John Herival - Bletchley Codebreaker - Guardian Obit

Discussion in 'Top Secret' started by Jedburgh22, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    John Herivel obituary

    One of Bletchley Park's most brilliant wartime codebreakers

    [​IMG] John Herivel devised the method that first broke the Enigma cipher known as 'the Red'. One of the greatest of the very many successes enjoyed by the British codebreakers based at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, during the second world war was the first break into the Enigma cipher they called "the Red". It was by far the most productive of the Enigma machine ciphers worked on at Bletchley and was broken by hand in May 1940 using a method devised in a moment of brilliant insight by John Herivel, who has died aged 92.
    The Herivel Tip, or Herivelismus, as it became known to the codebreakers, exploited German over-confidence in the unbreakable nature of the Enigma machine and the laziness of the operators using it. Herivel was reading mathematics at Cambridge, when he was recruited in January 1940 by Gordon Welchman, the head of Hut 6, where German army and Luftwaffe Enigma ciphers were attacked. After some intermittent successes, Hut 6 was struggling and unable to break the Red, which was used by Luftwaffe liaison officers working with the army and revealed copious details of German operations and plans.
    Later, the codebreakers would use electro-mechanical machines known as "bombes" to break Enigma, but for the first seven months of 1940 everything had to be broken by hand and by March this was becoming impossible.
    Herivel admitted to a youthful competitive determination to ensure that it was he who found the way into the Red. "I was very young and very confident and I said 'I'm going to find some way to break into it'," he recalled. "Every evening, when I went back to my digs and when I'd had my supper, I would sit down in front of the fire and put my feet up and think of some method of breaking into the Red. Then one evening, I remember vividly suddenly finding myself thinking about the other end of the story, the German operators, what they were doing and inevitably then I thought of them starting off the day."
    The Enigma machine looked like a typewriter set in a box. It used a series of three rotors to encipher each letter. The operator typed in the message. The depression of each key sent an electrical impulse through the rotors, moving one on by one position, and the enciphered letter lit up on a lampboard. At the start of the day, the operator inserted the allocated rotors according to a set plan. He was then supposed to move the rotors randomly, selecting a new position for the rotors himself and sending it as a three-letter indicator at the start of his first message.
    "Then I had the thought," Herivel said. "Suppose he was a lazy fellow and he were to leave the wheels untouched in the machine and bang the top down and look at the windows, see what letters were showing and just use them."
    If a number of operators were doing the same thing, or only moving the rotors a few notches, then the indicators would all cluster together around the actual settings, reducing the possibilities for each letter from 17,576 to around 20. For weeks, the codebreakers tried out the Herivel Tip but it failed to work. There was genuine concern in Hut 6 that they might never break Enigma again. But when the Germans invaded France on 10 May 1940, the Tip worked almost immediately and from that point on it never failed. Herivel was off duty at the time of the first break, but the moment was described by Stuart Milner-Barry, the deputy head of Hut 6: "I can remember most vividly the roars of excitement, the standing on chairs and the waving of order papers which greeted the first breaking of the Red by hand in the middle of the Battle of France.
    "It was never surpassed. This first break of the Red was the greatest event of all, because we did not then know whether our number was up." Welchman said that had the Herivel Tip not helped them break the Red in the three months leading up to the deployment of the bombes, the consequences could have been "very serious, if not disastrous".
    Born in Belfast, Herivel had a civil servant father and was educated at Methodist College, from where, in 1937, he won a scholarship to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He had a strong sense of humour. Unable for security reasons to tell one potential employer about his work at Bletchley, he claimed to have spent the war as a sanitary inspector. In fact, he had embarked on a DPhil after gaining his degree in mathematics when he was recruited as a codebreaker, but lost interest in completing it after the war. Instead, he taught mathematics at Campbell college, Belfast, but finding the boys difficult to control, went on to Queen's University Belfast, as a mathematics lecturer. When the university started teaching the history and philosophy of science he moved to that discipline.
    His wife, Elizabeth Jones, also worked at Bletchley, but because of the tight security rules they did not speak until she spotted him sitting in a tea room in Portrush shortly after the war and went across to say hello. Herivel subsequently confessed that although they had never met at Bletchley, he recognised her immediately, having often admired her as she cycled around the local area. They married in 1947.
    He was elected a member of the International Academy of History of Science in 1976 and two years later retired to Oxford, where he was a visiting fellow at All Souls College.
    Herivel wrote the books Joseph Fourier: The Man and the Physicist (1975); The Background to Newton's Principia: A Study of Newton's Dynamical Researches in the Years 1664-84 (1965); and Herivelismus and the German Military Enigma (2008).
    Possessed of a highly active and inquisitive mind to the end, he died in his car having just returned home from the library with a book to assist in new research. Elizabeth died in 2005, and he is survived by two daughters.
    • John William Herivel, codebreaker and science historian, born 29 August 1918; died 18 January 2011

    John Herivel obituary | World news | The Guardian
  2. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    :poppy: John William Herivel. R.I.P. :poppy:

  3. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    :poppy: John William Herivel. RIP :poppy:

  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    John Herivel's daughter Susan unveiled the plaque at the Lonsdale Road house where he lived for 40 years

    A World War Two Bletchley Park codebreaker has been honoured with an unofficial commemorative plaque.

