luftwaffe's attention can ultimately only be seen as a good thing* as it allowed Fighter Command to survive, without which things could have turned out quite differently.

      *Unless you actually think Germany winning would have been preferable.

      1. Andy Enderby 1


        Crossing county boundaries was almost a trial. I exaggerate, but you get the picture. The Packard powered Mustang (a license built Merlin engine) on the other hand made mass daylight raids a realistic option, which was not the case if the B17 and Liberator formations attempted to handle their defence alone.

        Don't be to over zealous in ribbing our transatlantic buddies folks, when they did join in, it really did change everything. They do seem to be separated by a common language though ;-)

        1. SkippyBing


          I believe the saying went - 'A Mustang can't do what a Spitfire can, but it can't do it over Berlin'.

          1. Zippy the Pinhead

            and it can't

            And while it can't do what the Spitfire could, it could go it faster, higher, and over Berlin

        2. Zippy the Pinhead

          the real victory

          Came from teamwork and Industrial might.. The United States out produced Germany.

    2. Scorchio!!

      Re: Churchill's Legacy ?

      "It could be argued that the Blitz was a response to Fighter Command first bombing Berlin"

      Thank dog /bomber command/ didn't bomb Berlin in the first place. That would have made Hitler *really* angry.

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    United States Secrets are an Open Source Lode of Bull?

    Activity at the spooky enigmatic end of things has changed quite a bit from those early Bletchley Park days ..... ..... but it is still so hush hush that you will probably still have to wait quite a while before you get to know of anything officially, although that may have everything/more than just a little to do with the powers that be and that you would know of as government departments and intelligence services and dodgy business empires, doing everything in their powers to disguise their complete incompetence and lack of facility in the field.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Who would be in Churchill's shoes

    Actually, later in the War, it was used as part of a disnformation campaign to reduce the impact (so to speak) of the V-1 campaign. The Germans were told that the V-1's attacking London were mostly overshooting, so adjusted the range accordingly (Ultra played a central part in the Intelligence handling of this campaign); so Central London was spared the worst of the V-1 campaign, South London suffered as a result though.

  9. Andy Enderby 1

    churchill the hollywood years....

    .... is about as relevant a historical account as U571. A damn funny farce too.

  10. Zippy the Pinhead


    The best scene of that piece of junk was the closing credits.. the second best was where what's his name lost his head. lol

  11. NoneSuch

    Hate to kill the party...

    The Enigma codes were given to the British by a spy in 1931 and an Enigma machine was replicated by the Polish in 1933. The whole kit and kaboodle was given to the UK in 1939 just before the invasion of Poland.

    1. jphb

      Now just let's get things straight.

      The Enigma supplied by the Poles was an early version which none the less provided clear insight into how it operated. That alone was not enough to decrypt Enigma messages. You also needed to know various initial settings which changed on a frequent (daily) basis. The genius of BP was in building machines and procedures for recovering the settings on a regular basis.

      The U110 recovery was of the more complex naval Enigma machine, significantly different from

      that the Poles had in the 1930's. As well as recovering this machine, vital code books (giving initial settings) were also recovered from U110.

      The Colossus proto-computers, of course, had nothing to do with Enigma.

      Robert Harris's fictional account "Enigma" gives a good feel of BP and the cracking of Naval Enigma. The movie "Enigma" was, to me, a bit of a disappointment and why wasn't it shot on location at BP?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Having the Enigma machines was all well and good.

        But of less use than you might imagine, unless you had the day settings. As you know there were four rotors and pegboard settings to get.

        This was solved by boarding a weather reporting ship (Munchen - May 41) and getting the book of settings.

        As other posters have said the Airforce and Army Enigma was much easier than the Naval Enigma. The Naval one was what we needed to help in the Battle of the Atlantic to keep the convoys running safe in order to keep the country fed and armed.

  12. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Holywood Version

    In the new Holywood version, the American demand a backdoor into Enigma, the Germans issue a DMCA take down notice against Bletchley claiming that it has copyright on the Enigma messages and Turing is arrested on made up charges of having sex with Swedish women

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Turing is arrested on made up charges of having sex with Swedish women..."

      I wish I could be the defence lawyer in THAT trial! 8-)

    2. Yag

      Almost spot on...

      ...on the sad fate of Turing. Quite a shame actually...

    3. Scorchio!!

      Re: Holywood Version

      "[...] Turing is arrested on made up charges of having sex with Swedish women"

      That would be Swedish men, though I suppose replacing them with women in the interests of complete historical inaccuracy might be the way forward.

  13. smalone1

    U-571: Total Rubbish

    The men and women of Bletchley Park won the Battle of the Atlantic for the allies. To even mention the dreadful movie U-571 in reference to the capture of U-110 is nonsense. As a Yank I must give full credit to the Brits for their great job of winning the battle against the U-boats.


    Philadelphia, PA

  14. Magnus_Pym
    Thumb Up

    If you really want to know about Enigma...

    ... visit Blectchley Park FFS. It's well worth the trip.

  15. Smite the Unbeliever

    Lest we forget...

    There was a second significant capture of Enigma information when U-559 was badly damaged. Three men swam to the submarine and retrieved the Enigma machine plus current codebooks - Colin Grazier and Francis Fasson were still aboard, trying to retrieve more material, when it sank, drowning them both.

    1. Scorchio!!
      Thumb Up

      Re: Lest we forget..

      There are a number of sad sequels to the story, though the U-559 did render up one more secret:

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