Skip to main content

Typex

Typex

Typex was the name for the principal encryption device, or cipher machine, used by the military, intelligence, and diplomatic services of the British Empire during World War II. In the 1920s, the British were still using book cipher systems, and became aware of the need to modernize using new cipher machinery. They initially planned to use the Enigma system, but instead settled on an improved Enigma machine known as "Type X." The Typex system remained in use among British forces throughout the war.

In 1926, the British government formed an interdepartmental committee to study technology as a means of finding a replacement for the laborious system of encryption by hand. For the purposes of evaluation, the government purchased two Enigma machines, but in January 1935, the committee advised the Royal Ministry to acquire three of the "Type X" machines, which represented an improved Enigma design. Satisfied with the machine, Whitehall commissioned the Creed & Company to manufacture Type X machines to specification.

As war broke out in September 1939, the British War Office and Air Ministry had fully adopted the Typex system, although the Royal Navy would continue to perform encryption by hand until 1943. Unlike the Germans, who encrypted nearly every official message on their Enigma machines, the British used their Typex system sparingly. This may have given them an unexpected advantage, because the Germans' proliferation of enciphered messages gave the British plenty of material to study. By contrast, the Germans made no significant attempt to crack the Typex ciphers, even though they captured several of the machines at Dunkirk and in North Africa.

Britain undertook the joint development of a Combined Cipher Machine with the Americans, who developed their own Sigaba system. In 1943, the Royal Navy began using the Combined Cipher Machine. Meanwhile, the rest of the British forces continued to use Typex, though British units in the China-Burma-India theatre adopted Sigaba, while some American units adopted Typex. After the war, many Typex machines remained in use among English-speaking nations for several decades until finally, in 1973, New Zealand became the last nation to set aside its Typex system.

FURTHER READING:

BOOKS:

Freedman, Maurice. Unravelling Enigma: Winning the Code War at Station X. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England: Leo Cooper, 2000.

Kozaczuk, Wladyslaw. Enigma: How the German Machine Cipher Was Broken, and How It Was Read by the Allies in World War Two. Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1984.

Melton, H. Keith. The Ultimate Spy Book. New York: DK Publishing, 1996.

Miller, A. Ray. The Cryptographic Mathematics of Enigma. Ft. Meade, MD: National Security Agency, 2001.

Polmar, Norman, and Thomas B. Allen. Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage. New York: Random House, 1998.

SEE ALSO

COMINT (Communications Intelligence)
Crib
Enigma
SIGINT (Signals intelligence)
Special Relationship: Technology Sharing Between the Intelligence Agencies of the United States and United Kingdom
Ultra, Operation

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Typex." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Typex." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/typex

"Typex." Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. . Retrieved November 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/typex

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.