Thomson’s Telegram Decrypting a Secret Message from Albania, 1914


  • Florentijn van Kampen



Cipher telegram, Albania, Historic cryptography, Decryption


The Netherlands carried out its first international peace mission to Albania, from November 1913 to September 1914. The goal of this mission was to provide this newly formed kingdom with a solid law enforcement agency. The Dutch officers that were sent to Albania would face a divided country, torn between the powers of the Ottoman Empire and the European powers of that day. The mission commander, Major Lodewijk Thomson, was killed in battle under circumstances that are still unclear today. An encrypted Albanian telegram that recently emerged from his file in the Dutch military archives might shed some light on this part of history that is still shrouded in mystery. This article describes the cryptanalysis of the telegram, consisting of a modified hillclimbing algorithm, followed by manual analysis. The recovered message is then put in historical perspective.