The Infra Read Committee.


During the winter of 1943/44 the Malacian Intelligence Service became aware of the British Typex and American SIGABA cryptographic machines, largely due to the capture of a German Enigma machine.  An investigation was quickly launched into machine cyphers; the deliberately mis-spelt name 'Infra Read' was chosen as a play on Ultra, the British code name for Enigma interception and decryption.  Although little was learnt about SIGABA due to the American's higher security rules, the general principles were discovered along with an overview of Typex and by late summer 1944 the first prototype machines were tested.  Thes machines -codenamed Red Box- used four rotors and a reflector and used the SIGABA's principle of having the rotor next to the reflector as the initial turning rotor as well the Typex machine's idea of multiple turn-over points on each rotor.  Red Box also had a set of rectangular multiway connectors to take the place of the Enigma's plugboard.  It used a more normal typewriter keyboard with a shift key enabling it to encrypt numbers and basic punctuation marks as well as letters.  With a 50 character set the multi-way connectors were set up on a 10 by 10 grid so that they could be used either way up. 

Initially the units were supplied to MAGForceHQ, MAGAirHQ, HMMS Panther and the Malacian Military Command by November 1944.  Before Spring 1945 units were in use at the Malacian Embassies in London and Washington.  The original units had a fixed reflector; this was locked ion position by a brass lug but the design allowed for the reflector to be moved and this was implemented after the war.  Rather than have the reflector move on a regular basis, it advanced every time the letter 'E' was pressed.  Output from the Red Box was in the form of a printed strip which helped reduce errors in transmission.



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Last updated: 2 March 2012.

Copyright SR Jenkins, March 2012.