Capt Jerry Roberts’ autobiography Lorenz, telling the inside story of the breaking of Hitler’s most secret cipher, has been launched at The National Museum of Computing in the presence of veterans whose work with Colossus helped in the decrypting process.
The “unbreakable” Lorenz cipher was used to encrypt communications between Hitler and his High Command. Far more complex than Enigma, Lorenz-encoded messages carried invaluable strategic information. The decrypts are credited with shortening the war and saving countless lives.
The Lorenz book is the autobiographical story of the life of the late Captain Jerry Roberts and gives an in-depth personal perspective of the breaking the twelve-wheeled Lorenz cipher.
The launch was attended by some Bletchley Park veterans, their families and special guests including BBC presenter Paddy O’Connell. Among the veterans was O’Connell’s mother Betty, who was one of the first operators of Colossus, the computer that helped break the cipher.
Paddy O’Connell gave an insight into the complexity of the codebreakers’ task by playing an audio signal representing the enciphered German text as it would have been intercepted in Britain. Visibly moved by the sound, Betty O’Connell and her Colossus operator colleague Irene Dixon recalled how they had to keep their wartime work secret for decades and expressed great satisfaction that the story was beginning to gain the prominence that it rightfully deserves. They hoped that the book would generate wider public interest in the incredible achievements of the Lorenz codebreakers.
“The names of the three Ts - the Testery; Bill Tutte and Tommy Flowers should be known throughout the land,” said wartime Colossus operator Betty O’Connell. “The Testery linguists broke the code by hand after Bill Tutte had miraculously worked out how the Lorenz machine worked without ever having seen it. Then Tommy Flower’s creation of the Colossus computer helped speed up codebreaking hastening the end of the war. It is marvelous to see this story from the inside of the Testery, a group of people that I never even knew existed until decades after the war.”
Mei Roberts, wife of the late Jerry Roberts, was also present. It was her determination and hard work that enabled the book to be completed and published almost three years after Jerry Roberts’ death.
The launch was held in the Tunny Gallery in Block H, alongside one of four remaining Lorenz SZ42 cipher machines and original associated equipment, as well as a rebuilt Tunny machine (the British re-engineered version of the Lorenz SZ42). Next door is the rebuilt Colossus, standing on the exact spot that Colossus No 9 occupied during the war.
Lorenz: Breaking Hitler’s Top Secret code at Bletchley Park by Captain Jerry Roberts, The History Press, 240 pages, £20 (hardback), ISBN-13: 978-0750978859
Notes To Editors
Captain Jerry Roberts MBE was the last surviving Bletchley Park codebreaker until his death in 2014. A talented linguist and recruited as a German speaker, he worked at Bletchley Park on the Lorenz machine for four years and was part of a small but dedicated team of codebreakers that included Tommy Flowers and Bill Tutte.
The Testery, set up under Major Ralph Tester, was a group of linguists and cryptographers tasked with breaking the Lorenz cipher (Tunny) by hand after Bill Tutte had successfully worked out the architecture of the Lorenz cipher machine in 1942 without ever having seen it.
The Lorenz cipher, thought to be unbreakable, was used by the German High Command communicating across about 20 links in German-occupied territories in Europe during the Second World War.
About The National Museum of Computing
The National Museum of Computing, located on Bletchley Park, is an independent charity housing the world's largest collection of functional historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and the WITCH, the world's oldest working digital computer. The Museum enables visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the large systems and mainframes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s and beyond.
The Museum runs a highly successful Learning Programme for schools and colleges and promotes introductions to computer coding amongst young people to inspire the next generation of computer scientists and engineers.
Sponsors of the Museum have included Bletchley Park Science and Innovation Centre, Bloomberg, CreateOnline, Ceravision, Fujitsu, InsightSoftware.com, Ocado Technology, FUZE, 4Links, Google UK, IBM, NPL, HP Labs, and BCS.
Outside the long school holidays, the whole Museum is open to the public from 12 noon - 5pm on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, spring and summer Bank Holidays and during long school holidays. The Colossus and Tunny galleries are open daily. Public and private Guided Tours are available and bookable online – see the website or the iPhone app for details. Educational and corporate group visits are available by prior arrangement.
For more information, see www.tnmoc.org and follow @tnmoc on Twitter and The National Museum of Computing on Facebook and Google+. A TNMOC iPhone App is also available from the iPhone App Store.
Stephen Fleming, Palam Communications, for The National Museum of Computing