The last message decoded by Britain’s Bletchley Park team was released to the public in honor of the 75th VE Day.
VE Day celebrates the day that Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allied forces.
Bletchley Park was instrumental in decoding the messages being sent between German forces, including messages encoded with the famous Enigma device – thought by the Germans to produce an unbreakable code.
The final message was sent by a German lieutenant shortly before surrendering to British forces in Cuxhaven, a German town on the northern coast.
The message was originally sent on May 7, 1945, at 7:35am. It reads, “ British troops entered Cuxhaven at 14:00 on 6 May – from now on all radio traffic will cease – wishing you all the best. Lt. Kunkel. Closing down for ever – all the best – goodbye.”
The decoded message was released by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British intelligence and security organization.
Another message released was originally sent by a soldier on the Danish coast who was seeking cigarettes before wishing everyone luck. One soldier responded that they had no cigarettes to give.
GCHQ historian Tony Comer said that the messages show a human element of the war.
The enigma key used by the Germans was code-named “BROWN” by the British. They used the code to coordinate experimental weapons according to GCHQ.
British analysts working in Bletchley Park first cracked the code in 1940 which allowed them to read German messages for the remainder of the war.
VE Day this year is the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe. Typically there would be large celebrations in European nations but this year the mood will be more subdued with all the restrictions in place for the COVID-19 virus.
The Nazis developed the Enigma machine which encoded their messages with a complex cypher that they believed was unbreakable. But Polish mathematicians were able to crack the code early in the war. The Germans countered by changing the system they used to encrypt their Enigma messages on a daily basis.
Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman were able to develop a machine called the Bombe which made the German messages much easier to decrypt.
From the middle of 1940 until the end of the war, the code-breakers at Bletchley Park were able to read all messages sent by the German air force (Luftwaffe.)
Turing also developed a process to decode German naval messages encrypted with Enigma. Other than a period of time in 1942 when it became impossible to decrypt those messages, the Allies were able to read all of the German naval messages starting in 1941.
This was instrumental in reducing the number of losses the Allies received from German U-boats as the British could warn Allied fleets to avoid the places they knew the German subs would be waiting.
Because the Germans shared the technology behind their encryption with the Japanese, the British were able to read their messages as well.
This ability to know what the enemy was planning gave the Allies a huge advantage both in Europe and in the Pacific.