Piers Brendon

Among the Boneheads

The Secret World: Behind the Curtain of British Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War

By

I B Tauris 301pp £25 order from our bookshop

Early in 1940 Hugh Trevor-Roper cracked a German secret service cipher while lying in his bath during an air raid. A brilliant young don at Christ Church, who would later become Oxford’s Regius Professor of Modern History, Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and a peer, Trevor-Roper had been recruited to work in the Radio Security Section (RSS) of Military Intelligence. First housed in Wormwood Scrubs Prison, it included among its tasks the interception of signals sent from the Continent to German spies in Britain. This brought the RSS into conflict with the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, which wanted a monopoly on code-breaking. It found Trevor-Roper, who advocated cooperation between the intelligence agencies, especially obnoxious. For a time he was denied entry to Bletchley, whose deputy head said that he seemed ‘unable to speak the truth even by accident’. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Lecture on war and peace in 19th-century Europe by Professor Sir Richard Evans, Thurs 25 Oct, 6.30pm Europe House… ,
    • 'Why, throughout the world, are so many people fascinated by the fiction and reality of espionage? And why of all p… ,
    • . here on books, Muriel Spark and life's tangled dance ,
    • RT : There aren't enough aggressive subtitles these days: ,
    • Churchill's on the cover of the October edition of the magazine. Piers Brendon reviews two new books about the Brit… ,
    • 'Readers have no more power to predict where the next story is going to take them than the prisoners had to determi… ,
    • 'Ho was no Soviet or Chinese puppet. He was a nationalist first and foremost. Had the Americans just realised this.… ,