Feeds

Spanish discover cache of 26 Enigma machines

Franco's 'secret weapon' tracked to army HQ

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Spanish newspaper El País last week tracked down 26 examples of Franco's "secret weapon" against Republican forces in the country's civil war - a cache of perfectly-preserved Enigma machines hidden for years in a "gloomy office" in the army's main headquarters in Madrid.

Nationalist forces led by Franco acquired their first ten Enigma machines from Germany in 1936. While Hitler "had already decided to offer Franco his full support" in the Spanish civil war, this didn't actually extend to the full-fat military versions of Enigma, and his Iberian ally had to make do with the "vastly inferior" commercial "D" model.

The German High Command was apparently concerned that careless Spaniards might let the Republicans get their hands on an Enigma. Indeed, even Germany's Condor Legion - dispatched to Spain to aid the Nationalist cause - also reportedly used commercial Enigmas in the field.

Nonetheless, the Republicans were never able to decipher Enigma communications between Franco and his top brass, and the machines' success led to further acquisitions. Commander Antonio Sarmiento, charged with training operators in Franco's Salamanca headquarters, enthusiastically reported in 1936: “To give some idea of the level of security these machines offer, it's suffice to say that the number of possible combinations is an astounding 1,252,962,387,456.”

The total number of machines eventually bought by Spain is unknown, although estimates vary from 30 to 50. They were not withdrawn from service until the early 1950s, which offers the rather agreeable possibility that the British were able to read the Spanish dictatorship's military communications while Franco remained blissfully unaware that his Nazi sponsors' device had been laid bare by Bletchley Park years before. ®

Bootnote

El Reg is, of course, supporting Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing with our splendid Enigma t-shirt. Get it before Cash'n'Carrion's free shipping offer ends on 31 October.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.