More on Code Breaking

Following the surprising amount of interest in my recent code-breaking activity publicised by the BBC and the Daily Telegraph, here is a little background.

Some years ago I was invited to take part in a historical event held at Mont Orgueil Castle in Jersey. My character for the week was to be the spymaster Philippe d’Auvergne. I was provided with a small look-out post at the top of the tower and a telescope. The weather was not the best and I decided to restrict my outdoor forays to a minimum, and prepared instead to display period code-breaking activities based on the story of George Scovell, who cracked the code used by Napoleon’s armies in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular War.  For the benefit of visiting youngsters a set of simple cyphers was prepared for them to try their skill.

First I needed some coded documents. I wrote a computer program that would mimic the French coding system. The basis of the coding was that a single letter could be represented by up to half a dozen numbers of one, two or three digits. A number could also represent an entire word or group of commonly used letters forming part of a word.

I found some historical reports from the period in French and fed them into the program without reading them first. All I knew was the subject matter of the reports. I armed myself with pens, pencils, a notebook and an original 1791 French/English dictionary, as seen here:

Code breaker

Over the course of four days I managed to decode and translate one long document of about two pages and parts of several shorter ones that I used as cross-references. Sadly I have not been able to find any of the documents, but here from my notebook is a sample of my working:

My code-breaking notebook
The right hand page records the deciphered numbers, while the left hand page contains all the relevant notes.

I found this a most satisfying exercise, and I have recently used the same coding in my Peninsular War wargame campaign where the players requested messages to be in code.

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General Whiskers

Wargaming butterfly (mainly solo), unpainted model figure amasser, and Historical Re-enactor of the black powder era.

One thought on “More on Code Breaking”

  1. I found your decoding of the Antiques Roadshow snuff box or make-up box very intriguing. I welcome you to investigate the data on my web site, I have a book about Biblical cryptology that will be published in the coming months involving a cryptic network of codes concerning the Shroud of Turin; hidden away in the New Testament of the King James Bible, disguised through the veil of steganography that acted like a fog bank to cover the Shroud Codes in a fine mist of wordplay that was, in essence, a shield designed to protect the many cryptic patterns of data that can rightly be cross-referenced with what we know about the Shroud. So many codes were discovered, that my publisher has determined that the best way to present the four years of my research was by publishing the book as two volumes, Shroud Codes in the Bible part 1 and part 2. In your blog related to the Antiques Roadshow, you made references to brain-bending. I can assure you that since the early part of 2012, I have come to know what is it when you use your brain as if it were a Rubik’s Cube. Some of the Shroud Codes were especially difficult to detect because they turned out to be prophecies, and not just codes, in connection with future events pertaining to the Shroud, events that occurred in the 15th and 20th century – and so these kind of codes were further enmeshed in a bit of a time warp, making them that much more of an Enigma. As I began to uncover dozens of cryptic codes in the New Testament, it dawned on me in ever increasing stages that there was an underlying reason for the disciples of Jesus to write the New Testament; it would present the best hiding spot for secret codes related to the Shroud. So they killed two birds with one stone: they wrote the New Testament to recount Christ’s life and to also secretly encrypt their words with many codes about Jesus’ twin images embedded on the Shroud. Some of the codes that turned out to be prophecies about the future of the Shroud can be seen at the bottom of my web page. They cast a beam of light on the 1988 carbon dating scandal with clear implications of the type of motives and mindsets behind this devious scheme to debunk the Shroud’s connection to the historical Jesus of Nazareth. Hope you read my book sometime soon: Shroud Codes in the Bible. …. J.R. Watts, New York City January 23, 2016

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