Behind the Battle: Intelligence in the War with Germany 1939-45
- Publication Date:
- 12th Jan 2023
- Marble Hill Publishers
- 404 pages
- 23 pages of maps
Our price £12.99
Behind the Battle
Ralph Bennett’s BEHIND THE BATTLE, Intelligence in the War with Germany 1939-45, is the acclaimed ground-breaking account of the vital role Ultra intelligence played in the Allied victory. It is reissued as part of Marble Hill’s series, Writing About War.
- Since its original publication in 1994, BEHIND THE BATTLE has gained a formidable reputation as the book about the secret war that is essential reading for anyone who wants fully to understand the contribution Bletchley Park made to Allied victory, campaign by campaign.
- This book’s reputation is based on the author revisiting his younger self and assessing the decisions he and others took day by day throughout the war.
- BEHIND THE BATTLE should become a permanent part of any military or history section in a bookshop.
‘The story of intelligence in the Second World War told with a vividness and lucidity possible for one who actually contributed to this effort. A must read.’
Anthony King, professor of war studies at Warwick University
“A lucid and convincing assessment of the contribution Allied intelligence to success in the war against the Axis in the West.”
Dr David Kenyon, Research Historian, Bletchley Park
The Story Behind...
Behind the Battle
In 1940, my father, Ralph Bennett, a young Cambridge historian and a fluent German speaker, was drafted along with other academics into the Intelligence Corps. Throughout the war he worked for Bletchley Park, mostly as a Duty Office in Hut 3 where German army and air decodes were translated, their intelligence assessed and disseminated to commanders in the field.
On a visit to Cambridge in 1974, my father asked me if I had read FW Winterbotham’s The Ultra Secret. I hadn’t, I told him. ‘Read it,’ he said. ‘It will tell you what I did in the war.’ It was an extraordinary moment of revelation. I knew nothing about what he’d done because he had never talked about it. Why not? Because, like everyone who worked at Bletchley, he was bound to secrecy.
As I questioned him, I learned a whole new side to my father’s personality. He had been at the heart of the Allies’ greatest secret. Then he revealed why we had not returned to Cambridge until 1946. When the war ended, he had been commissioned by the Cabinet Office to write a short history of Hut 3. I could hardly believe it. He had a manuscript about one of the hottest topics of the moment - because the Thirty Year Rule released those who’d worked at Bletchley from their oath of secrecy - and I could publish it!
I immediately made an offer for the manuscript, sight unseen - only to discover that, under the Official Secrets Act, my father had not been allowed to retain a carbon copy of his text. Excitement plunged into disappointment - until my father, suddenly intrigued at the prospect of revisiting his past, said maybe there might be a way out. He would have a word with some people he knew.
Over the next three years, using his contacts in the Civil Service and at GCHG, he gained access to thousands of signals whose release he had authorised. He found himself in the extraordinary position of reliving the decisions he had taken throughout the war, an opportunity given to very few historians. His first wonderfully received history, Ultra in the West, the Normandy Campaign of 1944-45, was published in 1979. Ultra and the Mediterranean Strategy 1941-45 followed in 1989 and Behind the Battle in 1994. My father’s reputation as an intelligence historian was secured
Behind the Battle is a unique combination of his inside knowledge and his meticulous historical judgement, a critical summing-up of how the intelligence derived from Bletchley Park was used or ignored by those on the front line.
Re-reading the text, I remain convinced that if you want to understand how the Second World War was won, you need to read Behind the Battle alongside a conventional narrative history. Only then will you have the complete picture.