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Poles' claim on Enigma

#7
I was at Bletchley today, tour guide there went into quite some depth about the Polish input towards deciphering enigma messages.

They did do a hell of a lot to kick-starting minds as to how it works, though their methods became obsolete when the Germans figured out the glaring error their operators were making which allowed it to be worked out. We had to take over and think a lot harder after that.

The general point taken away from the entire day spent down there was that we never actually 'broke' the code, as that's impossible, as the machine is about as close to random character generation as you could get - we just exploited human error and laziness on the part of the Germans - which was apparently a ball set rolling by the Poles.

There's a memorial outside the first 'code breaking' hut dedicated to the Polish work on the enigma machine. I think they're just pissed off about the enigma film.
 
#10
It pains me to say it but there was a certain Frenchman- Major (later Colonel) Gustave Bertrand- who worked with the Poles and ran a cipher bureau in Paris until France fell who did much to help. There's a bit about him, and the Poles, in Sinclair McKay's book The Secret Life of Bletchley Park.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#11
The general point taken away from the entire day spent down there was that we never actually 'broke' the code, as that's impossible, as the machine is about as close to random character generation as you could get - we just exploited human error and laziness on the part of the Germans - which was apparently a ball set rolling by the Poles.
Bletchley Park did break the code but it was always with the aid of a crib. That is to say if they knew a German signal station was likely to have signalled "nothing to report", they could use a combination of deductions and the bombe to work out what the settings were for that day.

To get the cribs in the first place, they had to capture enigma machines and code books. This was done by seizing German weather ships, boarding damaged U-boats, etc. This enabled Bletchley Park to read a number of old messages and a number of current ones. That in turn enabled the code breakers to understand the German system well enough to find the cribs. And once they had the cribs they generally didn't need any more captures.

Enigma was theoretically unbreakable with the technology of the time. It required the crib, some serious brainpower at Bletchley and some serious stupidity from the Germans to make it breakable in practice.

Try 'Enigma' by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore for an good account of all the captures, etc.

If you want to read some of the original material, try the Navy Records society.

The Navy Records Society - Volumes-works

They've published some of the original documents in book form. This particular volume has a lot of the reports written during the war about the then current knowledge the allies had of enigma. Their knowledge of German signal procedures can be jaw dropping - considering Germany was an active enemy at the time.

(There are a couple of other volumes as well).

Wordsmith
 
#16
I would suggest that the contribution of Poland, France and the armed services is somewhat underplayed in the great British myth of tweedy eccentrics working in shabby huts dotted around a supremely ugly 'manor house' in the Home Counties breaking ciphers (n.b. NOT codes) by sheer intellectual ability.

But then I've always thought the real genius of Ultra was developing an end to end process from intercepting HF Morse to delivering finished intelligence to field commanders. most days, for most of the war, without ever comprimising the source. That's tradecraft, that is. Oh, and the huge volumes of non-Ultra Sigint that GC&CS produced during WW2, as it had in the 20s and 30s, that never gets mentioned.
 

DieHard

LE
Book Reviewer
#17
And I always thought it was the Americans who after spectacularly catching an enigma machine from a u boat, broke the code and single handedly bought the war to an early end by 4 years
 
#18
And I always thought it was the Americans who after spectacularly catching an enigma machine from a u boat, broke the code and single handedly bought the war to an early end by 4 years
Ah yes, factual Hollywood at it's finest. They missed out the bit about Hitler being English though and the heroes should have worn woad and wallace tartans!
 
#20
The Poles are natural code breakers from birth, I mean their own language is a complete ******* mystery.....
I'd like to hear what would you say about Hungarian language than ;)
but seriously, Polish grammar is far easier than English. Pronunciation is- when you will notice a difference between "ś" and "sz" or "ż" "ź" "ż" if also easier than English- the low amount of exceptions, pretty simple rules.
 

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