The Enigma Team | HISTORY
Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, England, was the central site for Britain's codebreakers during World War Two. Run by the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), it regularly penetrated the secret communications of the Axis Powers – most importantly the German Enigma cipher. Historians estimate that the work done by The Enigma Team at Bletchley Park shortened the war by two to four years, and could very well have been the deciding factor in the Allied victory.
At its peak, The Enigma Team was deciphering some four thousand messages per day. But in February of 1942, the German navy introduced a new, four-rotor Enigma Machine for communications with its Atlantic U-boats. This created a crisis for the Enigma Team, and this crisis is the subject of Leadership Masters' presentation. Leaders of the codebreaking process, including Alan Turing, Commander Edward Travis, and Chess Champion Hugh Alexander then called on the culturally diverse staff of nearly nine thousand to assist in the crisis. Their efforts culminated in "Colossus" the world's first programmable digital electronic computer.
The Enigma Team's work was essential to defeating the U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic, and to the British naval victories in the Battle of Cape Matapan and the Battle of North Cape. The team also had a decisive impact on the North African desert campaign against German forces under the command of General Erwin Rommel. General Claude Auchinleck wrote that were it not for the Enigma Team, "Rommel would have certainly gotten through to Cairo, and Hitler would have conquered Africa".
The Enigma Team was perhaps the most demographically diverse team of high-achievers ever assembled. The team included blue-collar workers, college professors, chess players, crossword-puzzle enthusiasts, linguists, engineers, teachers, mechanics, typists, small-engine technicians, researchers, human behavior specialists, military personnel and ordinary civilians. Due to the leadership of Alistair Denniston, Dilly Knox, Commander Edward Travis and Alan Turing, the working environment was such that both incredible pressure and incredible achievement could co-exist. The workplace dynamics were both welcoming and personally affirming, and the staff loved working there, despite the enormous pressure and high expectations.
Much of Bletchley's equipment and documents was destroyed at the end of the war, and the secrecy imposed on members of the Enigma Team remained in force until the publication of F. W. Winterbotham's "The Ultra Secret" in 1974. Twenty-five years later the Enigma Team's top secret files were declassified, and Leadership Masters began its investigation into the most culturally and demographically diverse team of the twentieth century. The result of that investigation is the Leadership-Masters presentation that we call "The Enigma Team".