An encrypted postcard I recently discovered looked familiar to me. As it turned out, I had already blogged about a card from the same sender.

In this article, I’m going to mention six encrypted postcards. The first three are the ones I introduced on this blog earlier this week. They have not been broken yet, although some of my readers, including Richard SantaColoma and Matthew Brown, took a detailed look at them. This is unusual, as encrypted postcards can usually be deciphered with the skills many of my readers have. It appears that the three messages in question are particularly tricky.


A Pitman postcard

Next, I want to mention a postcard written in the Pitman shorthand. Usually, I avoid writing about shorthands, as their primary use is not for encryption, which makes them out-of-scope for this blog. In this case, I need to make an exception because the following card ….

Source: Dale Speirs

… is depicted in the up-coming book Codebreaking: A Practical Guide, co-written by Elonka Dunin and me. Just like on this blog, shorthands are not withing the scope of our book. However, we wanted to provide an example and decided to take it from an article written by Dale Speirs.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ Coming December 2020 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Cryptography? Ciphers? I thought this would be an easy book to put down. I was very wrong.
Steve Meretzky, co-author with Douglas Adams of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy computer game


At the last stage of editing, it became clear to Elonka and me that it might make sense to also include the plaintext of the said Pitman message. To our regret, the Speirs article doesn’t mention the decrypted version of the note, and Elonka and I can’t read Pitman. Does a reader know Pitman? A decoding would be much appreciated.


Another Hammersmith postcard

Finally, let’s come to the postcard I actually wanted to write about. When I recently googled for encrypted messages, which I do quite often, I discovered an encrypted postcard sent to a Miss E. Barnard in Hammermith, London. The card and the recipient somehow looked familiar to me. I fact, I already knew a card sent to this person in 1907:

Source: Ankerherz

I introduced this message in July this year. Blog reader Frank immediately solved it. Here’s the plaintext:

my dear little wife when we
woke up at Norwich this
morning it was still raining
but it cleared off during the
morning and we started for
here after dinner the villages
we passed darling were all
shut up so I could not get
any more cards but there

The postcard I have found now bears the address of the same person, E. Barnard in Hammersmith. Here’s the picture side:

Source: eBid

The text side looks as follows:

Source: eBid

The message on the left is written in the same alphabet as the first Hammersmith postcard, which suggests that the same cipher was used. We can assume that the sender is again the lover of the addressee, Miss E. Barnard.

To my regret, the card is neither dated nor stamped. Perhaps, it was never sent. We don’t know which of the two postcards was written first.

At least, I’m sure that this message, contrary to the three introduced a few days ago, can be easily solved. Can a reader derive the plaintext?

Further reading: Can you decipher this postcard from Santa Monica?


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Kommentare (5)

  1. #1 Klaus Schmeh
    25. September 2020

    The Pitman message was solved by Beryl Pratt:

    “I was very disappointed and annoyed to find on my arrival at the station at 5.5, that the train which I thought always (UNDERLINED) left at 5.15 had left very much earlier, carrying you along with it, and thus making me lose my chance to saying farewell. Well old man, better late than never, shake hands now, and I hope you have had a pleasant trip home and that you are in tip top ?dream for the work which will confront you on Monday. Ethel xxx, misses you considerably, and so do I, we both hope it will not be long before you are once more with us permanently. Miss Hooten and Mr ?Whiteson also came to see you off, and, with me, were surprised and annoyed that the train had gone. With best wishes and with kindest regards to your mother and father, believe me, old chap, your very affectionate pal. Arthur. (surnames are somewhat guesses)”

  2. #2 Nils Kopal
    Krefeld & University of Siegen
    25. September 2020


  3. #3 Nils Kopal
    Krefeld & University of Siegen
    25. September 2020

    Thats my solution to the second card… nice 🙂
    I am not 100% sure if I got everything right… the “with which to wish” part seems not correct.

    I used the same workspace of CrypTool 2 that I used in my video ( about the first card :-). Probably I create a 2nd video this day just to show the solution of it.

  4. #4 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa...
    26. September 2020

    “With which to wish” is fine in this sentence; it’s semi-formal, old-fashioned, English, but matches the era in which it was written.

  5. #5 Nils Kopal
    Krefeld & University of Siegen
    26. September 2020

    Ah, ok – cool!
    Thanks you, Jerry! Then it makes sense 🙂