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#1 2021-06-03 19:58:13

Moonraker
Member
Registered: 2021-06-03
Posts: 3

Coded message in 1919 autograph book

Recently I bought the 1919 autograph book of a wardmaid at Fargo Military Hospital, a couple of miles north of Stonehenge. It included a grid of jumbled  letters. Please see this thread on another site:

https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/291 … nt-3019119

Note the apparent mixing of commas and full stops, and the curious date of 19/1/43, which suggest January 19, 1943 - 24 years after the other entries.

Any suggestions would be welcome, please.

(As a very long-established member of the Great War Forum, I sometimes to have to draw on my patience with new members who have yet to get the hang of things. Please be equally patient with me as a newbie here!)

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#2 2021-06-04 00:38:48

Bob
Registered: 2010-06-20
Posts: 9,428

Re: Coded message in 1919 autograph book

hi Moonraker

Welcome to the forum.

Well, that's an interesting challenge.  So far all I have to report is what it isn't.

If you have a letter for letter substitution algorithm, then the result is a strange mix of letters.  Letters that ought to appear rarely, such as Q and Z, come up too often.  The 32 letters here don't have that property, so I'm inclined to conclude it isn't that sort of thing.

If you had a message with, say, 187 letters then there's another way to scramble the letters, without substitution.  187 = 11 x 17, so if you make a grid of that size and write the letters across the rows, you can then scramble the letters by reading down the columns.  The message is mixed up, but easy to de-code if you know the secret.

But this message has 4 rows of 8 characters, so any re-scrambling would do little to hide the message.  So that rules that out too.

And there are no Es in the message.  How did that happen? It's hard to put down a thing without that particular glyph although I just about did it with this list.

The GMB initials and the date may hold the key.  I'm wondering what was on the previous page and the one after?

Still thinking,

Bob

Children are not defined by school ...........The Fonz
You cannot teach a man anything;  you can only help him find it within himself..........Galileo Galilei
Sometimes I deliberately make mistakes, just to test you!  …………….Bob

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#3 2021-06-04 03:44:35

Moonraker
Member
Registered: 2021-06-03
Posts: 3

Re: Coded message in 1919 autograph book

Hi Bob, and thanks for your welcome and your efforts. I'm relieved that I didn't post on entirely the wrong forum!

There are a few blank pages in the album. There's one (recto) opposite the page with the letters but on its the other side (verso) is an ink sketch of a steamer dated 10/8/19 by, probably, a New Zealand soldier about to go home after a long delay. (In 1919 a shortage of shipping meant ANZAC soldiers had to kick their heels in the UK for months after the Armistice.)

On the other side (recto) of the" letters" page is a very nice pencil sketch by a sergeant of the 1st York & Lancaster Regiment dated August 1919.

This one might guess that the letters were written in the album in August 1919 - which makes the "19/1/43" date even more curious.

The puzzle is one of those that comes my way from time to time. I have one postcard with a soldier's message in an archaic form of Welsh and another with mirror handwriting.s "SWAK" ("Sealed With A Kiss") and a postmark that pre-dated the acronym's  first recorded usage.

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#4 2021-06-04 06:05:04

Bob
Registered: 2010-06-20
Posts: 9,428

Re: Coded message in 1919 autograph book

Maybe that's not a date at all.  Try

Put down the first letter.
Count on 19 letters and put down that one.
Count on 1 and put down that one.
Count on 43 (cycling round back to the start) and put down that letter.
Count on 19 etc etc.

Fill in Es as needed to make sensible words.  Leaving out the Es makes it harder to spot words.

This would account for the odd date and the missing Es.

Bob

Children are not defined by school ...........The Fonz
You cannot teach a man anything;  you can only help him find it within himself..........Galileo Galilei
Sometimes I deliberately make mistakes, just to test you!  …………….Bob

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#5 2021-06-05 03:04:34

Moonraker
Member
Registered: 2021-06-03
Posts: 3

Re: Coded message in 1919 autograph book

Thanks for the suggestion, Bob. I tried what you said, and also 17/1/43, as the second digit is not easy to read. Nothing resulted that suggested some Es would help.

I wonder if the compiler used the first letters of each word. D = Dear, Y = You, I = I,  and G could indicate her/her first name as in "G.M.B."

I would have more faith in my own theory if the second letter was E, not A, as the owner of the autograph book was Ethel.

Last edited by Moonraker (2021-06-06 02:33:19)

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