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RAF Enigma

Old 27th Jan 2020, 08:47
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RAF Enigma

I started re-reading John Terraine's magisterial history of the RAF in WW2 "The Right of the Line". He describes how in 1934 a Wing Commander - O Lywood -, borrowed a commercial Enigma machine which had been bought by the Govt Cypher School in 1928 and effectively reverse engineered it so that by 1936 two "RAF Enigmas" were in trials. It was then renamed "Type-X" as people were starting to talk about it and they were worried about patent infringement(!!).

By 1938 it was being rolled out across the RAF and at high levels of Army communications and was used right through the war. The Navy refused to adopt it, which was a disaster as the Italians had pretty much broken UK naval codes during the Abyssinian crisis. The RN only realised they were compromised in mid-war when they could read the Naval Enigma .....

Oddly the Germans never managed to break the RAF or Army codes - it's not even known if they realised it was an Enigma based system....................
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Old 27th Jan 2020, 11:10
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And in a bit of an ironic twist, modified Type-X machines were used to decode intercepted German Enigma messages once Bletchley Park had solved the settings for a particular day. From what I can remember from various books, the German Enigmas were modified in several ways from the original commercial version that Scherbius patented. So you could argue that both Type-X and the German military Enigmas were different development branches based on the same original idea.
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Old 27th Jan 2020, 11:30
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What was amusing was that they went out and got legal opinions on stealing the design. It was agreed that there was a patent (3 in fact) and that, in normal business, they should licence it. Given the circumstances (even in '34) they invoked a rather obscure right to use it without asking "in the National Interest" "but accept they would have to pay a licencing fee when secrecy was no longer required".

I wonder if they ever paid up?

I presume that if the Germans did think the Brits were using Enigma machines they didn't bother to try and crack them as they knew they were "unbreakable"
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Old 27th Jan 2020, 20:15
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I never heard of this and I thought I knew a bit about Enigma. I don't recall it mentioned in Hinsley's British Intelligence in the Second World War although I could have missed it.

Here's a bit more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typex

http://www.raf-lincolnshire.info/digby/narrative-1506072Oliver.htm




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Old 27th Jan 2020, 20:58
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Apropos. "Type-X" machines, I seem to remember (vaguely!!) that when I went through the Ground Wireless Fitter's course at RAF Compton Bassett in about 1956, we were still taught about said machines and shown and "worked" on how to service them. Please do not ask if I have any notes because, although we did take notes they were taken from us before leaving the "secure" classroom and destroyed!! Happy days!

Bill
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Old 28th Jan 2020, 09:57
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Hipper - like you it was news to me - that's why I thought it was worth posting on here

There's a reasonable description about it in "Right of the Line" - he references AIR2/2720 at the PRO for many of the documents. There s apparently a reference in Hinsleys book to the purchase of the Commercial Enigmas in '28
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Old 28th Jan 2020, 11:13
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BM - Was your 'type X' machine course in fact the KL-7 which was used (certainly by Coastal Command) into the '70's? Very similar to Enigma machines but a pain trying to use in the back of a Shackleton. Used to be issued before flight in a large sack with lead weights to be thrown into the oggin in the event of 'an emergency!!'.
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Old 28th Jan 2020, 12:53
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Quite funny when you remember that MI6 was riddled with Russian spies at the time................
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Old 28th Jan 2020, 21:44
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Talki from a memeber of staff at Bletchley Park, they have an intact Bombe for which every so often GCHQ send them amessage. they say their record to decode it is some 4 hours. We were told despite instructions some Bommbe's were retained until the 70s as Eastern European countries had mechanical coding systems.
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Old 28th Jan 2020, 22:04
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Originally Posted by Asturias56 View Post
I started re-reading John Terraine's magisterial history of the RAF in WW2 "The Right of the Line". He describes how in 1934 a Wing Commander - O Lywood -, borrowed a commercial Enigma machine which had been bought by the Govt Cypher School in 1928 and effectively reverse engineered it so that by 1936 two "RAF Enigmas" were in trials. It was then renamed "Type-X" as people were starting to talk about it and they were worried about patent infringement(!!).

By 1938 it was being rolled out across the RAF and at high levels of Army communications and was used right through the war. The Navy refused to adopt it, which was a disaster as the Italians had pretty much broken UK naval codes during the Abyssinian crisis. The RN only realised they were compromised in mid-war when they could read the Naval Enigma .....

Oddly the Germans never managed to break the RAF or Army codes - it's not even known if they realised it was an Enigma based system....................
It would be most helpful if you could kindly confirm whether "The Right of the Line" was the source of the information underlined and, if not and taking due note of the second sentence, where it came from.

Originally Posted by Shackman View Post
BM - Was your 'type X' machine course in fact the KL-7 which was used (certainly by Coastal Command) into the '70's? Very similar to Enigma machines but a pain trying to use in the back of a Shackleton. Used to be issued before flight in a large sack with lead weights to be thrown into the oggin in the event of 'an emergency!!'.
I believe KL-7 continued similarly - and understandably - in Royal Navy service.

Jack
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Old 29th Jan 2020, 09:16
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"It would be most helpful if you could kindly confirm whether "The Right of the Line" was the source of the information underlined and, if not and taking due note of the second sentence, where it came from."

yes - Right of the Line - here are some of the references:-

ROL Page 31 Abyssinian crisis and code break - McLachlan "Room 39:Naval Intelligence in action 1939-45" pp 76

RoL Page 39 & 40 Abyssinian code break and naval (lack of) action - McLachlan "Room 39...." pp 77 ; Hinsley "Official History of British Intelligence in The Second World War ii pp 631"; Lewin "ultra goes to war " pp 196

RoL Page 230 breaking the RN Admin code and using that to attack the main naval code (they were reading 80% of that by April 40) ref:- Reference Hinsley "Official History of British Intelligence in The Second World War i pp 381"

RoL Page 230 British BAM code for merchant ships ref - McLachlan "Room 39...." pp 84-85

RoLpage 417 details the B-Dienst break of the UK naval Cypher No. 3 by Feb 42 - Reference Hinsley "Official History of British Intelligence in The Second World War ii pp 636"

He states the Germans and the Italians broke the code by matching transmissions with warship movements around Suez, Aden etc during the Abyssinian crisis
There is a fair amount on codes,Ultra and the importance of it all in RoL
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Old 29th Jan 2020, 21:24
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Shackman,

Definitely "type-X", remember the instructor (very distinguished civilian of unknown, to us, background) being absolutely adamant about that and vaguely remember metal plate on machine with certain info..

Bill
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