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Prince Charles whips out jumbo red ball for Blighty's code-breakers

Unglamorous sloggers of yesteryear earn binary-encoded royal stone

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Prince Charles unveiled a ball of rose marble inscribed in binary and Morse Code on Friday - a tribute to the men and women of the British intelligence services over the last century who have worked at the "slog" of cracking, interception and security.

The new memorial a stone ball with a plaque in the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire was unveiled by the Prince and the current Director of GCHQ, Iain Lobban.

Speaking at the ceremony, Lobban said that the memorial was for the mathematicians, engineers, linguists and technologists who had all contributed to the security of Britain.

He emphasised how the teamwork and unglamorous hard slog of these people has complemented the individual specialists, like Alan Turing, and brought their ideas into being.

Due to the nature of their work, spooks rarely get much in the way of public recognition. So a former GCHQ-er at the event, Jim Simons, said he was particularly pleased to see Prince Charles getting involved: "The men and women that work behind the scenes providing the intelligence and security that helps protect the UK very often go unrecognised. To have Royal support and lasting recognition is heartening.”

The British realised the importance of intelligence gained by signal interception during the First World War when Blighty first developed radio and telephone interception techniques. In 1919, the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) was set up. During the Second World War, GC&CS worked as part of a global network of signals collectors to produce the famous "Ultra" intelligence that drew on Turing's work cracking the Germans' Enigma encryption.

The group's name changed to GCHQ in 1946 but the centre has continued to pull off the impressive techie feats including the secret development of public-private key encryption in 1973, well before it was independently and publicly invented in the US. ®

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