    John Herivel's system of breaking the Enigma ciphers became known as the Herivel Tip or Herivelismus.

    His daughter Susan, an Oxford potter, has made and installed the plaque at the Lonsdale Road house where he lived.

    She said she did not want to wait for an official blue plaque, which can only be applied for once a person has been dead for at least 20 years.

    The Oxfordshire Blue Plaque Scheme considers exceptions in "rare cases", for example after the centenary of the person's birth.

    However, mathematician Herivel was born in 1918 and died in 2011.

    'Remain untouched'
    Ms Herivel now lives at the house where the plaque was unveiled. It was home to her father for 40 years.

    "I want this and the garden to remain untouched if the house is sold and may take out a covenant to keep things as they are," she said.

    Herivel was part of the team that broke the Enigma code, an action which has been credited with shortening the war by two years.
  5. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    World War Two: Plaque unveiled for codebreaker John Herivel
    Susan Herivel unveiled the plaque for her father at his former school, Methodist College Belfast
    A blue plaque to honour a World War Two codebreaker has been unveiled at Methodist College Belfast.

    John Herivel, a former pupil at the school, played a key role in efforts to decrypt Germany's Enigma codes.

    The Bletchley Park work helped to decipher key intelligence messages to inform the allies' war planning.

    Mr Herivel's system for breaking the ciphers in 1940 became known as the Herivel Tip, or Herivelismus.

    The work at Bletchley Park was kept secret for decades but an official history of British intelligence in the war would later state it had shortened the conflict by two to four years and without it the outcome would have been uncertain.

    The plaque, by the Ulster History Circle, was unveiled by his daughter Susan shortly after an Armistice Day silence at 11:00 GMT.

    She told BBC News NI's Evening Extra her father would have been pleased by the recognition.

    The Herivel Tip was based around an assumption that German code operators would fail to change some Enigma settings at the start of their shift.

    Susan Herivel said the idea came to her father when he was half-asleep.

    "It was at the beginning of the time at Bletchley Park and he was in digs in the town and the landlady gave him the sitting room after dinner.

    "He would sit with his feet up, I think there was a fire, and on one particular evening he went into a strange half-asleep half-awake and he had an idea of a German wireless operator who at the beginning of some major offensive would be starting to cut corners and not sticking to the rules entirely.

    "He gave the idea back to his boss, Gordon Welshman, but everybody thought it was unlikely to happen. But the thing is it did happen, and that's when so many messages came in."

    John Herivel helped to break the Engima code messages at Bletchley Park

    Gordon Welshman later wrote that without the idea the allies "would have been defeated in May 1940".
    The Ulster History Circle's chairman, Chris Spurr, said John Herivel, who died aged 92 in 2011, was an insightful mathematician who discovered a way of breaking the Enigma code by hand.
    "His ability in maths was encouraged at Methodist College, and the Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this mathematician and codebreaker with a blue plaque," he continued.
    Mr Herivel attended the school between 1924 and 1936 and lived at Malone Avenue in the city.
    After leaving school, he won a scholarship to study mathematics at Cambridge University.

    The Ulster History Circle said Mr Herivel received special praise from Sir Winston Churchill during a visit the then-prime minister made to Bletchley Park during the war.

    Following World War Two, Mr Herivel returned to Northern Ireland and took up positions at Campbell College and Queen's University, before moving to Oxford.

    Susan Herivel was also present when an unofficial commemorative plaque was installed at her father's Lonsdale Road house in Oxford in 2014.

    The plaque unveiling took place as Armistice Day commemorations were held across Northern Ireland, including at the Cenotaph in Belfast.
    Cee likes this.
  6. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    'They kept secrets, which is hard to imagine today'
    Video in link.

    Bletchley Park codebreaker John Herivel 'kept secrets'

    A blue plaque to honour a World War Two codebreaker has been unveiled at Methodist College in Belfast.

    John Herivel, a former pupil at the school, played a key role in efforts to decrypt Germany's Enigma codes.

    The Bletchley Park work helped to decipher key intelligence messages to inform the Allies' war planning.

    His daughter Susan Algie Herival spoke of how her father "had to keep quiet".

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