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specster

Should The Germans have realized their code was broken?

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specster

I am new to this forum...please bare with me.  I tried to find this question by a search and couldn't.  Should Hipper have known after Dogger Bank that their code was broken?  I know he suspected something was amiss and I believe that was the main reason of going out on the   23 January 1915.  At that time he thought fishing trawlers were giving the British information and he resolved to cause some havoc and on his return to Germany escort the destroyers while they interrogated the Trawlers for signs of spying  (Radios,  Code books, etc.).  He was suspicious prior to this action, shouldnt he have been convinced after that the code was broken?  The British showed up in force with a converging force of two substantial fleets which combined were superior to his - significantly superior but not the whole British fleet - (Jellicoe did not believe in losing the entire fleet in one battle).  Should the Germans have known by then the code was broken???

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Martin Bennitt

Maybe he should have done but high commands seem to have a blind spot in this respect. In the Great War the allies managed to disguise the fact they had broken the German code when they published the Zimmerman telegram, while in WW2 both the Japanese Navy and the Germans with their Enigma seemed firmly of the opinion that their codes were unbreakable, with the consequences that we know. It's called hubris.

 

Cheers Martin B

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MikB

I don't know if they could have grounds for more suspicion than they already had. Scheer later wrote that he thought Britain had a spy in Wilhelmshaven or the Jade bay who reported German ship movements. The operation that led to Dogger Bank was intended to provoke a sortie by fast British units, in the hope of destroying them and atritting the RN's numeric superioritybut they'd  expected light forces, not battlecruisers.

 

Although Ingenohl put the HSF to sea in support, this wasn't until the battle was practically over and there was no chance they could intervene. He was sacked. That's why the later DKM had a Graf Spee, a Hipper and a Scheer, but no Ingenohl, or for that matter a Von Pohl (his successor).

Edited by MikB

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stevebecker

Mate,

 

Codes were broken by every nation during both wars.

 

German and British codes at differant times were cracked and even the British after they found out refused to believe there codes had been broken.

 

So all sides stuffed this up, the Germans by placing another wheel on there machines to fix the problem but even that didn't work.

 

Japan codes and USA codes all found them broken and had to be changed during the war.

 

SO as martin said "hubris" yes possibly but the belief no one could possibly break their unbreakable code, is a myth they all had.

 

All codes can and are breakable, sooner or later

 

In my days when we didn't have codes in the field, we used a simple "word" as a short term way to confuse the enemy for grid references.

 

Blackhorse

1234567890

 

After the US 11th Armoured Cav Regt we served next to.

 

S.B

 

Edited by stevebecker

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specster
10 hours ago, Martin Bennitt said:

Maybe he should have done but high commands seem to have a blind spot in this respect. In the Great War the allies managed to disguise the fact they had broken the German code when they published the Zimmerman telegram, while in WW2 both the Japanese Navy and the Germans with their Enigma seemed firmly of the opinion that their codes were unbreakable, with the consequences that we know. It's called hubris.

 

Cheers Martin B

Amazing for Germany to have been so compromised by having the code broke so early..and then to have it happen again in WW2.... a little amazing - and back in the USA they minimize what really happened in terms of Enigma - for dramatic effect in Hollywood but you hit the nail on the head  - Blinded by hubris -  both wars

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specster
2 hours ago, MikB said:

I don't know if they could have grounds for more suspicion than they already had. Scheer later wrote that he thought Britain had a spy in Wilhelmshaven or the Jade bay who reported German ship movements. The operation that led to Dogger Bank was intended to provoke a sortie by fast British units, in the hope of destroying them and atritting the RN's numeric superioritybut they'd  expected light forces, not battlecruisers.

 

Although Ingenohl put the HSF to sea in support, this wasn't until the battle was practically over and there was no chance they could intervene. He was sacked. That's why the later DKM had a Graf Spee, a Hipper and a Scheer, but no Ingenohl, or for that matter a Von Pohl (his successor).

