SMS Magedeburg and Room 40

Dave Alton (dabg14378@BLUEYONDER.CO.UK) posted this on MARHST-L in September, 2002 - a very useful snippet that explains how the Royal Navy was able to read the German naval codes.

SMS Magedeburg (KvK Richard Habenicht) was actually carrying three copies of the SKM [German codes], Nos. 145, 151, and 974, as unbelievable as this may seem and two copies were taken by the Russians.

One copy was destroyed by throwing in a boiler furnace after attempts to pull the ship free failed, but the radio room and bridge copies were retained for communication for rescuing ships.

V26 (KL Freiherr Roeder von Diersburg) rescued most of the crew, but when Russian cruisers appeared, there was considerable confusion and the demolition charges in the fore magazines were fired before the abandonment was complete, it appears that a signalman jumped overboard with one copy of the SKM but lost it when in the water, the remaining copy was forgotten and left in the aft section of the ship, which was not destroyed in the explosion. When the Russians boarded the ship, they found copy No 151, this is the copy sent to the British and is the copy in the PRO, which shows no signs of water damage. Divers found the other copy on the seabed, this was dried and used by the Russians. Other documents seized by the Russians included, the war signal book, the square charts for the Baltic and the war diary. Details from Das Geheimnis der MAGDEBURG by Matti E Makela. Published in 1984 by Bernard and Graefe Verlag, Koblenz.

Last Updated: 6 September, 2002.

 Return to WWI The Maritime War

 Return to WWI Archive main page.