Captain Jerry Roberts MBE (Raymond C. Roberts) was born at Wembley, London in November 1920. He was a British businessman and wartime codebreaker. During World War II, Roberts was recruited to Bletchley Park (1941-1945). He was a leading codebreaker / linguist, who worked on Tunny - Hitler's most top-level code.
His father was a pharmacist and his mother an organist who played in the local chapel. Jerry Roberts was educated at Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith in London 1933-39. He then went on to University College London 1939-41. He gained a degree in German and French.
Early in World War II, his tutor at University College London, Professor Leonard Willoughby, who had worked during the First World War in Room 40 the main cipher-breaking unit of that time, recommended the 20-year-old Jerry as a German linguist to the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park where he was interviewed and accepted by Col. John Tiltman as a codebreaker and linguist.
Jerry Roberts was one of the four founder members of the Testery in October 1941. After a few months of breaking of a Double Playfair cipher system used by the German Military Police, the team was tasked with breaking the German High Command’s most top-level code Tunny, after Bill Tutte had successfully diagnosed the logic of the Tunny system in Spring 1942.
Captain Roberts was one of the three original senior linguist-cryptanalysts working on the daily breaking of Tunny. The other two were Maj. Denis Oswald and Capt. Peter Ericsson.Ralph Tester was the head of the unit (a linguist but not codebreaker). Jerry was one of the three shift-leaders in the Testery (total staff 118 by 1945), and worked there until 1945 War’s end.
By the end of the War, the Testery had grown to 9 cryptanalysts, a team of 24 ATS, a total staff of 118, organised in three shifts working round the clock. Messages broken by hand amounted to 1.5 million pieces within 1st year of its foundation. After the Testery had been breaking Tunny for a year by hand, the Newmanry became active in July 1943. The Newmanry developed and used machine methods to help speed up one stage - breaking of the chi-wheels but the psi-wheels and motor-wheels were still broken by hand in the Testery. From mid-1943 onwards, the Testery is credited with breaking over 90% of Tunny traffic.
Tunny was Adolf Hitler’s most secret code system and had 12 wheels against well-known 3 wheel Enigma. Tunny was only declassified in 2002 compared with Enigma in the 1970’s. Tunny carried only the highest grade of intelligence; messages signed only by a handful of top Generals and Fieldmarshals, included Adolf Hitler himself. Used between Army HQ in Berlin and the Generals and Field Marshals in the field. Many were signed by Field Marshals; von Rundstedt, Rommel, Keitel, Jodl etc. – as well as a number of messages signed by Adolf Hitler himself.
Tens of thousands of Tunny messages were intercepted by the British and broken at Bletchley Park by Capt. Jerry Roberts and his fellow code-breakers in the Testery. These messages contained much vital insight into top-level German thinking and planning. Tunny provided vital information that changed the course of the War in Europe and saved tens of millions of lives at critical junctures - such as the Battle of Kursk in Russia, and D-Day. Gen. Eisenhower (later U.S President) said after the War "Bletchley decrypts shortened the War by at least 2 years". Tunny decrypts made major contributions to winning the War. Much of this was down to the work of Bill Tutte and the Testery breaking Tunny messages.
After the War, Jerry Roberts was a member of the War Crimes Investigation Unit. Thereafter he pursued a new career in Marketing Research for 50 years, forming his own marketing research companies in 1970’s (one for UK; one for European) until they were sold to GfK NOP (National Opinion Polls) in 1993 and continued working as a consultant to NOP assisting with multi-country studies until he was nearly eighty. He speaks fluent German, French and Spanish and used his skill in languages in his work.
1945-47 After the War, Jerry Roberts was a member of the War Crimes Investigation Unit. Use his German & French languages worked in British Zone, interviewing witness, victims and various war cases, taking legal statements from them for use in court. 1948 - 1954 Started in market research in London working for Market Information Services (M.I.S a leading Market Research firm).
1954 - 1959 In Caracas, Venezuela, Jerry Roberts was invited to set up the first general research company in South America (where he learned fluent Spanish) and developed the company DATOS.
