- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Bob Biggs Warrant Officer — Code Breaker
- Location of story:
- Bletchley Park Station X
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 August 2005
This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by a volunteer from Broadstairs on behalf of Bob Biggs and has been added to the site with his permission. He fully understands the terms and conditions
Bob Biggs was a Warrent Officer Code Breaker at Bletchley Parl Station X, the following is his account of work he did on the Far East Desk at Bletchley.
We decoded messages sent from the Solomon Islands to Tokyo which said:-
“Running short of ammunition and supplies and that they thought that the convoys carrying these goods were sunk by the Australian navy in the Coral Seas”.
Tokyo replied that they would investigate.
Also by a co-incidence a message was broken in the navy section that said that Admiral Yamamoto (the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbour) would be making a tour of inspection in the southern Pacific area which included the Solomon Islands and gave a full itinerary including the timing and method of transport for this tour. In one section it stated he was going to travel by aircraft between two islands. This intelligence was passed to the Americans who sent up interceptor planes and shot his plane down. It appears that this incident made the authorities in Tokyo realise that the messages from the Solomon Islands were possibly true and genuine, and so they instructed the commander of the Solomon Islands garrison to withdraw. He was to take as much equipment with him as possible and destroy what was left. He was to burn the code books and cipher sheets and all paper work and to confirm instructions received. When the message was received confirming that the message had been received and the orders acted upon and that they were withdrawing, we informed the Americans and told them that the Solomon Islands could be taken with little or no resistance . About two or three weeks later we learned that the Americans had landed and taken the Solomon Islands and while they were digging trenches for their latrines and ablutions what they dig up were the very codes and ciphers that we had been working on. It caused a great deal of excitement in our section at Bletchley and we were very pleased when the Americans agreed to send us copies of this code book. We were somewhat surprised to find that we had correctly identified about 70% of the code groups; about 10% of very good guesses and the remainder could have been reasonably guessed at.
"There was one message in particular that I was able to break more or less completely on my own. It read spelled out: -
“Figaro reporting from Buenos Aires 6 marine [ meaning ships] ships sailing, 2 days destination Australia. Advise all air intelligence units attack on sight. End of message.”
That message caused a bit of a sensation because Figaro was the cover name for one of our agents stationed in Buenos Aires; and he was a dangerous agent because he was suspected of being a double agent. He was further dangerous because he knew our codes and those of the Japanese. My understanding is that he met with a fatal accident and we never heard from him any further.
Soon afterwards the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese war came to and end.
Protecting the Ultra Secret
After this the whole of the code and cipher breaking operation was closed down and my final task was to help to protect the Ultra secret by tearing up the graph papers and messages and test strips and putting them into sacks and to pack other cartons of documents which would be loaded on to transport with armed guard and sent to the crematoria and incinerated. The armed guard received instructions that they were to watch the papers burn until there was not a scrap left and it all had turned to ashes
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