Richard Hayes...Ireland’s code breaker and unsung hero.


Nebuchadnezzar

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I’ve just finished reading Code Breaker, an account of the work of Richard Hayes on behalf of G2, Irish military intelligence, during WW2. Just published, written by Marc Mc Menamin, it’s a fascinating record of the relatively unknown work by this man. Hayes was responsible for the breaking of several german code systems and this information was shared with the British Inteligence services. Unfortunately the book contains several significant errors and makes several irritating exaggerated claims about the significance of Hayes’ work which is particularly unfortunate given that Hayes was a very low key modest man. However, credit to Mc Menamin for highlighting the work done by Hayes.

In 1939 Richard J Hayes was head of the National Library. In 1940, Colonel Dan Bryan, head of G2, approached Hayes, asking for his assistance in unlocking the cipher used by the recently captured Wilhelm Preetz, the first german agent to land in Ireland. In early 1941 a more formal arrangement was made and Hayes was given an office an 3 assistants.

His two most notable achievements were the breaking of a particularly sophisticated cipher used by agent Hermann Görtz and discovering the use of microdots by the Germans.

Hermann Görtz was the most successful of the various german agents sent to Ireland. Unlike all of the others he was not captured immediately after his landing and he remained at large for 18 months, establishing links and giving funds to sympathetic republican persons. When he was captured towards the end of 1941 he was carrying a code that was later described by MI5 as "one of the best three or four in the war". A similar cipher had already baffled cryptologists at Bletchley Park. Hayes identified that it worked on a system of decoding based on a sequence of rotating keywords. The first of the Goertz messages to be successfully decoded was unlocked with the keyword 'Cathleen Ni Houlihan'. Eventually informed of the breakthrough Cecil Liddell, Director of Counter Espionage MI5, visited Dublin in 1943.....(Hayes wanted to immediately inform the British but this was blocked by his immediate superior and the news was only when the director of G2, Col Bryan, belatedly found out about it). The Irish secret service continued to share intelligence information with the British until the end of the war. Afterwards, Cecil Liddell said that there was a "whole series of ciphers that couldn't have been solved without Hayes' input".

Another agent, Günther Schultz, was captured shortly after his arrival in March 1941(he subsequently escaped and remained at large for a time). During his captivity he was interrogated by Hayes(going by the suitably bookish name of Captain Grey). Schultz explained that he had microscope because of his stamp collecting hobby. Hayes, using the microscope, discovered that a large amount of information was hidden within the physical text of a number of newspaper cuttings that Schultz also had on him. Thirty pages of instructions as well as extensive lists of names and addresses of Nazi sympathisers in Ireland were hidden in random characters in these cuttings. He identified messages, reduced in size 400 times, and secreted within three letter 'o's in the text. On an article about Oxford Pamphlets, he spotted a further four microdots, with three more in an ad for the Green Park Hotel. Within 10 days of Schultz's arrest, Hayes had found and translated the entire contents of his highly sensitive microdots. It would take the FBI a further four months to even identify that such a system of transmitting messages existed. Schultz commented after the war that....

The germans were so cocksure that the microdots couldn't be discovered that they didn't even encode them. They were to be a vital weapon in espionage. Finding them as the Irish intelligence officers did was an act of brilliance
Another notable point about Hayes was the manner in which he conducted these interrogations. He put the subject at ease with his amiable manner and set about establishing a friendly relationship with them. The agents seem to have been treated well and lived in relatively comfortable rooms. In the case of agent Görtz this seemed to be particularly effective given that he was a rather vain and arrogant person and prone to say more than he should. During the course of his captivity, Görtz believed that he had succeeded in restablishing contact with Berlin via smuggled coded notes........however the notes had been intercepted by his captors and in reality he was, unbeknownst, corresponding with Hayes rather than german intelligence. In one correspondence Hayes “promoted” Görtz to Major in recognition of his services to the Fatherland.

After the war Hayes continued on as Director of the National Library. His recommendations that a specific cryptology section be maintained after the war was ignored. He later became Director of the Chester Beatty Library and also continued on his extensive academic works.

