You are probably thinking: WHAT do these things have to do with you and London?
I lot I tell you! Today the UCL German Department made them relevant to me and London. Why?
Captain Jerry Roberts graduated in German from UCL, and straight out of uni was appointed to a codebreaking team at Bletchley Park. His main job, together with two others, was to try an break Tunny, a cipher used by the Germans. Everyone has probably heard about Enigma by now. So what is Tunny? This was a highly important cipher used by the Germans for communication between their top levels, unlike Enigma, which was more commonly used, and as Captain Roberts said, you could even buy an Enigma machine commercially. Hitler had had this machine created especially for the purpose, and he even personally sent some messages himself using it, at least one of which Captain Roberts himself deciphered. In Captain Roberts words, Enigma saved us the war, while Tunny made it end at least two years earlier. Being able to deciphered these codes was essential, as they allowed the Allies to know what the Axis forces were planning, and what their thoughts were.
So why have we all heard of Enigma, but not of Tunny, if Tunny was so much more important? Well, Tunny was only recently declassified, due to its importance, unlike Enigma, which was declassified in the 1970s. Thus, only recently have the general public got to know about it, and people like Captain Jerry Roberts been able to speak about it.
It was a true honour for me to listen to him talk and describe how they broke the code and what understanding the code meant for the war effort. It was especially an honour hearing him in a classroom, with limited amounts of people. He should be giving another talk for the media around March I believe at UCL, but he asked to do this for the German department, as thanks and a show of gratitude for the education he got from there.
I must say I am very glad to have read about it and just upped and went to it. It was an inspiring talk about what our studies can bring us to, and to see him so humble and carefully describing to us his experiences, and answering our questions was very enlightening.
Thank you Captain Roberts. Not just for today, but for your work at Bletchley Park to you and to the others in the team, who are often not thought about. If it weren’t for you, life as we know it may not be there!