Alastair Denniston: Code-Breaking from Room 40 to Berkeley Street and the Birth of GCHQ by Joel Greenberg


How ironic that the long-winded sub-title reveals more about our hero than his name does.

Even now, the name of Alastair Denniston remains sadly unsung. In a career that spanned two World Wars and the formation of three centres of espionage cryptography, this perennially calm and reclusive man played a key role in fashioning and then running the now legendary Bletchley Park, from its beginnings in 1914, when he was first dragooned by The Admiralty, until 1942, when Bletchley came into its own.

Headed by Denniston (who deserved to be knighted, and wasn’t), The Government Code and Cipher School, which metamorphosed into Bletchley and resulted in ENIGMA (and a memorable film, “The Imitation Game”, starring the versatile Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing), ended up effectively exposing every major move of the German war machine, to devastating effect.

This is not a light read, but a revealing one that sets the record straight. With input from his own family (his son, Robin, also wrote about him), Commander Alastair Guthrie Denniston, OBE, CBE, CMG, RNVR, has been finally recognised and comes into his own – with a vengeance. Hats off to all involved.




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