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Publisher's Summary

Before Bletchley Park could break the German war machine’s code, its daily military communications had to be monitored and recording by "the Listening Service" - the wartime department whose bases moved with every theatre of war: Cairo, Malta, Gibraltar, Iraq, Cyprus, as well as having listening stations along the eastern coast of Britain to intercept radio traffic in the European theatre. This is the story of the - usually very young - men and women sent out to far-flung outposts to listen in for Bletchley Park, an oral history of exotic locations and ordinary lives turned upside down by a sudden remote posting - the heady nightlife in Cairo, filing cabinets full of snakes in North Africa, and flights out to Delhi by luxurious flying boat.
©2012 Sinclair McKay (P)2012 Audible Ltd
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Jeanette Finan on 02-06-13

A Truly Fascinating Read

I found this book to be especially interesting because it covers so much that I never had an inkling about before. I should have, but it just never occurred to me. Common sense should have told me that the program had to have had existed. I read about Enigma and the Benchley code breakers practically ad nauseam and never once wondered how they came by all those codes they were breaking in the first place.

The book gives a fascinating insight into the critical information-gathering role women played in both the European and Far Eastern theatres of war, many of them barely out of their teens - were frequently located at various, and generally extremely isolated, locations in the UK. But many of them were also shipped off to exotic overseas locations which, occasionally, were dangerously close to the front line. It was inevitable that many of the girls had to put up with decidedly chauvinistic comments from both troops and officers who, completely ignorant of what the girls were doing, considered the battlefield no place for women. The feminist in me loves the fact that in the 1940's women in this program managed by sheer ability to overcome the "don't worry your pretty little head" or the "just hand me the bullets honey while I fire the gun" myth.





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5 of 5 people found this review helpful


By Honey on 06-18-15

Fascinating, well-written & well-read

A unique, interesting, and well read account of the wiretappers of World War II. The men and women who listen to the Morse signals, and passed them onto Bletchley park to be decoded. Often working in real time, the wire listeners played an extremely important role in the second world war. This is the first work I have seen on the subject, but I would love to see more! The author treats the subject with sympathy, speaking with several of the remaining wire listeners. He's able to give an account of their personal lives as well as the important work that they performed in the war. Great author, great reader. Definitely recommend it!

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Dinah on 12-31-13

The Wartime "Listeners" for the Codebreakers

What did you like most about The Secret Listeners?

This is a series of 'biographies' from ordinary people whose lives were changed, and often enhanced, by the urgency and drama of their vital information gathering work leading up to and during World War II.

What did you like best about this story?

I enjoyed the descriptions of life for the, often very young, 'listeners' as they were posted all over the world; to Cairo, Gibraltar, Iraq, Cyprus, North Africa, Delhi. But I also enjoyed the descriptions of the unusual 'listening centres' in the British Isles, mainly along the east coast. The people of all ranks in the service came to adjust, each in their own way, to their new assignments.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

One of the 'listening centres' was based at Wormwood Scrubs. There is a charming account of how Hugh Trevor-Roper, then a research fellow in Oxford, had to 'endure' working in east Acton and, oh dear, having to live in nearby Ealing.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I found many of the individual stories very moving, particularly in view of how young the men and women 'listeners' were.

Any additional comments?

I am pleased that, after the recent attention given to the 'codebreakers' of Bletchley Park, recognition has now been given to these numbers of individual information gatherers. Without their work of monitoring and recording the daily German military communications, the team at Bletchley would not have been able to break the German war machine's code.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful


By Ian on 04-19-13

Well read and informative

This is not an aspect of the Second World War that many know much about. Largely compiled from verbatim accounts of servicemen and women and civilians, there is much here that fleshes out a more general appreciation of the various campaigns and phases of the war. Special people, but all very much individuals with whom the reader can identify.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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