Enciphering Equipment, 3-Rotor Enigma (Schlussel) Machine: German

Catalogue number
  • COM 921
Display status
IWM London
  • whole: wood
  • whole: metal
  • whole: plastic
  • whole: rubber
  • whole: glass
  • whole: leather
  • whole: textile
  • whole: Depth 336 mm, Height 158 mm, Width 279 mm
Alternative names
  • full name: Enciphering Equipment, 3-Rotor Enigma (Schlussel) Machine: German
  • simple name: enciphering Equipment : Enigma: German

Purchase & License

The Enigma was an electro-mechanical enciphering machine, ultimately produced in large quantities for the German Armed Forces. