There was definitely something abnormal in the Daily Telegraph. “Gold,” “Sword,” and “Juno,” had all appeared in the crossword answers in the spring of 1944. Then from the second of May until the eve of the invasion of France, the crossword answers including “Utah,” “Omaha,” and “Overlord,” appeared in quick succession.
MI5 was convinced that this had to be far more than a coincidence. Were military secrets being fed to the Nazis, and where was the leaking of code-names coming from?
The crossword designer Leonard Dawe, the headmaster of Strand School was detained and interrogated. He was determined to be innocent of espionage and released. He was at a loss, however, as to how so many code-words appeared in his own puzzles.
Was it his compiling technique? He often called students in and had them feed him words which they found interesting, to which he then decided appropriate prompts for the crossword. It never occurred to him that his boys spent a lot of their leisure time hanging about near the American and Canadian army camps which were nearby. Had the students inadvertently overheard soldiers bandying about secret words?
After his release Dawes called the boys in. Ronald French was then asked where he had got these code-words from. The lad then showed his headmaster his notebook.
“Don’t you know what you have done?” the man challenged. “This is wartime.”
“But the Yanks use the words all the time over at the camp,” the student replied.
“They may well do so, but we Englishmen know better. We should never, I repeat never, share what we’re told not to talk about. Now we are going to burn this notebook, and I want you to swear on the Bible, that you will not divulge any more of these words!”
“Yes Sir,” the boy relented. “Not another word.”
*Based on true historical events. The Telegraph crossword contained the following in the run up to “Operation Overlord, 6 June 1944:
- 2 May 1944: ‘Utah’ (17 across, clued as “One of the U.S.”) – code name for the D-Day beach assigned to the US 4th Infantry Division.
- 22 May 1944: ‘Omaha’ (3 down, clued as “Red Indian on the Missouri”) – code name for the D-Day beach to be taken by the US 1st Infantry Division.
- 27 May 1944: ‘Overlord’ (11 across, clued as “[common]… but some bigwig like this has stolen some of it at times.”) – code name for the D-Day landings.
- 30 May 1944: ‘Mulberry’ (11 across, clued as “This bush is a centre of nursery revolutions.”) – temporary portable harbours used during the invasion.
- 1 June 1944: ‘Neptune’ (15 down, clued as “Britannia and he hold to the same thing.” – codeword for the naval phase of the invasion.)