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  • Early Ultra

    Up to WW1 and from 1940, the British have a tradition of being fairly good at code breaking. However, the British did not quickly break into the German Enigma codes after the introduction of the plug board. They understood how to attack a commercial Enigma via the “method of rods” although they sometimes needed a little help from their enemies such as the Italian all L message http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obit...-obituary.html. Despite the plug board, Jerzy Rozycki, Henryk Zygalski and Marian Rejewski in Poland were able to use the repeat of the indicators to break into the German traffic http://www.codesandciphers.org.uk/vi...oles/poles.htm. Possibly most of the British code breakers in the 1930s were relatively handicapped by not being mathematicians.

    So what would change in history if the British had employed mathematicians such as Alan Turing a few years earlier and had broken into the German traffic at the same time as the initial Polish break?

  • #2
    Related: If you Google "ULTRA Hyperwar" you can pull up what we have online right now easily.
    Hyperwar: World War II on the World Wide Web
    Hyperwar, Whats New
    World War II Resources
    The best place in the world to "work".

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Mostlyharmless View Post
      Up to WW1 and from 1940, the British have a tradition of being fairly good at code breaking. However, the British did not quickly break into the German Enigma codes after the introduction of the plug board. They understood how to attack a commercial Enigma via the “method of rods” although they sometimes needed a little help from their enemies such as the Italian all L message http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obit...-obituary.html. Despite the plug board, Jerzy Rozycki, Henryk Zygalski and Marian Rejewski in Poland were able to use the repeat of the indicators to break into the German traffic http://www.codesandciphers.org.uk/vi...oles/poles.htm. Possibly most of the British code breakers in the 1930s were relatively handicapped by not being mathematicians.

      So what would change in history if the British had employed mathematicians such as Alan Turing a few years earlier and had broken into the German traffic at the same time as the initial Polish break?
      Au contraire. I think that a major virtue about British Code breaking and, indeed, British wartime science generally, was that scholars from various disciplines were recruited. A historian, for example, might not be fully aware of the technical aspect of a particular project but would be smart enough to ask pertinent questions- to think "outside the box".

      (Perhaps there should be a Smilie devised giving due warning of the use of a cliche !)
      "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
      Samuel Johnson.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
        Au contraire. I think that a major virtue about British Code breaking and, indeed, British wartime science generally, was that scholars from various disciplines were recruited. A historian, for example, might not be fully aware of the technical aspect of a particular project but would be smart enough to ask pertinent questions- to think "outside the box".

        (Perhaps there should be a Smilie devised giving due warning of the use of a cliche !)
        You have a specific example of this for the British breaking into the Enigma system 1924 - 1939?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Mostlyharmless View Post
          ...
          So what would change in history if the British had employed mathematicians such as Alan Turing a few years earlier and had broken into the German traffic at the same time as the initial Polish break?
          I'm trying to decide what the 'initial Polish break' might have been. Obtaining a copy of the operating documents cant be it as that came from the French, and posessing copies did the Brits and French no good previous to 1939.

          Diverting a Enigma machine in transit from the factory, so its internal mechanism could be photographed may have been it. That allowed the Poles to reverse engineer the machine into the "Bomby", which could find the key setting much more efficiently than traditional lingusitic based methods, or paper templates and hole punched cards.

          I lack the mathmatical background to understand exactly what the Poles accomplished with their statistical analysis. Battle of Wits by Stephen Budinsky has a appendice displaying and discussing the core mathmatics the Poles developed to break into the enigma system. Perhaps that was the core breakthrough, but I lack the expertise to judge.

          The limit on the Poles was the lack of a robust electronics industry and a budget that would not fund a Bletchly Park scale operation. With the men and equipment they had on had in 1938-39 they could find the key to any specific message text they choose, but could only attack a very limited number of messages each day with their small staff and half dozen hand made bomby machines. Turing & his peers had the advantage of a vastly larger electronics industry in both Britain & the US.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
            You have a specific example of this for the British breaking into the Enigma system 1924 - 1939?
            Not to the extent of specific name dropping, but:

            "Cryptanalysts were selected for various intellectual achievements, whether they were linguists, chess champions, crossword experts, polyglots or great mathematicians. GC&CS was ironically referred to as "the Golf, Cheese and Chess Society".In one instance, the ability to solve a Daily Telegraph crossword in under 12 minutes was used as a test. The newspaper was asked to organise a competition, after which each of the successful participants was contacted and asked whether they would be prepared to undertake "a particular type of work as a contribution to the war effort". The competition itself was won by F H W Hawes of Dagenham in Essex who finished in less than eight minutes.

