A British censorship manual from WW2 introduces a wide range of message hiding techniques. Some of the examples given are hard to comprehend. Maybe my readers can help.

In World War 2 the British introduced mail censorship. They were afraid of German spies in the UK, who would send information of military relevance to their case officers in Germany. The best way to do so was to hide a secret message in an inconspicuous letter and to send it to a clandestine address in one of Germany’s neighbor countries.


The censorship manual

A censorship manual from 1939 (kept in the British National Archive) tells us how the British trained their censors to find these hidden spy messages. This censorship manual is available here for download. It’s a fascinating read.


Many of the examples given in this manual refer to messages hidden in letters from World War 1. These letters are not mentioned elsewhere in the literature I know. Unfortunately, the censorship manual only describes the letters and the message hiding techniques used. It doesn’t say anything about the historical background. In addition, some of the examples are hard to understand.

In a recent blog post I introduced some of the examples given in the censorship manual. Comments from my readers helped me to better understand the codes and to find out more about the background of some letters.

Today I’m going to introduce three more examples from the censorship manual. In all three cases the message hidden is given, but I don’t know how it was encoded. I hope that my readers will help me to get a better understanding.


A letter from 1914

The following letter is mentioned on page 25 of the manual:


According to the manual, this letter “shows a clear reference to the broken word but even without this clue the very noticeable break in the word ‘goes’ towards the end of the letter should have aroused the examiner’s suspicion.”

The hidden message is: “In future take the centre word, then the first and last of each line. So on.”

I can’t see how the code works. Can you?


A message hidden in a fashion drawing

The next example (page 14) is already a classic. It represents a message hidden in a fashion drawing:


The hidden message is: “Heavy reinforcements for the enemy expected hourly. Before Arras.” This first part is allegedly encoded in morse code, the second in a French shorthand. I can’t find either the one or the other.

This drawing is mentioned on several web pages, but none mentions the details of the code. I wrote about this mystery on this blog and in my book Versteckte Botschaften, but none of my readers came up with a solution. I even went to the British Archive in London to look at the original and to take high resolution photographs (like the following one). It didn’t help.


A message hidden in a map

The following map is mentioned on page 17:


The hidden message (translated to English) is: “Oil has arrived, everything is ready. Gustav available for the appointed day.”

As with the fashion drawing, I don’t have a clue how the code works. Here’s a high resolution picture I took in the National Archive:


Can a reader help to solve these mysteries?.

Further reading: Who can solve this Freemasonic rebus book?

Kommentare (8)

  1. #1 TWO
    14. Oktober 2016

    letter from 1914

    looks like in the same house is written as :

    in THe

    maybe the start of in the future?

  2. #2 TWO
    14. Oktober 2016

    future is hidden in furniture

    fu rni t ure

    in t seems to be an indicator to look for.

    no idea about the r yet

    look for t and in
    take the first two letters of the word and anything after t?

  3. #3 Thomas
    14. Oktober 2016

    The plaintext is represented by the letters after the noticeable breaks; the word “line” is underlined in the letter:

    regulat io ns

    o f
    q u arran tine
    ho use
    pa rty
    fiv e

    S tone
    c amp
    ma king
    ours elves

    ex cept
    v ery
    fur ni tu re
    qu estion

    fe w
    pris one rs
    an d

    abou t
    t hat
    s enor
    thi nk

    i f
    r ight
    su re
    thi s
    poin t

    w ant
    fi nd
    an d

    tel l
    h ave
    hi s
    let ter

    cann ot
    a flir

    we ek
    h ave
    re ceived
    t his


    goe s
    f ound

    y our
    hou nds

  4. #4 Stefan
    14. Oktober 2016

    I think (not verified), that the Morse code in the Fashion drawing is hidden in the structure of the hem of the coat. Another idea would be the dots used for the shading of the coats. Have you already tried these options, Klaus?

  5. #5 m
    15. Oktober 2016

    In the map of amsterdam, below the dashed line running along raadhuisstraat, there are little pen markd, single strokes for dots, small filled boxes for dashes.
    Starting near keizersgracht eastwards (or should this be hubward in this particular city) i can make out ‘aathut’, which, when rotated 11 positions forward, gives ‘llesfe’, which could well be part of ‘alles fertig’ for ‘everything is ready’.
    There also seems to be morse code between kalverstraat and rokin. But as i have to look up every single character i don’t try to read more :o)

  6. #6 TWO
    15. Oktober 2016

    Thomas I still don’t see it?

    Can you help? What am I suppsed to look at, letter is a bit too fuzzy for my eyes

  7. #7 Thomas
    15. Oktober 2016

    Look at the breaks inside the words. The message consists of the first letters after each break.

  8. #8 TWO
    15. Oktober 2016


    I got it, many thanks