[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: VMs: OT: You can't keep Bletchley vets down!

As an avid amateur reader of the history of WWII cryptology I don't even know where to begin at critiqueing this piece of "news" from the Guardian. Perhaps Lewis Carroll's advice on the matter will do for the moment[1].

On May 13, 2004, at 12:44 PM, Barbara Barrett wrote:

Pity we can not get them interesteded in the VMS or the Hampton Diaries

----- Original Message -----

Bletchley veterans tackle 'toughest puzzle yet'

Enigma code solvers try to unravel 1748 inscription on estate's shepherd

Sandra Laville
Wednesday May 12, 2004
The Guardian

For 250 years it has exercised the minds of theologians, historians and
scientists. Charles Darwin was observed pondering its meaning, and Josiah
Wedgwood spent many an hour attempting to decipher its cryptic inscription.
Some hope it may hold the secret of the whereabouts of the Holy Grail.

Books have been written, documentary films made and poems penned in an
attempt to explain it, but the mystery contained in an 18th century monument
in the grounds of Lord Lichfield's estate in Staffordshire has eluded

In the hope of succeeding where so many others have failed and finally
cracking the conundrum, a group of veteran codebreakers from Bletchley Park
arrived at Shugborough House near Milford yesterday, armed with proven grey
matter and years of experience in deciphering the German enigma codes.

It was also the Bombes, single purpose computing engines that provided the break-in to the Enigma messages. This also depended heavily on the capture of codebooks to provide the daily initial settings for the Enigma. I don't see any application of this technology to the current problem. There was also the Collossus, probably the first digital computer, used to decrypt traffic from another German device that was even more complicated than Enigma.


Tucked away within the 900-acre grounds, they found their puzzle: a stone
monument built around 1748, containing a carved relief of Nicholas Poussin's
Les Bergers d'Arcadie II in reverse. The picture shows a female figure
watching as three shepherds gather around a tomb and point at letters within
an inscription carved upon it, which read: Et in Arcadia Ego! (And I am in
Arcadia too.) Beneath it the letters O.U.O.S.V.A.V.V. are carved, and
underneath them a D and an M.

Ten characters...???

The staff at Bletchley Park, called in to cast an expert eye upon the
monument, could not resist the challenge and turned to some of thesurviving
members of the team who had spent the second world war deciphering codes.

Viewing it for the first time Oliver Lawn, 85, one of the former employees
of Bletchley Park, had no doubt that there was a secret to unravel,
contained both in the picture and the inscription beneath, and probably
based upon missing letters from classical texts.

Mr Lawn, a Cambridge maths graduate who was among the first civilians to be
recruited to Bletchley in 1940, deciphered more than 5,000 German codes
during the war, using the enigma machine.

This is just a poorly written sentence. It was the messages themselves that were encipered and deciphered using the enigma machine.

He and his colleagues helped to divert German bombers from British cities by
breaking the codes that set the radio beams the Nazis used to lead their
planes to the target. The successes of the decipherers is thought to have
shortened the war by two years.

The statement about "codes that set the radio beams" is mush. It is just speculation about the effects on the duration of the war. It also completely ignore the vitally important information that decrypts provided to the convoys crossing the Atlantic, allowing the convoys to avoid U-boats.

Their work was so secretive that it was not until recently that Mr Lawn's
wife, Sheila, another Bletchley veteran, discovered what his role had been.

But while Mr Lawn normally succeeded in cracking the German wartime codes,
he believes the enigma of Shugborough's monument will not be unravelled

"It is totally different in terms of difficulty to what I used to do during
the war," he said. "I think you need classical knowledge as well as
ingenuity. This is a language rather than a mathematical code.

"Within its genre I would say it's the most challenging I have ever had to
tackle. What we need is a bit more intelligence about the family from the
documents held at the estate to try and find a key to breaking this. There
is always a key, but if this was a code between two people and only they
knew it, it could be almost impossible to decipher."

Over the years there have been a number of theories posited about the
meaning contained in the Shepherd's Monument. Chief among these is the
belief that the connections of the estate's creators, the Anson family, with
the grand masters of the closed society of Knights Templar, and the
supernatural myths surrounding the estate - where lay lines meet, rivers
cross and UFO spotters regularly gather - are evidence that the carving
holds the secret to the Holy Grail.

Other solutions are more prosaic. The current Lord Lichfield's
great-grandmother believed the letters represented the lines of a poem from
Roman mythology about a shepherdess: "Out of your own sweet vale Alicia
vanish vanity twixt Deity and man, thou shepherdess the way."

There is always the possibility that the letters mean very little. Richard
Kemp, the estate's general manager, said: "They could of course be a family
secret, which everyone in the family knows about and which is of little
consequence. But it's like Everest, you climb it because it's there. There's
a code here, so everyone wants to unravel it."

______________________________________________________________________ To unsubscribe, send mail to majordomo@xxxxxxxxxxx with a body saying: unsubscribe vms-list

[1]'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.' Alice in Wonderland. Oft misquoted.
Milo VelimiroviÄ
La Crosse, Wisconsin 54601 USA
There's a reason Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson have been awarded the U.S. National Medal of Technology (1998) and are fellows of the Computer History Museum Online. Dave Cutler hasn't and isn't.
"You are not expected to understand this."

To unsubscribe, send mail to majordomo@xxxxxxxxxxx with a body saying:
unsubscribe vms-list