Even if there was a spy, how could they have alerted the British that quickly?  Herman intelligence, runnig with this theory thought the "spy" was putting coded messages in Newspapers - that would have taken days at a minimum.  Dogger bank orders went out in less than a day from sailing and only to ship's captains (involved).  Martin is right - many informed objective observers would have figured it out quickly.....Sprey met the same fate for much the same reason...Hubris

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MikB
7 hours ago, specster said:

Even if there was a spy, how could they have alerted the British that quickly?  Herman intelligence, runnig with this theory thought the "spy" was putting coded messages in Newspapers - that would have taken days at a minimum.  Dogger bank orders went out in less than a day from sailing and only to ship's captains (involved).  Martin is right - many informed objective observers would have figured it out quickly.....Sprey met the same fate for much the same reason...Hubris

 

Yes - unless you can construct realistic theories involving telphone chains or secret radios, it looks pretty weak. But battles generate so much information noise that subtle signals about their origin can go unnoticed till much later. And there are plenty of examples of hubris on all sides. If we start looking at those we'll be here forever... :D

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Felix C

It is mentioned in at last one submarine commander memoir the suspicion that either codes were broken or DF was locating submarines. He chose to use his radio only when absolutely necessary. 

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Muerrisch

These codes were cyphers I believe.

 

The most difficult task after the break is for higher level commanders and politicians to judge how/ if to use this intelligence. One way forward is to allow/ persuade the enemy to believe in any theory other than the break. Here, hubris and arrogance are the enemy of reason. An associated problem is the pressure of events; there is always a new crisis or problem. Many of the solutions have to wait until the washup, and history is written by the victors.

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healdav
11 hours ago, Muerrisch said:

These codes were cyphers I believe.

 

The most difficult task after the break is for higher level commanders and politicians to judge how/ if to use this intelligence. One way forward is to allow/ persuade the enemy to believe in any theory other than the break. Here, hubris and arrogance are the enemy of reason. An associated problem is the pressure of events; there is always a new crisis or problem. Many of the solutions have to wait until the washup, and history is written by the victors.

In WW2, Rommel became suspicious about the codes as so many supply ships to Africa were being sunk. A signal was sent in clear to non-existent agents in Italy, thanking them for all their hard work which had led to such fruitful results. Doubts allayed.

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MikB
3 hours ago, healdav said:

In WW2, Rommel became suspicious about the codes as so many supply ships to Africa were being sunk. A signal was sent in clear to non-existent agents in Italy, thanking them for all their hard work which had led to such fruitful results. Doubts allayed.

 

Yes, I knew the decision to sink the last few ships to the DAK before the Alamein battle was made in the knowledge that it risked 'tipping the hand', but I hadn't heard the successful cover story. Thanks.

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Ron Clifton

The British used to disguise their Enigma information in attacking Rommel's supply convoys by sending over a lone aircraft before the attacks, making sure that the Germans saw it, and so attributed the British attack to a tip-off from the single aircraft. On one occasion the weather conditions were too poor for the Germans to see the single aircraft, but the attack went in anyway and the Germans attributed it to pure bad luck. As others have mentioned, the Germans were too confident that Enigma was unbreakable.

 

As to the OP, I suspect that the true answer was that spies with wireless sets in Wilhelmshaven, Holland or Denmark may have been passing messages back to the Admiralty, which in turn made correct deductions from the messages. A lot of intelligence successes over time have been due to good luck, both in the transmission of messages and their timely interpretation when they arrived.

 

Ron

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seaJane

If anyone is interested in a fictional treatment, John Buchan's 'The Loathly Opposite' in his collection The Runagates Club is interesting.

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specster
On 15/03/2019 at 18:55, Muerrisch said:

These codes were cyphers I believe.

 

The most difficult task after the break is for higher level commanders and politicians to judge how/ if to use this intelligence. One way forward is to allow/ persuade the enemy to believe in any theory other than the break. Here, hubris and arrogance are the enemy of reason. An associated problem is the pressure of events; there is always a new crisis or problem. Many of the solutions have to wait until the washup, and history is written by the victors.

  In the movie "Deception Game" about Turning breaking Enigma with his computer ..and once he breaks it tells the other code breakers they cant use the data in such a manner that the Germans will know the codes were broken.....I know Hollywood wants to make the movie interesting and dramatic so they sell more seats but when you read the actual history it was no where near the truth...Polish intelligence had some great mathematicians that did a great deal to solve enigma and the British had  obtained several code books used with enigma..  Turning made some amazing "thinking machines"  something far beyond the computers of that day but the real break thru were not Turnings....they were obtaining the German machines and code books.

