RIP: Peter Calvocoressi

Here’s an obituary of Peter Calvocoressi, one of the major figures at Bletchley Park, the famous British code-breaking effort during World War II:

His account of his wartime work at Bletchley Park, Top Secret Ultra, appeared in 1980. In it Calvocoressi emphasised the decisive role played by Ultra in intercepting communications: “Ultra took the blindfold off our eyes so that we could see the enemy in detail in a way in which he could not see us.”
The breaking of the Enigma machine ciphers gave Britain’s outnumbered fighter pilots a critical head start in intercepting German bombing raids. It also helped to end the Nazi wolfpack menace during the Battle of the Atlantic when, in December 1942, Bletchley Park experts cracked the U-boat cipher known as Triton.
In his book Calvocoressi also highlighted the contribution of the intercepts to countering the surface raiders which had inflicted such damage on Atlantic shipping. The best-known was the German battleship Bismarck, which had sailed from the Baltic in May 1941 on what would be her first and last voyage. Six days out from Gdynia she sank the veteran British cruiser Hood, but three days later she herself was sunk with the loss of some 2,000 hands, just short of the safety zone for which she was making off the western coast of France.

I love how the Brits do their obituaries. The second-to-last paragraph is brilliant:

The range of jobs that he undertook was wide, and his habit of leaving them was partly due to the breadth of his interests and partly perhaps to a conviction that he knew best: although in theory he respected independent and individual attitudes, he also felt an obligation to guide others along the paths he selected for them. This cannot always have made him an easy colleague.

Posted by on February 24th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

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