7 questions on code and ciphers

Midweek quiz

A rare German Enigma enciphering machine from World War II is being auctioned in London. But how much do you know about codes and code-breaking? Test yourself.


1.) Multiple Choice Question

This is a detail of which type of code-breaking machine?

Code-breaking machine
  1. Lorenz
  2. Turing Bombe
  3. Colossus


The replica Turing Bombe machine on display at Bletchley Park, Britain's WWII code-breaking headquarters.

The machine at Bletchley Park

2.) Multiple Choice Question

In 2000, a stolen Enigma machine was sent in the post to which BBC presenter?

  1. Fiona Bruce
    Fiona Bruce
  2. Jeremy Paxman
    Jeremy Paxman
  3. Peter Snow
    Peter Snow

3.) Multiple Choice Question

The US army has used Native American languages as the basis for many secret codes. The practice began in WWI after a commanding officer overheard his men talking in which language?

totem pole
  1. Choctaw
  2. Cherokee
  3. Comanche

4.) Multiple Choice Question

Julius Caesar devised a code based on simple letter shifts. But using his code (and the English alphabet) how would it alter his phrase veni, vidi, vici?

Julius Caesar

5.) Multiple Choice Question

Pigpen Cipher was used by organisations such as the Freemasons in the 18th Century to keep private records. It substitutes each letter with a symbol. What symbol is S?

  1. <
  2. V
  3. >

6.) Multiple Choice Question

In The Valley of Fear, which book does Sherlock Holmes realise is the key to unlocking a cipher?

  1. Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
  2. Whitaker's Almanack
  3. Foxe's Book of Martyrs

7.) Multiple Choice Question

Major George Scovell is credited with cracking Napoleon's code, which proved vital to Wellington's victory over the French at Vittoria in 1813. But what was it called?

  1. Mlecchita-vikalpa
  2. Polybius square
  3. Grand chiffre


  1. It's part of a Turing Bombe. Designed by mathematician Alan Turing, it was used at Bletchley Park during WWII to decode German communications enciphered with Enigma machines.
  2. It's Jeremy Paxman. The item sat unwrapped for several days before the Newsnight presenter got round to dealing with his post. His reaction? "As far as I know I haven't got a reputation as a receiver of stolen goods."
  3. It's Choctaw. Recognition for the "Choctaw code talkers" had to wait until 2008 when President Bush posthumously awarded them - and all their successors in WWII - congressional medals.
  4. It's YHQL YLGL YLFL. The Caesar cipher is a relatively simple code - in this instance shifting each letter three further along the alphabet.
  5. It's V (a downward arrow). The first symbol stands for U and the third one is the letter T. Tombstones of Freemasons can also be found which use the system as part of the engravings.
  6. It's Whitaker's Almanac. Holmes takes little time in pulling apart the secret code. "Such crude devices amuse the intelligence without fatiguing it," he says.
  7. It's grand chiffre. Mlecchita-vikalpa is from the Kama Sutra, which includes a section on cryptography - secret writing being one of the erotic arts a courtesan is supposed to learn.

Your Score

0 - 3 : Bombe'd

4 - 6 : Enigma

7 - 7 : Colossus

For past quizzes including our weekly news quiz, 7 days 7 questions, expand the grey drop-down below - also available on the Magazine page (and scroll down).

Find out more about Enigma and ciphers at BBC History's code-breaking collection of clips and facts.

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