            New entrants were given a basic grounding in codebreaking at the Inter-Service Special Intelligence School set up by John Tiltman. Initially at a RAF depot in Buckingham, it moved to an ex-Gas Company showroom in Ardour House, 1 Albany Road, Bedford, which was known locally as "the Spy School".
            Wiki- I know, I know, but I'm feeling particularly slothful after a day watching cricket.

            But a good reference is John Keegan's Intelligence in War if you've not already read it.
            "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
            Samuel Johnson.

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            • #7
              There is a fairly detailed account of the Polish work at http://chc60.fgcu.edu/Images/articles/Rejewski.pdf. You may also want to look at “Decrypted Secrets: Methods and Maxims of Cryptology”by Friedrich L. Bauer http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=h...War%22&f=false and perhaps at http://www.alexkuhl.org/research/RejewskisCatalog.pdf.

              The requirement for mathematical insight included a group theory theorem on the possible cycles of swapping which could be used to reconstruct the wiring of the fast rotor from the six characters transmitted to show the indicator settings. An important point was that the theorem remained valid after the plug board had been added.

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              • #8
                My real question was whether an earlier British ability to read German codes would have given an Anglo-French victory in Norway and France in 1940. However, I am also interested in considering whether it might have altered the Anglo-French estimates of relative strength at the time of Munich or inspired an earlier French or Polish mobilization in 1939.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mostlyharmless View Post
                  There is a fairly detailed account of the Polish work at http://chc60.fgcu.edu/Images/articles/Rejewski.pdf. You may also want to look at “Decrypted Secrets: Methods and Maxims of Cryptology”by Friedrich L. Bauer http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=h...War%22&f=false and perhaps at http://www.alexkuhl.org/research/RejewskisCatalog.pdf.

                  The requirement for mathematical insight included a group theory theorem on the possible cycles of swapping which could be used to reconstruct the wiring of the fast rotor from the six characters transmitted to show the indicator settings. An important point was that the theorem remained valid after the plug board had been added.
                  That seems to be much the same as Budinsky describes. This math theorem & the examination of the German military machine seem to be the twin items that got the Poles inside the Enigma. That the theorem remained valid despite all the changes the Germans made in the machines suggests how iportant it was to organizing efficient decryption programs at Bletchley Park, and in designing the British & US made Bombe machines.

                  As for changing the campaign of 1940; We would have to know how much information for the German plan was sent by radio. Not enough I'd suspect. The actual plans were sent by courier, and the related administrative traffic that would be sent by radio would require a lot of messages and analysis to reveal much. Once the campaign started events happened so fast I'm doubtfull even a magic document capture after 10th May would help the French. I suspect a much different method of operation for the Second Bureau (intelligence) and doctrine for its interaction with the commander would be necessary. After that there was the broader problem of all French commanders & staff taking the time to write out complete & detailed orders before taking action.

                  If it is just the British decrypting the messages then there is the additional problem of forwarding the info to the appropriate French HQ.

                  If there is evidence enough useful info was sent by radio in March & April then we can speculate on what changes could be made to counter the German mass of manuver marching through the Ardennes region.

                  Originally posted by Mostlyharmless View Post
                  My real question was whether an earlier British ability to read German codes would have given an Anglo-French victory in Norway and France in 1940....
                  Bletchley Park was set up & operational and the Polish surviving codebreakers were working with the French equivalent to BP in March/April 1940. The trick was little of the actual 'plan' was sent by radio before the campaign. The Allied intel analysts would have to tease the German intent out of the mass of supporting administrative traffic. Neither Allied signal intel group could handle the volume of the German message traffic at the time. The key finding Bombes were to few and too slow to provide the mass of suggestive information intel analysts depend on.

                  Originally posted by Mostlyharmless View Post
                  ... I am also interested in considering whether it might have altered the Anglo-French estimates of relative strength at the time of Munich or inspired an earlier French or Polish mobilization in 1939.
                  For either this, the Scandinavian campaign, or 1940 the Allies need a radio intelligence operation at least on the scale of what the Brits had in 1942, or perhaps latter 1941. Aside from penetrating the Enigma machine they need a large and robust signals intercept operation, a mass of analysts able to sort and prioritize the messages before they are even sent to the decoding section.

                  Then they have to have a array of commanders who understand and use the acquired information correctly. In this case we have the example of the loss of the carrier Glorious. The signal intel folks gave a warning the ugly sisters had sortied and were headed north, and would be among the Brit ships departing transiting the North Sea in less than twelve hours. ..but the warning was dismissed by the admirals & the Glorious sunk.

                  Assuming the Allies accomplish all the necessary preparation and have a similar capability as the Brits had in late 1941 for using the Enigma decrypts then yes there is the possibility of altering the course of events, but not a high probability.
                  Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 28 Dec 13, 17:28.

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