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Mr Francis Harry Hinsley

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Mr Francis Harry Hinsley
Certificate of Service
FO Civilian
Summary of Service
Bletchley Park November 1939 - 1945. Hut 4, Block A(N) and Mansion (room 5). Naval Section, Head of German and Italian Intelligence Sub-section. NS Intelligence Staff Officer 1943 - May 1945. Chairman TICOM committee 1945. Private Secretary to Director, GCCS, May 1945.
Commemorated On The Codebreakers Wall
Cambridge - St John's College
Other Information
Appointed OBE in 1946. Married Hilary Brett-Smith of Hut 8, et al. Post-war distinguished academic career; edited "British Intelligence in the Second World War". Knighted 1985.
Online obituaries
Harry Hinsley 1918 - 1998
Harry Hinsley arrived at Bletchley Park in October 1939, aged 20, and worked on naval Traffic Analysis. In June 1940 he warned the Admiralty that German battle cruisers were to come out of the Baltic. They ignored him, and HMS Glorious was sunk, but later he became a very effective channel between Bletchley Park and the Admiralty. In May 1945 he ...
became private secretary to the Director, and played a major part in the liaison between the UK and the USA. He became an eminent historian, editing ‘History of British Intelligence in World War 2’, became Master of St John’s College and Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University. Francis Harry Hinsley was born in Walsall on 26 November 1918, the son of a waggoner. He went to Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall and to St John’s College, Cambridge. Because he was recruited by Government Code and Cypher School he never completed his degree. At Bletchley Park, the young Hinsley studied German radio: Traffic Analysis. On 7 June 1940, Hinsley warned the Admiralty that German battle cruisers were about to emerge from the Baltic. His advice was ignored, and on 8 June Scharnhorst sank the carrier HMS Glorious. Later, however, Hinsley became the trusted interface and interpreter between Bletchley Park and the Admiralty. The relations were close and harmonious; illustrated by a reply to an enquiry from the Home Fleet to the Admiralty: ‘What is your source?’ to which the answer was simply ‘Hinsley’! When it became apparent that captured material would be needed before the Atlantic Enigma key, Dolphin, could be broken, Hinsley remembered that German weather trawlers in the North Atlantic were using Enigma. This led to the capture of the München on 7 May and the Lauenburg on 28 June 1941, enabling the Hut 8 cryptographers to break Dolphin on virtually every day. After the Germans adopted a separate key and the four-codewheel Enigma for their U-boats in February 1942, Hut 8 could not break that key for nine long months. Hinsley received relentless pressure from the Admiralty until that memorable day on 13 December 1942 when Bletchley Park was able to warn the Admiralty Operational Intelligence Centre that Shark was at last coming out, giving the positions of 13 U-boats. Hinsley was now able to survey the hundreds of signals a day that went from Bletchley Park to the Admiralty, spotting significant changes in German behaviour. On 1 October 1942, Edward Travis, Director of Bletchley Park, signed an agreement on co-operation with the US naval cryptographers, leaving the 23 year old Hinsley to settle the details. He was now regularly involved in the co-operation discussions with Washington, an experience that was to determine his main field of historical study for a life-time. In May 1945 he was appointed private secretary to Travis. Hinsley returned to Cambridge in June 1946, as a research fellow of St John’s, rising to professor in 1969. He served as Master of his college, 1979-1989, and as Vice-Chancellor of the university from 1981 to 1983. A vivid teacher and most effective administrator, he established a research school in the history of International Relations, and published several books in the field. Somehow he found time (1979 to 1988) to be Editor-in-Chief of the official ‘History of British Intelligence in the Second World War ’. He made it largely devoid of personal anecdotes, but edited a set of personal accounts of the work of Bletchley Park under the title ‘Codebreakers’. He was appointed OBE in 1946, and was knighted in 1985. He had married Hilary Brett Brett-Smith, who had joined Bletchley Park in 1940, in 1946, and they had three children. He never really retired, dying in Cambridge on 16 February 1998.