Issue 19 Autumn 2014
Spying on Your Friends
Magpie & Stump
Dylan Thomas & I
Tennyson at Trinity
Trinity University Challenge
Our current issue presents a diverse collection of articles.
Dan Larsen (e2013), continues the theme of the previous issue
in discussing British code-breaking during and after the First
World War. Harriet Cartledge (2011) presents the results of
her research in the archives of the Magpie & Stump debating
society. Andrew Sinclair (1955) gives an impressionistic
account of the highs and lows of filming Under Milk Wood with,
among others, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
Professor David McKitterick (e1986) reports on the digitisation
of manuscripts in the Wren Library. Michael Plygawko (2012)
describes the Cambridge literary circle of which Tennyson was
a notable member. In response to Trinitys recent success in
University Challenge, Claire Hall (2011) interviews the captains
of the winning teams of 1995 and 2014.
My best thanks go to all these contributors for their
willingness to share their knowledge and experiences with
Dr Neil Hopkinson (e1983) Fellow, Editor
Issue 19 | Autumn 2014
4Spying on Your Friends
6A Little History of Magpie and Stump
10Dylan Thomas and I
12Tennyson at Trinity
The Fountain is published twice yearly by the Alumni Relations & Development Office.
The views expressed in this Newsletter do not necessarily represent the views of Trinity College, Cambridge.
EditorDr Neil Hopkinson (e1983), Fellow
AcknowledgmentsTrinity College would like to thank all those who have supported the production of this edition of The Fountain.
Copyright Trinity College 2014
3Wren Digitisation By Professor David McKitterick FBA (e1986)
Some of these manuscripts are well known. The thirteenth-century Trinity Apocalypse has page after page of bright blue and fiery red illustrations. The twelfth-century Eadwine Psalter, made in Canterbury in the twelfth century, has long been of interest for historians of the French language. Most people know it thanks to the great portrait of the scribe after whom the manuscript is now named, while at the end is a contemporary plan of Canterbury Cathedral and its environs. In literature there are manuscripts of Chaucer and the only illustrated manuscript of Piers Plowman. A thirteenth-century manuscript given in the eighteenth century is familiar to historians of medicine thanks to its graphic pictures of surgical procedures. Other people would put at the head of their list the eleventh-century copy of Bedes Historia ecclesiastica, or the eleventh-century Gospels, one of the finest of all Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, given by Thomas Nevile. These are some of the famous books. Many others cry out for further and deeper study. The digitisation project aims to include everything.
Besides these manuscripts, we have been taking the opportunity to include some other books, among them Miltons autograph manuscript of his poems (including Comus and Lycidas), and Newtons own copy of the first edition of his Principia (1687) annotated in preparation for the second edition.
For centuries, the College has welcomed readers to use manuscripts in the Wren. This, of course, continues: no scanned version can tell you everything about a manuscript. By making these scans free to the world we are continuing in the same tradition of sharing with everyone the treasures for which we are responsible. Volumes are scanned to a high resolution from cover to cover. Thanks to the quality of the scans, it is possible not just to read the texts, but also to enlarge to a scale that allows one to see all the details of the scribes and artists at work. The final digitised versions are being made available to anyone who wishes to see them, via the Library website.
The biggest challenge is not in the scanning a relatively straightforward process in itself. Rather more time is needed to check that each image is of a high quality; that the images are in the right order; and that each manuscript can be searched for what individual readers might want. Some years ago, and long before we thought of the present programme, the whole of M.R.Jamess great catalogue of the western manuscripts was put online. Though now over a century old, it is still an excellent route into the collections, and it is being gradually updated as time allows. Now links are being made from Jamess descriptions to the scans.
So far, well over two hundred manuscripts have been added to the website. The reaction from people all over the world has been overwhelmingly encouraging, many readers comparing the Trinity website favourably with those of other libraries. This is a fast-moving technology in many ways, and so each library that ventures into such projects has an advantage over its predecessors, as libraries learn from each other.
That is a reminder that this is very much a collaborative project. While money from alumni makes this possible, the contribution of the Colleges computing department, as well as others in the Wren who have specialist skills, mean that this is a partnership between College and alumni. By the end of this year we expect to have finished between 20 and 25 per cent of the collection. For the work to be completed, we will need the help of further generous alumni. Meanwhile we have an experienced and enthusiastic team whom we do not want to lose.
If you would like to support the Wren Digitisation, please contact the Alumni Relations & Development Office on: 01223 761527. A list of digitised manuscripts can be found here: http://sites.trin.cam.ac.uk/james/browse.php?show=virtual_listing
For the last few months, supported by gifts from alumni, a small team in the Wren Library has been working on a project to digitise the Colleges collection of medieval manuscripts.
Professor David McKitterick (e1986) is Librarian and currently Vice-Master of the College.
Below bottom left: Image of a scribe, the monk
Eadwine, taken from the Canterbury or Eadwine
Psalter. Dates from the 12th century.
Below: 12th century medical manuscript.
The Fountain | Autumn 2014 | Issue 194
Spying on Your Friends: Breaking American Codes in the First World War
By Daniel Larsen (e2013)
Recent revelations that the American National Security Agency (NSA), assisted by the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), have targeted Germany and other friendly countries including, most memorably, the NSAs intercepting Angela Merkels telephone calls have caused widespread public interest and, in some quarters, consternation. Yet throughout modern history, countries have sought to intercept the communications not only of their adversaries but also of their friends.
The most famous codebreaking organization in British history is that of GCHQs predecessor at Bletchley Park, whose breaking of German codes in the Second World War helped shorten the conflict and saved countless lives. But GCHQs history stretches back to the founding in 1914 of two code-breaking organizations: a naval group named Room 40, and a lesser known army organization called MI1(b). The British were a bit late to the game. Other countries France, Russia, Austria-Hungary, among others already possessed longstanding diplomatic codebreaking units.
Room 40 focused initially on breaking German naval codes, but eventually it expanded its efforts mainly to enemy diplomatic codes. Most famously, it successfully deciphered the Zimmermann Telegram a couple of months before the United States entered the war on the Allied side in early 1917. Germany had offered three U.S. states to Mexico in exchange for an alliance, and the exposure of the plot to a grateful American government caused a sensation in the American press.
Whereas Room 40 concentrated largely on enemy codes, MI1(b) took on those of allied and neutral countries, including the United States. Initially,
MI1(b) began the war working to break German army radio codes. In 1915, as the Western front bogged down to a stalemate, the German military rapidly replaced its radio communications with telegraph lines, which the British could not intercept. The codebreaking group suddenly found itself with little to do. They turned to trying to break neutral diplomatic codes, beginning with those of the United States. The Americans did little to make it difficult for them: the U.S. Department of State used the same codebook, unchanged, from 1910 to 1918. They made it even easier by arranging the codebook alphabetically. It took the inexperienced group some time, but by the end of 1915, MI1(b) succeeded in reconstructing it. The British then had unlimited access to virtually all American diplomatic telegrams that crossed the Atlantic.
One might imagine that breaking these codes gave the British a significant advantage over their neutral American cousins even, perhaps, the ability to help manipulate them into joining the war. In reality, at least between 1915 and 1917, the British probably would have been better off if MI1(b) had left the State Departments codes entirely alone.
The British government under Prime Minister H. H. Asquith was bitterly divided about the role of the United States in the Allied war effort. One faction saw the Americans largely as impotent and unwelcome interlopers. Their efforts at mediating a compromise peace were regarded as dangerous, their objections to aspects of the British blockade as damaging a vital tool in winnin