We all know that the British managed to break the German ‘Enigma’ code during World War II, but what of the other side of the coin? In the worst period of the Battle of the Atlantic, the winter of 1940-41, had the Germans broken the Royal Navy’s codes so that U-boat commanders knew where British merchant ships would be?
Lieutenant Douglas Lindsay RNVR, employed to interrogate captured U-boat men, becomes convinced that the enemy have broken the codes. But, in the best tradition of the thriller, his superiors don’t want to know. Indeed, they believe Lindsay a security risk—not surprisingly, since he has a German mother and a first cousin who is a U-boat captain. Lindsay’s ally is Mary Henderson, an academic working in the Admiralty’s Submarine Tracking Room, but most of his information comes from his questioning prisoners, in particular as he tries to ‘break’ leading U-boat ‘ace’ Kapitan Jurgen Mohr.
Mr. Williams previously produced a bestselling history of the Battle of the Atlantic, so it is a pity that some careless errors have crept in. No ship of the White Star Line would be Imperial Star –White Star names all ended in-ic (Titanic, Laurentic, there was even a Ceramic), and Lindsay could not have heard the bells of Westminster Abbey pealing in the spring of 1941. The ringing of church bells was prohibited on 13 June 1940 except to signal a German invasion. The next time any bells were rung was on 8 November 1942 to mark the victory of El Alamein.