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/meet-the-irish-master-codebreaker-you-never-heard-of-1.3685838

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/code-cracker-supreme-an-irishman-s-diary-about-the-limerick-born-librarian-whose-cryptoanalysis-helped-defeat-the-nazis-1.3260817
 
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Ireniall

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View attachment 1010

I’ve just finished reading Code Breaker, an account of the work of Richard Hayes on behalf of G2, Irish military intelligence, during WW2. Just published, written by Marc Mc Menamin, it’s a fascinating record of the relatively unknown work by this man. Hayes was responsible for the breaking of several german code systems and this information was shared with the British Inteligence services. Unfortunately the book contains several significant errors and makes several irritating exaggerated claims about the significance of Hayes’ work which is particularly unfortunate given that Hayes was a very low key modest man. However, credit to Mc Menamin for highlighting the work done by Hayes.

In 1939 Richard J Hayes was head of the National Library. In 1940, Colonel Dan Bryan, head of G2, approached Hayes, asking for his assistance in unlocking the cipher used by the recently captured Wilhelm Preetz, the first german agent to land in Ireland. In early 1941 a more formal arrangement was made and Hayes was given an office an 3 assistants.

His two most notable achievements were the breaking of a particularly sophisticated cipher used by agent Hermann Görtz and discovering the use of microdots by the Germans.

Hermann Görtz was the most successful of the various german agents sent to Ireland. Unlike all of the others he was not captured immediately after his landing and he remained at large for 18 months, establishing links and giving funds to sympathetic republican persons. When he was captured towards the end of 1941 he was carrying a code that was later described by MI5 as "one of the best three or four in the war". A similar cipher had already baffled cryptologists at Bletchley Park. Hayes identified that it worked on a system of decoding based on a sequence of rotating keywords. The first of the Goertz messages to be successfully decoded was unlocked with the keyword 'Cathleen Ni Houlihan'. Eventually informed of the breakthrough Cecil Liddell, Director of Counter Espionage MI5, visited Dublin in 1943.....(Hayes wanted to immediately inform the British but this was blocked by his immediate superior and the news was only when the director of G2, Col Bryan, belatedly found out about it). The Irish secret service continued to share intelligence information with the British until the end of the war. Afterwards, Cecil Liddell said that there was a "whole series of ciphers that couldn't have been solved without Hayes' input".

Another agent, Günther Schultz, was captured shortly after his arrival in March 1941(he subsequently escaped and remained at large for a time). During his captivity he was interrogated by Hayes(going by the suitably bookish name of Captain Grey). Schultz explained that he had microscope because of his stamp collecting hobby. Hayes, using the microscope, discovered that a large amount of information was hidden within the physical text of a number of newspaper cuttings that Schultz also had on him. Thirty pages of instructions as well as extensive lists of names and addresses of Nazi sympathisers in Ireland were hidden in random characters in these cuttings. He identified messages, reduced in size 400 times, and secreted within three letter 'o's in the text. On an article about Oxford Pamphlets, he spotted a further four microdots, with three more in an ad for the Green Park Hotel. Within 10 days of Schultz's arrest, Hayes had found and translated the entire contents of his highly sensitive microdots. It would take the FBI a further four months to even identify that such a system of transmitting messages existed. Schultz commented after the war that....



Another notable point about Hayes was the manner in which he conducted these interrogations. He put the subject at ease with his amiable manner and set about establishing a friendly relationship with them. The agents seem to have been treated well and lived in relatively comfortable rooms. In the case of agent Görtz this seemed to be particularly effective given that he was a rather vain and arrogant person and prone to say more than he should. During the course of his captivity, Görtz believed that he had succeeded in restablishing contact with Berlin via smuggled coded notes........however the notes had been intercepted by his captors and in reality he was, unbeknownst, corresponding with Hayes rather than german intelligence. In one correspondence Hayes “promoted” Görtz to Major in recognition of his services to the Fatherland.

After the war Hayes continued on as Director of the National Library. His recommendations that a specific cryptology section be maintained after the war was ignored. He later became Director of the Chester Beatty Library and also continued on his extensive academic works.

