The 1944 Bletchley Park Cryptographic Dictionary

Notes on the 1944 Editor, James Wyllie.

Tony Sale's
Codes and Ciphers

Letter from James Wyllie about the Cryptographic Dictionary:

My father was born in Glenbervie, Kincardineshire, on 7th February 1907. He studied Classics at Aberdeen University, and had an honorary degree from Balliol College Oxford in 1936.

In his "Record of Military Service" provided by the MOD he was "Posted to Military Wing GCHQ" on 24th Aug 1943 and on the following day "To be specially employed retaining the rank of Captain". This seems to coincide well with the statement in the Editorial on 20th July 1944 that he had been working on the Cryptographic Dictionary for a year.

Very surprisingly, when I asked Tutte myself about the Dictionary a few years ago, he had no memory of it. They shared an office, but apart from my father's invention (according to Tutte) of the "Indicator Method" which was the precursor of "Tutte's Method" in dealing with "non-morse" or Fish material, Tutte could not describe anything my father had been responsible for. They were friends after the War until Tutte went to Canada and my father had a breakdown in 1953.

As laid down at a meeting on 11th April 1941 (in piece 14 of HW 14 in the PRO) Standardisation of Nomenclature was one of the initial objectives of the Research Section when it was set up. "A subsidiary function of the Research Section would be to standardise, as far as possible, the nomenclature of systems and methods of solution, and a glossary of terms with definitions would be prepared in due course".

I found it particularly interesting that although clearly there were a number of "Research Sections" scattered about the Huts with varying interests, the only one defined in the dictionary is the small one based in the main building which responded to Colonel Tiltman. In a listing in piece 43 of HW 14 (July 1942) my father appears to have been the third in seniority of the seven military members of the section.

From its style and content, particularly the entries about Cryptography and Research, I am pretty certain this was the work of my father who was in Research Section, sharing an office with Bill Tutte (according to the latter) throughout his time at BP.

My father was a professional Lexicographer, starting with work on The Supplement to the 26 volume Oxford English Dictionary from 1929-1933, and then working as Assistant Editor/Editor of the Oxford Latin Dictionary from 1933 to 1954. He volunteered for military service in June 1940 and after Officer training was posted to Intelligence in December 1941, arriving at BP in July 1942 and served until September 1945.

He died in 1971. In his entry in the 1948 "Author's and Writer's Who's Who" (the first post-war edition) he lists his "Specialist Subject" as "Lexicographic Method, English Style".

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This page was originally created by the late Tony Sale, the original curator of the Bletchley Park Museum, and Secretary of the Bletchley Park Heritage Society. Technical assistance from Andrew Hodges