Can the British and the Poles crack the German codes?

Infomation on the machine

The Enigma machine is a piece of machinery invented by a German and used by Britain's codebreakers as a way of deciphering German codes during World War Two. It has been claimed that as a result of the information gained through this device, has made the war 2 years shorter.


Code- and cipher-breaking have been in operation for centuries. However, cryptanalysis – the art of deciphering encoded messages – took on a new importance during WW2 as British boffins strived to reveal the true meaning of encrypted German military messages. Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire was Britain's main decryption establishment during World War Two. Ciphers and codes of several Axis countries were decrypted including, most importantly, those generated by the German Enigma and Lorenz machines.


The British Tabulating Machine Company at Letchworth which built the bombes under the Cantab trade-name. The bombe weighed about one ton, was kept in a bronze-coloured metal cabinet about 2.134 metres wide, 2 metres tall and 0.6 metres deep. Before World War II, Polish mathematicians had already designed an electro-mechanical machine to test Enigma rotor settings called a ‘Bomba’. However, in December 1938 the German military changed their system slightly meaning blocking the Poles’ ability to decrypt Enigma messages.


Max Newman, the famous mathematician devised, an automated way to find the Lorenz machines’ settings, which was another ciphering machine created by the Lorenz company. This involved having two loops of paper tape. The first contained the message to be decoded and the second contained the repeating pseudorandom sequence, meaning a sequence of numbers that are generated at random. The idea was that each time the loop of tape containing the message was fed through the machine, the second tape was moved on by one position. In this way each possible setting was tested and a score recorded for each. The setting with the highest score was hopefully the one required for the ‘Tunny’ machine to decode the message.

Example of Lorenz code that was decoded by Colossus