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/meet-the-irish-master-codebreaker-you-never-heard-of-1.3685838

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/code-cracker-supreme-an-irishman-s-diary-about-the-limerick-born-librarian-whose-cryptoanalysis-helped-defeat-the-nazis-1.3260817
Well just as I started to swell with pride over this mans achievements I read the bit about how his recommendation about the cryptology section were ignored. Sure of course, What else? When you have a world class genius on your hands sure what else would you do with him eh? I suppose at least we didn't drive him to suicide like the British did with poor old Turing. Great post Neb.
 

mickterry

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Very good documentary about this a few weeks ago on the "Documentary on One"
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Well just as I started to swell with pride over this mans achievements I read the bit about how his recommendation about the cryptology section were ignored. Sure of course, What else? When you have a world class genius on your hands sure what else would you do with him eh? I suppose at least we didn't drive him to suicide like the British did with poor old Turing. Great post Neb.
Btw, agent Görtz committed suicide in 1947.

Most german captives in Ireland were released in July and August 1945. The spies were held for a further year and were deported back to Germany. Görtz made a special pleading for asylum saying that he had been involved in suppressing the communist Spartacists after WW1 and that he feared retribution from german socialists. He also feared that he would be executed by the Allies or handed over to the Soviets. In reality he was a relatively minor figure and his interest to the authorities was no greater than for any other middle ranking Nazi officer...he had no known involvement in any atrocities. However, his anxiety was very real and he spoke of committing suicide...to his fellow agent Schultz he said....

I will never go back. It would be the same as surrender and I’ll never do that. I shall die like my leaders.
Various efforts were made to assuage his fears. The Irish authorities received assurances about his treatment from the British and Americans; he would face no capital charges, he would not be handed over to the Soviets, indeed he would probably only face detention for a few weeks. These assurances were passed on to him by the ex German ambassador Hempel and when that failed to work the Secretary of the Dept of External Affairs, Frederick Boland, spoke directly to him.

During this period Görtz worked as secretary for the Save the German Children Society, a charity associated with the Irish Red Cross which brought 400 german children to Ireland. They were accommodated at the old military barracks of Glencree, Wicklow and many were then fostered. Interestingly Jewish Children were explicitly excluded from the scheme.

In May 1947, Görtz was summoned to the Aliens Registration Office at Dublin Castle. There he was informed that he was to be placed in an American aircraft at Baldonnel and flown back to Germany. Whilst waiting for transport to took a cyanide pill and died shortly thereafter in Mercer’s Hospital, St Stephen’s Green.

He was buried in Deansgrange. 800 people attended his funeral including senior republicans Jim O’Donovan and Charles McGuinness, and Fine Fáil TD Dan Breen. The coffin was draped by a swastika(hand stitched by republicans), his body wearing his Luftwaffe greatcoat. Several people raised their arms in salute and shouted Heil Hitler as the coffin was brought out of the church.

After his death, Éamon de Valera ordered the destruction of all documents relating to correspondence between Görtz and any government departments.

In 1974 his remains were moved to the German War Cemetary in Glencree.
 
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owedtojoy

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View attachment 1010

I’ve just finished reading Code Breaker, an account of the work of Richard Hayes on behalf of G2, Irish military intelligence, during WW2. Just published, written by Marc Mc Menamin, it’s a fascinating record of the relatively unknown work by this man. Hayes was responsible for the breaking of several german code systems and this information was shared with the British Inteligence services. Unfortunately the book contains several significant errors and makes several irritating exaggerated claims about the significance of Hayes’ work which is particularly unfortunate given that Hayes was a very low key modest man. However, credit to Mc Menamin for highlighting the work done by Hayes.

In 1939 Richard J Hayes was head of the National Library. In 1940, Colonel Dan Bryan, head of G2, approached Hayes, asking for his assistance in unlocking the cipher used by the recently captured Wilhelm Preetz, the first german agent to land in Ireland. In early 1941 a more formal arrangement was made and Hayes was given an office an 3 assistants.

His two most notable achievements were the breaking of a particularly sophisticated cipher used by agent Hermann Görtz and discovering the use of microdots by the Germans.