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specster
9 hours ago, Ron Clifton said:

The British used to disguise their Enigma information in attacking Rommel's supply convoys by sending over a lone aircraft before the attacks, making sure that the Germans saw it, and so attributed the British attack to a tip-off from the single aircraft. On one occasion the weather conditions were too poor for the Germans to see the single aircraft, but the attack went in anyway and the Germans attributed it to pure bad luck. As others have mentioned, the Germans were too confident that Enigma was unbreakable.

 

As to the OP, I suspect that the true answer was that spies with wireless sets in Wilhelmshaven, Holland or Denmark may have been passing messages back to the Admiralty, which in turn made correct deductions from the messages. A lot of intelligence successes over time have been due to good luck, both in the transmission of messages and their timely interpretation when they arrived.

 

Ron

I believe most important German Transmissions during WW1 were coded and the British captured a code book from a German fishing trawler doubling as a spy vessel and the sinking in shallow water of a UBoat early in the war...the British eventually obtained 1 intact Code book from the Captain's safe and 1 or 2 that were thrown overboard and recovered

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specster
On 14/03/2019 at 18:42, MikB said:

I don't know if they could have grounds for more suspicion than they already had. Scheer later wrote that he thought Britain had a spy in Wilhelmshaven or the Jade bay who reported German ship movements. The operation that led to Dogger Bank was intended to provoke a sortie by fast British units, in the hope of destroying them and atritting the RN's numeric superioritybut they'd  expected light forces, not battlecruisers.

 

Although Ingenohl put the HSF to sea in support, this wasn't until the battle was practically over and there was no chance they could intervene. He was sacked. That's why the later DKM had a Graf Spee, a Hipper and a Scheer, but no Ingenohl, or for that matter a Von Pohl (his successor).

 

Nice observation on the naming of the premier ships of the German WW2 navy.  The germans and history have not been kind to Ingenohl and probably rightly so.

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specster

IMO by Dogger Bank too many coincidences had occurred prior.  For two fleets to converge on Hipper at day break should have been very telling.  Room 40 was starting to get their feet under them, although I believe they were also instrumental in the Battle of the Falklands.  Someone in German High Command should have sniffed out that the fact the codes were broken -  Both the British and the Germans were operating on new grounds....but, at least in retrospect, Hipper suspected but he backed the wrong horse..

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specster
On 16/03/2019 at 09:55, Ron Clifton said:

The British used to disguise their Enigma information in attacking Rommel's supply convoys by sending over a lone aircraft before the attacks, making sure that the Germans saw it, and so attributed the British attack to a tip-off from the single aircraft. On one occasion the weather conditions were too poor for the Germans to see the single aircraft, but the attack went in anyway and the Germans attributed it to pure bad luck. As others have mentioned, the Germans were too confident that Enigma was unbreakable.

 

As to the OP, I suspect that the true answer was that spies with wireless sets in Wilhelmshaven, Holland or Denmark may have been passing messages back to the Admiralty, which in turn made correct deductions from the messages. A lot of intelligence successes over time have been due to good luck, both in the transmission of messages and their timely interpretation when they arrived.

 

Ron

 

If I am understanding you correctly I'm not in agreement.  Churchill and Fisher had establish "Room 40" -  code breakers -  they had several German code books and were deciphering German transmissions within two hours of getting them.

 

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MikB
4 hours ago, specster said:

 

If I am understanding you correctly I'm not in agreement.  Churchill and Fisher had establish "Room 40" -  code breakers -  they had several German code books and were deciphering German transmissions within two hours of getting them.

 

My understanding of that posting was the same. I thought he must've been using different sources to the ones I've been reading...:innocent:

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Muerrisch
20 hours ago, specster said:

  In the movie "Deception Game" about Turning breaking Enigma with his computer ..and once he breaks it tells the other code breakers they cant use the data in such a manner that the Germans will know the codes were broken.....I know Hollywood wants to make the movie interesting and dramatic so they sell more seats but when you read the actual history it was no where near the truth...Polish intelligence had some great mathematicians that did a great deal to solve enigma and the British had  obtained several code books used with enigma..  Turning made some amazing "thinking machines"  something far beyond the computers of that day but the real break thru were not Turnings....they were obtaining the German machines and code books.

