Hastings on GCHQ and cracking Enigma

Hut 8 [of Bletchley Park] now had enough information to read some U-boat signals, but the seizure which opened the traffic to fluent decryption was the fruit of chance and high courage, rather than of design. On 9 May 1941 a convoy escort group attacked and forced to the surface Julius Lempe’s U-110. A boarding party from HMS Bulldog commanded by Sub-Lieutenant David Balme secured the submarine, prevented its sinking, and brought back to his destroyer pearls beyond price: documentation for current Enigma. Though U-110 later sank under tow — fortunately so, from a security viewpoint — the short signal book, officer ciphering instructions and other material reached Bletchley safely, and the secret of the submarine’s capture was preserved beyond the war’s end. An Enigma machine was also recovered, but perversely this was the least useful element of the booty, because Bletchley had one already, together with assorted rotors seized in other ‘pinches’. Within days, Hut 8 was reading a steady stream of German naval messages. Ralph Erskine, one of the foremost experts on codebreaking at Bletchley, believes that the Park was already close to reading the Kriegsmarine traffic, even without the U-110 haul. What is for certain, however, is that it was impossible to break the U-boat ciphers without the assistance of captured material, which would again become a vital issue later in the war.

Hastings, Max. The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939–1945. p. 83 (hardcover)

U of T President Meric Gertler rejects fossil fuel divestment

Back in December, an expert committee appointed by President Gertler recommended divestment from fossil fuel companies based on a range of criteria.

Today, that approach was rejected by President Gertler, who proposed instead a vague eventual screening of investments based on “environmental, social, and governance” factors.

Toronto350.org has a press release, and is working on a broader response.

Between the committee’s recommendation and the president’s decision, we issued a Community Response, which is essentially not addressed in the president’s decision.

Civilians in intelligence

Donald McLachlan, a journalist who served under Godfrey [head of British naval intelligence] at the Admiralty, afterwards argued that all wartime intelligence departments should be run by civilians in uniform, because they are unburdened by the lifetime prejudices of career soldiers, sailors and airmen: ‘It is the lawyer, the scholar, the traveller, the banker, even the journalist who shows the ability to resist where the career men tend to bend. Career officers and politicians have a strong interest in cooking raw intelligence to make their masters’ favourite dishes.’ MI6 remained until 1945 under the leadership of its old hands, but most of Britain’s secret war machine passed into the hands of able civilians in uniform who — after an interval of months or in some cases years while they were trained and their skills recognized — progressively improved the quality of intelligence analysis.

Hastings, Max. The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939–1945. p. 69 (hardcover)