Capturing The Enigma: The Unsung Heroes of HMS Bulldog by Patrick Spencer is a 28-page historical introduction to an important code-breaking event of WWII. Published in September 2016 by MouseWorks Publishing, this work provides a springboard for younger readers unfamiliar with code breaking to select lengthier, more detailed works on the personnel, equipment, and technology associated with this important development. Spencer’s writing style is faithful to historical events while at the same time entertaining to contemporary readers.
The HMS Bulldog was an escort vessel responsible for the safety of supply ship convoys in the North Atlantic. German submarines traveling in wolf packs and communicating with each other in code using Enigma machines were successful in disrupting and attacking the convoys according to plans that were unknown by the Allied Powers.
Kapitanleutnant Fritz-Julius Kemp had just sunk two British supply ships and confirmed the sinking by looking through his periscope. That mistake had created a “periscope wake” which was spotted by a watch officer on a small boat, The information was passed on to two destroyers, The Broadway and The Bulldog which joined in pursuit of the German submarine. It had surfaced due to damage from depth charges. Now all the British had to do was destroy the submarine by further shelling or by ramming the submarine causing it to sink. But Captain Baker-Cresswell of The Bulldog had a better idea. He would board the submarine and capture any equipment deemed valuable. There was danger in this in that it was known the German submarine commander would have rigged his boat to blow up in order to avoid anything being captured.
What follows is a very detailed account of the boarding of the submarine and removal by the British of anything deemed valuable. It could not all be done in one trip. On the second recovery mission, a signals person from The Bulldog went on the scavenging mission. He could not believe the Enigma machine had been left behind by the first mission. And then comes a fact about secrecy that may surprise some reader. The signalman knew right away what he was looking at. The British Navy officers had not recognized it. Everything connected with Enigma was highly classified on a need-to-know basis. The officers had no need to know. But a lower ranking signals person did.
Patrick Spencer has produced yet another short, entertaining account of an important event in the history of WWII. It should inspire deeper, more detailed reading.