Lorenz by Captain Jerry Roberts – Review

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Lorenz by Captain Jerry Roberts

Book Review

by Karl Hornsey

This autobiography by Captain Jerry Roberts serves both as an important historical document, but also as a fascinating account of the life of a man who really should be more of a household name.

The Lorenz of the title refers to the German cipher machine used during the latter years of the Second World War by the Nazi high command, including Adolf Hitler himself. Roberts was the last surviving member of the decryption team working ceaselessly at Bletchley Park to decode the vast amount of daily messages and the aim of his autobiography is to bring those efforts to a wider public audience. In fact much of Roberts’ later life – he died aged 93 in March 2014 – was dedicated to gaining acclaim for, in his words, the three heroes of Bletchley, namely Alan Turing, Bill Tutte and Tommy Flowers.

lorenz author captain Jerry Roberts

Author, Captain Jerry Roberts

As the work of all those at Bletchley was classified for so many years after the war, it wasn’t until at least the late 1970s that the work undertaken there become apparent, as well as the vital role it played in bringing the war to an end.

“Helping to save millions of lives”

A drip-feed of documentaries, films and public campaigns continued to increase the general acknowledgement of all things Bletchley, with Turing becoming perhaps the most widely recognised of those who worked there. His work cracking the Enigma code is regarded as crucial in preventing defeat to the Axis powers in 1941, but the work on Lorenz, which in fairness was a much harder machine to crack, still went under the radar, with little known about Tutte and Flowers.

Roberts worked tirelessly right up until his death to have Tutte and Flowers honoured, and the selflessness of the man, and his self-deprecation are really quite special and endearing. He was himself a genius and instrumental in shortening the war, thus helping to save millions of lives, yet his only motivations have been to bring others to wider acclaim.

lorenz book review coverFor page after page, one can feel his frustration and almost anger that such efforts weren’t more widely recognised, and there is also a huge poignancy in reading this, knowing that very soon after completion he sadly passed away. Having visited Bletchley and become fascinated by the work there, and delighted that the place is now flourishing and acclaimed as a site of historical importance, I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the place, and in the phenomenal events that occurred there.

“Poignant”

Roberts vividly relates his memories of the place and goes into great detail about how the codes were cracked, even if he tries to suggest that such complicated matters were in fact relatively straightforward. There is a certain amount of repetition as he tells his story and the reader is told the same thing in several different ways, but the point of the book comes across strongly, leaving one in no doubt of its importance.

The joy Roberts’ found in later life is also heartwarming and the sense that he squeezed every last drop out of his life is inspiring. While poignant, the overwhelming feeling I was left with was that of relief that he managed to tell his story and lead the quest for recognition for Tutte and Flowers before it was too late. As the story of the last remaining member of such a crucial period and place in British history, this deserves to reach a wider audience, who will then also be left to wonder what would have become of Britain and Europe without the likes of such fine men as Captain Jerry Roberts.

‘Lorenz’ by Captain Jerry Roberts is published by The History Press, ISBN: 9780750978859

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4 comments

  1. Charlie Keen 12 November, 2017 at 17:05 Reply

    Purchased the book on Amazon 6 months ago when this was first launched. An excellent read, Jerry Roberts, a hero in his own rights; fighting tirelessly at his elderly age for the recognition of the 4Ts. Incredible mental feat! To conceive our freedom today is a product of the right people, at the right time and the right combo of luck and talents like Jerry and his team, we owe them everything!
    Charlie

  2. Philip Le Grand 8 November, 2017 at 07:48 Reply

    I had the pleasure of knowing Jerry for a few short years but in that time I found him not only to be a mine of information with a great recall of events but humble with it. There were many times he helped me and many others, understand the complexities of what was done in the Testery at Bletchley Park. He also managed to put it into context of the affect they had on the war effort.

    During my volunteering time at the Park, I had the pleasure of meeting many veterans and it was always intriguing to hear what they went on to do as a career after the war. Like many, Jerry also went on to build an interesting and at that time, innovative career. In this book, Jerry has laid out the key stages of his life from code breaker, through building businesses in market analysis and then to his struggle to gain proper recognition for his work colleagues and not just for himself.

    Jerry’s book provides detail of the work carried out at Bletchley Park on Lorenz which complements the usual stories about Enigma. I found it fascinating reading his early manuscripts and felt the book deserves wider exposure for its insightful description of his and his colleague’s life and work. Thank you Jerry.

  3. Liz O'Connell (veteran) 7 November, 2017 at 09:53 Reply

    I worked at BP under Max Newman who ran Colossus the machine that speeded up the breaking of LORENZ. I came to know Jerry when the Queen visited the Park. He was a lovely man dedicated to public awareness of the part played by Bill Tutte & Tommy Flowers. There were many unsung heroes at BP all played their part in the enormous contribution to shortening the war May Jerry RIP

  4. Mary Jones 6 November, 2017 at 10:53 Reply

    Dear Sir,

    I’ve also read this book Lorenz. I agree with Mr Homley said every word with his book review.

    The story is very moving in the book. What a brilliant man who told an important missing British history! He did himself as a leading codebreaker on Lorenz, he was a part of the greatest man too! I just hope more and more younger generuntions know this story and remember our Heroes for this country and for the Europe too, to know them and this story. I wonder why the BBC say very little or nothing? No wonder not many people knows Lorenz story, eccept everything is about Enigma. I can fell why Mr Roberts’ frustrating and took his final 6 years tieless work, finally told everything here clearly in his book. I certainly appreciated by his effort at his age! What an amazing man and great story! He should deceive the highest honour by this country!

    Captain Jerry Roberts RIP.

    Yours sincerely,
    Mary Jones

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