Code Breaking in World War One

Radio Communication 

When World War One started in 1914, the ability for people to communicate via a relatively new invention called RADIO (or, wireless telegraphy) began to be used in ways it never had before. Unlike previous wars, battlefield commanders could now obtain much better knowledge about what was happening on the frontlines and other key areas. With radio communication they could also execute a coordinated strategy that included the army, navy and air force. 

However, there was one big drawback to all of this… the radio messages were easily intercepted by the enemy. A system of Codes was used as a way to conceal this. 

Here’s a small example of how these codes (also called ciphers) worked:

In this example, “BACON” would have been used instead of simply using the term “Automatic Rifle”, and so on… pretty fascinating! For extra security, however, more important messages often used mathematical encryption. Sometimes words and numbers weren't used at all, and morse code (a system of sending messages by a series of on-off tones, lights or clicks) was used instead.

This meant that one of the most important ways to get an upper hand over the enemy was to try and break these codes as quickly as possible. We now call this the “Crypto Arms Race.” (Crypto, meaning, cryptology). This also meant that codes needed to be changed regularly to defend from possible code breaking from the enemy.

Code breaking thus became an integral part behind the entire World War One operation, meaning that specialized “Code Breakers” and mathematicians played a role just as important as soldiers and generals.

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New Journal Entry 

Code!

June 14, 1916 

Yesterday I was summoned to a farm on the outskirts of a village just inside the border of Belgium near Passchendeale. Members of the French and Belgium spy network had stolen a German wireless set and struggled with its operation. Since I had some experience with operating a wireless and a basic knowledge of morse code, I was asked to help.

It was set up in one of the upper rooms of the house with the antenna cleverly disguised and placed on the roof. When I arrived, I knocked with the prearranged rhythm, and the door was opened by an older man wearing a cap and farmer’s overalls… [continue reading in Ginger's Journal]

Read Ginger Gold's Journal Now

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In Murder in Belgravia a murder involves a group of former WW1 spies. It's available for preorder!

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