Before Bletchley Park could break the German war machine’s codes, the enemy’s radio traffic and communications were monitored around the clock by the Listening Service – a team of young men and women based in every theatre of war who intercepted and transcribed with a speed few have ever managed since, so that code breakers could turn the course of the war.
This organisation – known as the ‘Y’ (for ‘Wireless’) Service – was just as secret as Bletchley Park during the war but nowadays is little-known or recognised. The Service went wherever the war went, with listeners posted to Cairo to listen in to Rommel’s Eighth Army, Casablanca in Morocco, Karachi for the Burma campaign, or in one case even the idyllic Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean to monitor Japan. Sinclair McKay chronicles the history and achievements of this remarkable organisation and the people who worked for it.
Sinclair McKay writes for the Daily Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday and The Spectator and is a judge for this year’s Encore award for best second novel. His books include the bestselling The Secret Life of Bletchley Park, and he is currently working on another project on the Second World War. He lives in London, and likes nothing more than truffling through archives.