Hermann Görtz was the most successful of the various german agents sent to Ireland. Unlike all of the others he was not captured immediately after his landing and he remained at large for 18 months, establishing links and giving funds to sympathetic republican persons. When he was captured towards the end of 1941 he was carrying a code that was later described by MI5 as "one of the best three or four in the war". A similar cipher had already baffled cryptologists at Bletchley Park. Hayes identified that it worked on a system of decoding based on a sequence of rotating keywords. The first of the Goertz messages to be successfully decoded was unlocked with the keyword 'Cathleen Ni Houlihan'. Eventually informed of the breakthrough Cecil Liddell, Director of Counter Espionage MI5, visited Dublin in 1943.....(Hayes wanted to immediately inform the British but this was blocked by his immediate superior and the news was only when the director of G2, Col Bryan, belatedly found out about it). The Irish secret service continued to share intelligence information with the British until the end of the war. Afterwards, Cecil Liddell said that there was a "whole series of ciphers that couldn't have been solved without Hayes' input".

Another agent, Günther Schultz, was captured shortly after his arrival in March 1941(he subsequently escaped and remained at large for a time). During his captivity he was interrogated by Hayes(going by the suitably bookish name of Captain Grey). Schultz explained that he had microscope because of his stamp collecting hobby. Hayes, using the microscope, discovered that a large amount of information was hidden within the physical text of a number of newspaper cuttings that Schultz also had on him. Thirty pages of instructions as well as extensive lists of names and addresses of Nazi sympathisers in Ireland were hidden in random characters in these cuttings. He identified messages, reduced in size 400 times, and secreted within three letter 'o's in the text. On an article about Oxford Pamphlets, he spotted a further four microdots, with three more in an ad for the Green Park Hotel. Within 10 days of Schultz's arrest, Hayes had found and translated the entire contents of his highly sensitive microdots. It would take the FBI a further four months to even identify that such a system of transmitting messages existed. Schultz commented after the war that....



Another notable point about Hayes was the manner in which he conducted these interrogations. He put the subject at ease with his amiable manner and set about establishing a friendly relationship with them. The agents seem to have been treated well and lived in relatively comfortable rooms. In the case of agent Görtz this seemed to be particularly effective given that he was a rather vain and arrogant person and prone to say more than he should. During the course of his captivity, Görtz believed that he had succeeded in restablishing contact with Berlin via smuggled coded notes........however the notes had been intercepted by his captors and in reality he was, unbeknownst, corresponding with Hayes rather than german intelligence. In one correspondence Hayes “promoted” Görtz to Major in recognition of his services to the Fatherland.

After the war Hayes continued on as Director of the National Library. His recommendations that a specific cryptology section be maintained after the war was ignored. He later became Director of the Chester Beatty Library and also continued on his extensive academic works.

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/meet-the-irish-master-codebreaker-you-never-heard-of-1.3685838

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/code-cracker-supreme-an-irishman-s-diary-about-the-limerick-born-librarian-whose-cryptoanalysis-helped-defeat-the-nazis-1.3260817
Saw the book on sale, and I must read it.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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In addition to the close links with MI5, Hayes and G2 also passed on important information to American intelligence....

...another german agent, irishman John Francis O’Reilly landed in Ireland in December 1943 and was captured with 12 hours of his arrival. O’Reilly’s coding system was of a new type and it’s coding was contained in a series of micophotographs of 400 sets of 5 figure groups. This was a significantly more complex system than those used before but as before Hayes was able to solve it and this was then passed on to the Americans by Colonel Bryan.

According to this book, the Allies were unable to unlock german ciphers for a period of 3 months in the later half of 1944, a period during the run up to the german Ardennes “Battle of the Bulge” Offensive. Mc Menamin doesnt just claim that Hayes work helped the Americans to read german signals again but claims that Hayes’ had made a “groundbreaking discovery that would help turn the tide of the war” and furthermore that “Dr Hayes’ discovery helped play a crucial role in the Allied victory(in the Battle of the Bulge)”.