1960 Jerry Roberts spent the year in New York, as a manager representing a major international advertising agency (CPV).
1961 - 1969 He returned to London as board director of M.I.S.
1970 - 1993 Jerry Roberts set up his own companies: Roberts Research Ltd and Euroresearch Ltd, and applied his language skills to pioneering multi-country market research studies across Europe for leading UK and multinational companies. Jerry Roberts carried out Market Research for a wide range of leading UK and international clients in the fields of product marketing, public opinion and media research. His clients included British Gas, Reebok trainers, DuPont Teflon, Lycra, American Airlines, Chrysler cars, Holiday Inn hotels, and many others. In 1993, he sold both of his companies to GfK NOP.
Jerry Roberts met Mei 1990 in London and married soon after. Mei is an artist and book illustrator.
Jerry Roberts is the last survivor of the nine cryptanalysts who worked on Tunny. For the last 5 years, he has been campaigning for proper recognition for Bletchley Park's 4T’s - for his colleagues in the Testery, and especially for its three "Heroes"; Alan Turing who broke the naval Enigma, Bill Tutte who broke the Tunny system to helped shorten the War, and Tommy Flowers who designed and built the Colossus, the world's first electronic, digital, programmable computer - to vastly speed up one stage (chi-wheel) of the breaking of Tunny traffic. However, the majority (the rest of 5 stages) of the work was performed by hand in the Testery by codebreakers and support staff.
Jerry was working in the same office when Bill Tutte broke the Tunny system in early 1942. He and a few other key colleagues also played an important role at Bletchley Park. The country was lucky to have these brilliant men in the right place at the right time. Without these three great minds and the many other supporting personnel at Bletchley Park, we could easily have lost the War.
Jerry Roberts was presented to Queen Elizabeth II in July 2011 at Bletchley Park. In October 2011, Jerry Roberts was featured in a BBC Timewatch Special titled Code-Breakers: Bletchley Park's Lost Heroes; first broadcast on BBC Two on 25 October 2011. Jerry Roberts provided valuable background information for this programme and he was pleased to see Bill Tutte and Tommy Flowers get credit. But this recognition comes so late, so many went unrecognised for the reasons of secrecy. Most people that served Testery are now dead, the Tunny story has yet to be fully told.
He received an MBE in the 2013 New Years Honours List. He also honoured with stamp in April 2013. To see the stamp: http://www.mathcomp.leeds.ac.uk/turing2012/Images/JerryRoberts_stamps.jpg And to buy stamp: https://secure16.host-it.co.uk/bletchleycovers_co_uk/store/StockDetail.asp?id=496
List of senior executives and codebreakers on Tunny in the Testery
- Ralph Tester linguist and head of Testery (not a codebreaker)
- Jerry Roberts shift-leader, linguist and senior codebreaker
- Peter Ericsson shift-leader, linguist and senior codebreaker
- Victor Masters shift-leader (not a codebreaker)
- Denis Oswald linguist and senior codebreaker
- Peter Hilton codebreaker and mathematician
- Peter Benenson codebreaker
- Peter Edgerley codebreaker
- John Christie codebreaker
- Jack Thompson codebreaker
- Roy Jenkins codebreaker (later moved on to wheel setter)
- Tom Colvill general Manager
By the end of the War, the Testery had grown to nine cryptanalysts, a team of 24 ATS, a total staff of 118, organised in three shifts working round the clock.
- Swales, Martin, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Willoughby, Leonard Ashley (1885–1977), German scholar
- Roberts 2006, p. 250
- Captain Jerry Roberts: Former Bletchley Park Codebreaker from 1941 to 1945, 2011, retrieved 2 April 2012
- Roberts, Jerry (2006), "Major Tester's Section", in Copeland, B. Jack, Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 249–259, ISBN 978-0-19-284055-4
- Roberts, Jerry (2009), My Top-Secret Codebreaking During World War II: The Last British Survivor of Bletchley Park’s Testery (iTunes U), University College London