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It is my belief that in radio-telegraphic communications with head office and agents etc commercial codes were used for brevity rather than plain text and that 'secret' codes were not permited by the ITU or whoever.

Can anyone be so kind as to give me some insight into what these codes were ( I assume they were named - 'Bradbury's Commercial' or whatever ) and what form a message would take.

Ta in advance
 

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A lot of companies had their own codes, sometimes for brevity and sometimes for privacy. In Grimsby and Hull the fishermen, prolific telegram senders, could buy code books at the local newsagents. I don't think there was any rule against it.

There is a section in the Handbook for Radio Operators on "Secret Language" and it describes secret language but doesn't prohibit it.

John T
 

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I thought secret language other than by 'the state' were generally prohibited unless the two flags concerned unilaterally or perhaps bi-laterally allowed them.

There has been international code for a long time. I have volumes of 1931 (International Radiotelegraphic Converence, Washington 1927) and IMCO 1965 conventions. The latter seemingly still valid. Neither the Yugoslavian authorities nor MRGC nor MFG seemingly adhered strongly to the convention.

Approaching Koper the usual request for free pratique was made. We received back the 5 figure group MIJMA. Neither the old man nor I had any idea what it meant and as far as I know neither of us were aware of there being an international code of any sort bar Morse. On berthing the old man was told simply that it meant pratique had been granted. This was around 1972 and that code was not current being listed in the 1931 code. In the '65 they are two letter codes (in this case ZY, the corresponding request, "My vessel is healthy and I require free pratique" being ZS). Other examples:

AJ, I have had a serious nuclear accident and you should approach with caution.
BO We are going to jump by parachute.

GIART Peaceful
GIBOX Peasant
GICIJ Pelts
ECLIL Gallant
ECSYL General
GIBPU Pebbly (or peculiar)
GIBIB Peanuts
JYCOT Do you require boiler water?
 

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A lot of companies had their own codes, sometimes for brevity and sometimes for privacy.

John T
I sailed with a tanker company that had ‘commercial’ code books.

The codes comprised of 5 letters. It was the group that when decoded had the message rather than each letter in the group.

For example ABCDE might have meant, Chief officer paying off at next port ... the next group QRSTU might be Timbuktu on arrival.

Or

ABCDT might have meant Chief Officer paying off with 3rd engineers wife at...... QRSTJ.

To be honest, I don’t recall using them that often.

Mind you, one incorrect letter within the group, could mean,
Chief Officer paying off, with more than he bargained for !!!!

I do not think it was necessarily secrecy, rather than keeping the word count down.
 

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In the ship's I sailed in all messages concerning ship movement orders and personnel matters, such as crew changes, were in 5-letter codes. After a while you got used to frequently-used codes - I used to know Shell's code for destinations such as Rotterdam, Curacao and Shellhaven - but I didn't keep copies and I can't remember any of them now.
 

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Code books

Certainly BP had two code books, one generally kept in radio room for messages of a general nature, crew relief, orders storing etc and a further code book for more confidential messages which was geberally kept in the Captains office for him to decode the messages. This on some ships not the case, for myself personally I received a message in the confidential code, but I had the code book in the radio room, on decoding the message it was to inform the radio officer that his father had died, not the best way of hearing bad news.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Many thanks for the very informative replies .
Was the big code book that lurks in the deep recesses of my mind possibly something used ashore for telegrams?

I think the master also had the bag in his safe with all the codes for use in case of a war... forget what that was called.

Meanwhile I found this that some may find of interest
https://archive.org/details/HandbookForRadioOperators/page/n175/mode/2up

I like the bit on the counting of words.... you couldn't crib by sending 'newyork'.... it still counted as 2 words....
 

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Texaco company code PREEN in 1971 meant mail consignments. By 1975 it meant something else but I can't remember what.

Here's another on commercial codes. The talk is exclusively on economy however I think the international code (or a company code of an international concern) also has the benefit of being able to translate at the same time as each signatory administration would produce a version in their own plain language to go with the codes groups.

Another take (for some reason Cisco's link doesn't work as expected, I think this is where he meant):

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_code_(communications)
 

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GYFF

Used by Fleetwood trawler skippers, often at the end of a message, in the spirit of comforting humanity.........

"Get your face f****d"
Charming! It always amused me how the skippers would lie to the company as well as each other about what they'd caught, positions, etc.

On the intership skeds some of the ROs couldn't be bothered coding the reports if the number of baskets in a haul was poor or were reported being as such. It didn't take James Bond to realise that something significant was going on when all of a sudden they started encoding the reports.

John T
 

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Some parsimonious shipping companies would run words together, separated by an oblique stroke...and some captains would do that in outgoing QTCs as well.

It probably saved about $100 a year....nothing in the big picture...

:D
 

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Many a mickle makes a muckle.

'N/N' was amusing sent TOR (Bardot code). Due to the case shifts it was longer than 'NOON'
 

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One of my first ships was with a Georgie shipowner with a few deep sea ships, it was a real hardscrabble outfit and everything was in code, ports of loading and discharge included. The old man had a big red book by which he decoded the message, he said it was all to do with costs of telegrams, in fact he said anyone could purchase such a code book, I am inclined to agree with him, anything to save a few bucks.
 

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It is my belief that in radio-telegraphic communications with head office and agents etc commercial codes were used for brevity rather than plain text and that 'secret' codes were not permited by the ITU or whoever.

Can anyone be so kind as to give me some insight into what these codes were ( I assume they were named - 'Bradbury's Commercial' or whatever ) and what form a message would take.

Ta in advance
In 1966 I was appointed Operations Manager for Maritime Fruit Carriers (MFC) of Haifa. One of the first matters I noticed was that most masters did not know how to word cables properly. Ship-to-shore communication bill was too high for my taste. Hence I devised a private company code where a three-letter word took the place of a whole sentence/phrase. It worked very well. The masters hated that, but all sparkies loved it. In 1970 I was transferred to Sydney to manage MFC's line to North America and the gentleman who took over Operations from me (an old MFC master himself) was more lenient and the use of that code dwindled. The company went bust in 1976, not for that reason...
I recall the Israeli telecom authorities, asked for a copy of the code book as a condition for using it. Being always undermanned, I doubt they ever stuck their nose into decoding our traffic.
 
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