How A Typo Helped To End World War Two

We like to think that our government has some idea what is going on. But, knowing that our government is made up of generally normal people: y'know, folk who throw the yoghurt in the dishwasher and the spoon in the bin, the same as everyone does.

We perhaps hold them to expectations that are a little bit lofty.

In times of war, these people don't disappear. If anything, the stress and panic mean that the casual fuckups of everyday life happen even more frequently.

Sometimes, though, everything turns out alright in the most unlikely of ways.

Today, we learned of one such incident, in which a common typo led to the end of the Second World War, courtesy of comedian Florence Schechter. She posted a thread on Twitter explaining this amazing slice of (to me at least) unknown, very human and utterly relatable history.

"Let me tell you a story about how a typo helped end World War Two...," it began.


"The Ministry of Defence saw his papers and was all like 'WOAH! This guy is the best cryptogramist in the world! Send him to Bletchley Park THIS INSTANT!'

"For those of you that didn't see The Imitation Game, that's the British codebreaking station that managed to crack the German Enigma code and thus end the war a lot quicker than might have been expected.

"Geoffrey gets told he has a special mission and arrives at Bletchley Park which was a total secret at the time, so poor Geoff had no idea what was going on. They show him the enigma machine and are like 'dude, you gotta help us crack it - you're the best cryptogrammist in all of the UK!'.

And poor Geoff is like, 'this is super awks, I'm a cryptoGAMMIST not a cryptoGRAMMIST. I'm not a specialist in codes, I'm a specialist in algae'

"And they're like, 'I'm really sorry but since Bletchley Park is totes secret, you're just gonna have to stay here. But I guess you could give it a go?'. Poor Geoff does nothing for TWO YEARS. Probably sitting on the grass and looking Alan Turing's butt which I assume was da bomb.

"UNTIL 1941.... when the allies torpedoed a German U-boat and managed to salvage a load of documents including a BIGRAM TABLE (!!!) which is like super duper important because they show how to unscramble messages through the enigma machine!"

"But there's one major problem... all the papers are so soggy they are basically unusable. All was lost! But then Geoffrey FUCKING TANDY saved the day like the scientist badass he is. He was like 'GUYS! I am a cryptoGAMMIST, remember! DRYING OUT WATERLOGGED THINGS IS WHAT I DOOOO'."


Schecter ends with: "If it weren't for him, Benedict Cumberbatch's lookalike Alan Turing wouldn't have been able to do his thang. GO TANDY! So a big up to scientists in unexpected places. And if anyone ever tells you off for a typo, tell them his story."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Mike Wood

Mike Meehall Wood is a freelance journalist and translator. He writes for LADbible, VICE and countless sports publications, focusing on rugby league, football and boxing. He is a graduate of Leeds University and maintains a fizzy pop obsession. Contact Mike at [email protected]

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