Saturday, September 11

WW2 Code Names Found In Crosswords By Coincidence

Omaha Beach - D-Day
Omaha Beach D-Day
I'm going back to World War 2 again today, not sure why this keeps happening - but there is no doubt a reason.

This time its the 1944 invasion of Normandy, more popularly known as D-Day. Needless to say this was all very much Top Secret stuff at the time, obviously the allies didn't want to let the enemy in on what was about to happen. To prevent this a series of code names were set up.

The whole operation itself had the code name of 'Overlord', the naval operation was 'Neptune' and the two beaches, where the allies were to land, were named as 'Omaha' and 'Utah' and the artificial harbour that would be set up was code named 'Mulberry'.

Maybe not the best set of names but nevertheless deadly secret - so how did these names appear in the British Daily Telegraph newspaper hidden within their crosswords? A Coincidence? The British MI5 weren't so sure.

They questioned the crossword compiler, Leonard Dawe, who was a headmaster at the Strand School in Surrey, England. Was he passing on messages to the Nazis?

Was it in the crossword clues:

May 2, 1944 - 17 across. One of the U.S. Answer: Utah
May 22, 1944 - 3 down. Red Indian on the Missouri. Answer: Omaha

... and so it went on: Overlord was an answer on May 27 and on May 30 the clue was The bush in the center of nursery revolutions - yes, the answer is the codeword Mulberry.

Then on June 1 the clue was Britannia and behold the same thing. Answer: Neptune. MI5 agents thought this was taking the, erm, Mick for want of a better word, so Leonard Dawe was arrested.

MI5, however, couldn't pin anything on Dawe. The codewords in the crosswords were purely a coincidence, so he was released.

Of course, as can be expected, there were alternative theories to it being a coincidence. For example, Dawe's brother-in-law worked at the Admiralty. Did he learn a few secrets from him. Or maybe it was Canadian troops, who were based nearby, that passed on information unwittingly.

Years later in 1984 a Ronald French, who was one of Dawe's pupils in 1944, gave his version of events. He claimed on BBC television that it was he who inserted the code names into the crosswords. It appears that Dawe sometimes allowed pupils to help with the puzzles. French says he learnt of the code words from US and Canadian soldiers.

The official version though is that Leonard Dawe was completely innocent of collaborating with the enemy - it was all one big coincidence.


Further Reading:
The First And Last Soldiers Killed Coincidence
By Coincidence Man Stumbles On Missing WW2 Grave
Coincidences Which Solved Mystery OF WW2 Giant
Mystery Of The Angels Of Mons

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  1. never heard of this before. ww2 is in the news now because of the blitz and battle of britain. maybe this is why the ww2 stories keep coming

  2. This is one of the classics!

  3. Very interesting Mike and here's another item of interest. The cable channel AMC started a new original series back in mid-summer before the 4th season of "Mad Men" premiered. The new series is called "Rubicon" and involves a secret government organization of analysts who are working in a counter-terrorism capacity.

    Anyway, the very first episode of the series involved the hero/main character, Will Travers, detecting some sort of pattern in a series of crossword puzzles all printed the same day in the newspapers of the largest American cities. All the clues and their answers were interlinked!

    Here's more info:

  4. musingegret: Haven't heard of Rubicon before, but what a similar storyline. Thanks for the links I'll take a look. Sometimes I think that there aren't raelly any new stories, just variations on a theme.

  5. Anonymous07:40

    My personal take on this is it is an energetic coincidence. Like inventions that so similar they are mirrors but one is from a team in Australia, the other in Germany. Novels and movies published and produced at the same time can have mirror stories and characters. There was even a movie in production, about terrorists flying airplanes into the WTC towers in NYC, that was scrapped in the fall of 2001.

    So my theory is, all these words were carrying a high passion energy at that time, because of the secrecy and the intensity of the event. So that's why they showed up in a crossword.

    Any one claiming deliberate intent for using the codes (after the fact) was ineffective. Codes are only as good as how they are understood, so these were a failure. :) But I'm sure they were great puzzle clues at the time.

  6. Terri: Agree with the duplication theory, we can all latch on to these waves of thoughts or ideas - by chance or by design. As you say this answers many of the disputes about who first invented or discovered something.