 

This "Turning" was in fact Alan Turing. His pre-war paper on Computable Numbers was the intellectual bedrock on which all programmable computers [and of course the ethernet] were subsequently based. Your statement regarding "thinking machines far beyond the computers of the day" is anachronistic in that there we at that time precisely no computers other than mechanical [and unprogrammable] mechanical calculators. I know because I had to use some, doing painful slow advanced work on Numerical Weather Forecasting for Sawyer and Bushby. It was called number crunching for good reason.

 

My qualification in this stance is that in 1959 I was a first-generation programmer on a first [commercial] generation programmable computer. This was a Ferranti Mercury. Despite various claims to the contrary, programmable computers were born in the UK, built by Tommy Flowers's GPO team with logic supplied by Turing and the British/Allied team at Bletchley Park. This was Colossus, built to speed the decryption of Lorentz ["Tunny"] intercepts.

 

If you want some advice on the true history as opposed to film or folklore I can supply a bibliography.

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MartH

Interestingly the 2018 edition of Warship had a an article on the Italian Cryptographers who informed the Germans that Enigma had been cracked with valid reasons, and the Germans discounted it because it was from the Italians.

 

And this thread reminds me when I clear my parents house I need to give the badges my uncle got when he was on HMS Bulldog to Bletchley Park..

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Hyacinth1326

By April 1915 Admiralty had copied the Magdeburg codebook, along with it they found a Handelschiffsverkehrsbuch and even more importantly for future activities, the Commercial Substitution Book used by U-boats. and Zeppelins.  Code books were recovered from the  Zeppelin L32.   The German destroyer S119 wrecked off the Dutch coast on Nov 30 1914 provided a useful haul of code books.  Room 40 was able to crack the three letter codings.  The Germans realised this and changed the coding to four letter cyphers in early 1916.  Room 40 cracked this code in parallel with the French.  By August 1916 the Germans upped their game and started introducing more complex codes; SKM plus FVB and Gamma Upsilon as well as Gamma Alpha.  It appears that material seized from the wrecks of Zeppelins L32 and L33 provided Admiralty with the means to decipher transmissions from the Nauen beacon.  Ewing and his team were aware for instance that U-20 had sunk Lusitania. Room 40 was also to learn from Nauen radio that Casement had landed in Ireland.  In Nov 1916 the Blyth based British submarine J1 was sent out to Horns Reef off the Danish coast to intercept U-20 on the basis of a Nauen decrypt to the effect that the U-boat had run aground off Bovbjerg Light.

 

 Further code books were removed from the wreck of UC-44.  A full set of U-boat codebooks was recovered from UB-110 in 1918 when the boat was recovered and taken to Swan Hunters Yard on the Tyne.  Room 40 already had the key documents and UB-110 revealed little new..  Early Room 40 U-boat decrypts can be found in the ADM 137/4140 series. They show an impressive level of knowledge with regard to U-boat movements.  Of course this information was retrospective.  Admiralty could determine where a U-boat had been but unless on the return leg of a patrol, it could not predict where a U-boat was heading, although in time Room 40 was able to establish useful patterns. 

 

In short, Admiralty knowledge of German activities advanced incrementally.  Room 40 could often (but not always), tell when the HSF had left the Jade, .  Post December 1916, G and J class Submarines from the 10th and 11th flotillas were stationed on the Horns Reef/Bovbjerg Light billet on a continual basis to determine whether decrypted indications that the HSF was at sea amounted to mere exercises or pointed to something more sinister.  Intelligence was significant but never complete and always required verification.  After this date Room 40's attention concentrated rather more on the U-boat menace than the evolutions of the HSF.

Edited by Hyacinth1326

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Felix C

I am surprised with the many DF stations and code breaking that more submarines were not surprised in their working areas by surface patrol craft, or when available a/c-airships sent to reinforce the areas which could be patrolled. let me see if I find a map if DF stations.  

 

Edited by Felix C

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stevebecker

Mate,

 

I surpose during the Great war, wireless telegraph was only just discovered by Marconi a few years earlier.

 

While coding had been around for hundreds of years, wireless coding was still new to most people.

 

We all know the stories around the Russians and their wireless traffic and German victory at Tanndenberg in East Prussia.

 

Little wonder most govts were reluctent to concide their expensive and while ranging new coding systems were failing.

 

Even in WWII where they should have been more aware that these codes could be broken, most Govts were still in denille.

 

IS the crypto gear we use today as safe as we think?

 

S.B

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