Unfortunately exaggerated claims I think.
 

wombat

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There is a lot of nonsense about the impact of code breaking on the outcome of WWII. It was important but never decisive. Winning battles and wars ultimately come down to arithmetic, the side who kill more than the other win. WWII was won and lost on the eastern front at places like Stalingrad and Kursk, not breaking codes in England.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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There is a lot of nonsense about the impact of code breaking on the outcome of WWII. It was important but never decisive. Winning battles and wars ultimately come down to arithmetic, the side who kill more than the other win. WWII was won and lost on the eastern front at places like Stalingrad and Kursk, not breaking codes in England.
I think you’re missing the point. Intelligence provided by Soviet and British sources enabled the establishment of that favourable arithmetic at Kursk in particular. Being able to decipher the Wehrmacht’s Lorenz codes gave the Soviets several months to establish a formidable in depth defense in their Kursk salient. The Germans attacked fully prepared positions. If that prior preparation had not been made the outcome may well have been very different.
 

parentheses

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There is a lot of nonsense about the impact of code breaking on the outcome of WWII. It was important but never decisive. Winning battles and wars ultimately come down to arithmetic, the side who kill more than the other win. WWII was won and lost on the eastern front at places like Stalingrad and Kursk, not breaking codes in England.
After the allies managed to crack the German codes, they were winning almost every battle. I think code breaking was decisive.
 

wombat

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I think you’re missing the point. Intelligence provided by Soviet and British sources enabled the establishment of that favourable arithmetic at Kursk in particular. Being able to decipher the Wehrmacht’s Lorenz codes gave the Soviets several months to establish a formidable in depth defense in their Kursk salient. The Germans attacked fully prepared positions. If that prior preparation had not been made the outcome may well have been very different.
The battle still came down to arithmetic, the Germans were doubtful that their attack would succeed but thought they had no option. The D - day landing was expected but still succeeded, the Ardennes offensive was a surprise but still failed, my point stands that prior knowledge is valuable but its rarely decisive, the only example I can think of where it was decisive was at Pearl Harbour.
 

jmcc

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Mc Menamin doesnt just claim that Hayes work helped the Americans to read german signals again but claims that Hayes’ had made a “groundbreaking discovery that would help turn the tide of the war”
Does McMenamin specify the nature of the groundbreaking discovery? Without the details it is hard to estimate its impact. Some breakthroughs, eg a break on the key generation, might not be immediately apparent to those outside the field.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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The hidden existence, for so long, of Görtz owes much to the dedication of Maud Gonne MacBride, and her niece/daughter Iseult Stuart. Mrs Stuart, of course, was tried for that under the Offences Against the State Act, in July 1940. By one of those miracles, that only occur is Irish courts, she was acquitted for 'lack of evidence'.
 

jmcc

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The hidden existence, for so long, of Görtz owes much to the dedication of Maud Gonne MacBride, and her niece/daughter Iseult Stuart. Mrs Stuart, of course, was tried for that under the Offences Against the State Act, in July 1940. By one of those miracles, that only occur is Irish courts, she was acquitted for 'lack of evidence'.
Whereas if it had been an English court, there would have been no problem with manufacturing evidence as in the Birmingham Six case etc?
 

galteeman

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During this period Görtz worked as secretary for the Save the German Children Society, a charity associated with the Irish Red Cross which brought 400 german children to Ireland. They were accommodated at the old military barracks of Glencree, Wicklow and many were then fostered. Interestingly Jewish Children were explicitly excluded from the scheme.

He was buried in Deansgrange. 800 people attended his funeral including senior republicans Jim O’Donovan and Charles McGuinness, and Fine Fáil TD Dan Breen. The coffin was draped by a swastika(hand stitched by republicans), his body wearing his Luftwaffe greatcoat. Several people raised their arms in salute and shouted Heil Hitler as the coffin was brought out of the church.
.
What a bunch of clowns they were.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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The hidden existence, for so long, of Görtz owes much to the dedication of Maud Gonne MacBride, and her niece/daughter Iseult Stuart. Mrs Stuart, of course, was tried for that under the Offences Against the State Act, in July 1940. By one of those miracles, that only occur is Irish courts, she was acquitted for 'lack of evidence'.
Iseult Stuart was the daughter of Maud Gonne. According to Mc Menamin she had a sexual relationship with Görtz, quoting her....

No voice has ever caressed my ears like one which I may never hear again, no voice has so enveilghed(sic) me.
....and that she wrote of running away with him and marrying him and that Görtz remained in contact with her for the rest of his life and frequently wrote letters to her.

