Cryptologic Bytes

"GCHQ marks 100 years by unveiling details of wartime spy work "

Happy 100th Anniversary to the GCHQ! On 1 November 1919, the Government Code & Cypher School (GC&CS) was founded as Britain's first integrated cryptographic agency with Alastair Denniston as its operational head. Its public function was "to advise as to the security of codes and cyphers used by all Government departments and to assist in their provision," but also had a secret directive to "study the methods of cypher communications used by foreign powers." GC&CS was renamed Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in 1946.

Don't forget to also visit the recently added exhibit at the National Cryptologic Museum - celebrating the GCHQ's 100th Anniversary. Learn about the GCHQ exhibit.

An article published 1 November 2019 in The Guardian describes how the GCHQ is celebrating this monumental anniversary - by highlighting lesser-known wartime eavesdropping and decoding efforts that took place in five secret locations, from the Kent cliffs to the Derbyshire countryside.

Here is a an excerpt from the article....

"That (eavesdropping and decoding work) includes the dangerous work undertaken daily by about 50 linguists, many of whom were women, who listened in to shortwave German naval and airforce radio at Abbots Cliff House near Dover, a site exposed to enemy attack.

Or at Marston Montgomery, a base headed at one point by the agency’s first female commander, Pamela Pigeon, a New Zealander who took over operations in 1943 in a series of wooden huts hidden in the countryside.

Tony Comer, GCHQ’s historian, told the Guardian that about 100 people were based there, “fingerprinting individual German radios, taking advantage of the fact that each crystal at the heart of a radio oscillated slightly differently.

“If you had previously worked out what each radio was used for, it presented an easy way to distinguish between a bomber squadron or simply fighter aircraft approaching without having to decode any messages.”

The 6,000-strong agency – the most secretive of Britain’s intelligence organisations – wants to showcase more of its little-known history beyond the now famous story of the cracking of the German Enigma cipher at Bletchley Park, led by Alan Turing."......READ MORE ON THE GUARDIAN'S WEBSITE


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