On Wikimedia, photographs of a number of lesser-known encryption devices from Switzerland are available. Can a reader tell me more about them?

Last week I blogged about an unusual cipher disk (provided by blog reader Karsten Hansky) that is embedded into a medal. Blog readers Rossignol and Ralf Bülow posted some interesting information about this device. The only photograph of it I am aware of, except the ones Karsten sent me, is available on Wikimedia:

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

According to Wikimedia, the medal with integrated cipher disc on the photograph belongs to the Swiss Army Headquarters. When searching Wikimedia for this term, I found over 20 additional photos showing encryption machines or tools. Some of them are well known. For instance, here is a Swiss Enigma (Enigma-K)

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

… and here is a Beyer cryptograph from the 1920s:

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

The Sphinx was developed around 1930 (check here for more information):

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

Less-known devices

The photo collection also contains a number of lesser-known devices. For instance, I have never seen this cipher disk before:

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

Here’s another rare tool (according to Wikimeda, it was used by the Swiss Army between 1914 and 1940):

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

The following device is decribed as a field cipher tool in a publication titled Das Fernmeldematerial der Schweizerischen Armee seit 1875 (10. Folge):

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

And finally, here’s a code table:

Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

Can a reader tell me more about these cipher devices? Was the cipher disk shown above ever used in practice? Why does it have a crank (a similar disk could have been made of paper, which would have been cheaper)? How did the field cipher device work?

And, finally, I would like to know: Where is this collection of the Swiss Army Headquarters located? Is it possible to visit it?

Further reading: A fascinating report of Enigma’s contemporary witness, Max Rüegger

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Kommentare (6)

  1. #1 Thomas
    2. August 2018

    The cryptographic table (“Klar/Chiffre”) is the Front-Chiffriergerät 46, which encrypted with polyalphabetic substitution, https://www.hamfu.ch/de/geraete/geraet.php?id=61

  2. #3 Gerd
    3. August 2018

    Here are more photographs of the cipher disk from last week:

  3. #4 Werner
    3. August 2018

    There is no central “Army Museum” in Switzerland, but a bunch of locations. Here you can find an overview:


  4. #5 Gary Hagermann
    3. August 2018

    Guten tag Klaus, ein sehr interessanter Beitrag! Das Bild am Ende (Schweitzer Armee) ist genau das gleiche wie das Gerät das wir beim Britischen Armee benutzt haben von 1943/44 bis Mindestens 1984. Es hiess SLIDEX und war das gleiche wie die Sprechtafeln oder die die NVA benutzt haben. Das war nur verbraucht um Berichte zu verschlüsseln so hoch bis Battalions Befehlstelle. Du hast ein Teil meines jungen Lebens zuruck gebracht und dafür danke ich dir, mit Freundliche Grüsse aus Britannien, de Gary

  5. #6 JS
    6. August 2018

    A peculiarity of the Swiss SLIDEX is the Bambini-Code words (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bambini-Code). It was not actually used for encryption, but to improve air force radio communications for pilots in the noisy cockpits.

    Don’t know of a central army museum, but there are various listed here: https://www.armeemuseum.ch/814-2/mil-sammlungen-und-museen-in-der-schweiz/