She was charged under Section 5 of the Emergency Powers Act of 1939, for interfering with the apprehension of a person who had committed an offence and also for refusing to give information relating to the commission of a scheduled offence by another person.

A decision may have been made that it would be more in the states interest to release her.....Colonel Bryan of G2 felt that if she were free that close surveillance might uncover information about the location of the fugitive Görtz.
 

GDPR

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The hidden existence, for so long, of Görtz owes much to the dedication of Maud Gonne MacBride, and her niece/daughter Iseult Stuart. Mrs Stuart, of course, was tried for that under the Offences Against the State Act, in July 1940. By one of those miracles, that only occur is Irish courts, she was acquitted for 'lack of evidence'.
Actually it was Francis Stuart, then broadcasting Nazi propaganda from Germany, who suggested to Gortz that he hook up with his wife *and Maud Gonne's daughter,* Iseult, who had been left behind in Glendalough. Iseult was not all that keen originally, but according to her son Ian, she fell for the German bounder and they were at it like knives. All the Gonne women had lousy taste in men. Yeats is very good on this.

Its a bit like the plot of !The Eye of the Needle", in fact Forsyth may have had it in mind.
 

GDPR

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Does McMenamin specify the nature of the groundbreaking discovery? Without the details it is hard to estimate its impact. Some breakthroughs, eg a break on the key generation, might not be immediately apparent to those outside the field.
The code was apparently a complex substitution of figures for letters, with different keys. In one version, "Cathleen ni Houlihan" was the key. I wonder was it like the Rebecca Code? The one the German in N Africa used which was based on the Daphne du Maurier novel?

There's a real whiff of high camp off this. I mean Gortz would order pints of schnapps in pubs. What a pillock.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Does McMenamin specify the nature of the groundbreaking discovery? Without the details it is hard to estimate its impact. Some breakthroughs, eg a break on the key generation, might not be immediately apparent to those outside the field.
I have two objections about his claims here...firstly, of course, the tide of the war had turned long before this moment. This “groundbreaking discovery” did not change the tide of the war. Secondly, inspite of allied intelligence indicating the possibility of a german attack little preparation was made on the basis of that intel(the exception being the disposition of Pattons forces to the south which enabled their timely and effective intervention). Indeed, General Bradley dismissed such warnings, saying simply “Let them come”.

Mc Menamin quotes Hayes taking about his work on this new code wheel cipher device that O’Reilly had on him when captured...

A pair of discs with two jumbled alphabets were used in making this substitution cipher. The relative positions of the discs were designed to be altered before each letter was enciphered in ten positions corresponding to the numbers 0-9. There were two systems in use for providing a long series of numbers to control the alteration of the position of the discs. The first and simplest was to write down a number followed by the date of the month and number of the month and continued by adding each figure to the figure immediately after it to give an endless series.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Actually it was Francis Stuart, then broadcasting Nazi propaganda from Germany, who suggested to Gortz that he hook up with his wife *and Maud Gonne's daughter,* Iseult, who had been left behind in Glendalough. Iseult was not all that keen originally, but according to her son Ian, she fell for the German bounder and they were at it like knives. All the Gonne women had lousy taste in men. Yeats is very good on this.

Its a bit like the plot of !The Eye of the Needle", in fact Forsyth may have had it in mind.
Görtz seems to have had a very large number of romantic liaisons. Perhaps Irish women in general have a lousy taste in men?
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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The battle still came down to arithmetic, the Germans were doubtful that their attack would succeed but thought they had no option. The D - day landing was expected but still succeeded, the Ardennes offensive was a surprise but still failed, my point stands that prior knowledge is valuable but its rarely decisive, the only example I can think of where it was decisive was at Pearl Harbour.
Intelligence loads the numbers.

The Germans knew an invasion was coming but they didn’t know were nor when. If they had reliable information on those factors they would have mounted a far more effective defence against the landings. The main panzer reserve wasn’t released until it was already to late...that error was partly due to the fact that they believed the Normandy landings might be a feint for a main attack in the Pas de Calais area.

Kursk may well have been a german victory if the Soviets didn’t use months of preparation to effectively set up a strategic ambush.

Not sure about your claim about Pearl Harbour.....poor intelligence resulted in the Japanese attacking when the American carriers were at sea.
 
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