British Files Reveal Hidden Nazi Spy Codes

By Peter Griffiths
Monday, September 4, 2006

LONDON, Sept. 3 -- German spies hid messages in drawings of models wearing the latest fashions in an attempt to outwit Allied censors during World War II, according to British security service files.

Nazi agents relayed sensitive military information using the dots and dashes of Morse code incorporated in the drawings. But British secret service officials were aware of the ruse and issued censors with a code-breaking guide to intercept them.

The book -- part of a batch of British secret service files made public for the first time -- included an example of a code hidden in a drawing of three young models. "Heavy reinforcements for the enemy expected hourly," reads a message disguised as a pattern in the stitching of their gowns, hats and blouses.

The files reveal other ingenious ways spies tried to send coded notes through the post. Invisible ink, pinpricks and indentations on letters were all used to convey details of troop movements, bombing raids and ship-building.

Spies hid codes in sheet music, descriptions of chess moves and symbols disguised as handwriting. Postcards were spliced, stuffed with wafer-thin notes and resealed.

Agents also used secret alphabets and messages that could only be read by taking the first letter of certain words. The capture of German agents in 1942 uncovered two such codes that British intelligence had failed to crack, the files reveal.

Britain's wartime spy chief David Petrie described the failure as "somewhat disturbing." The code was used in a letter from "Hubert" to "Aunt Janet" to conceal the message: "14 Boeing Fortresses arrived yesterday in Hendon (London). Pilots expect to raid Kiel (Germany)."

Telltale signs of a spy's handiwork included rambling letters with no apparent point, often sent to neutral countries with too many stamps.

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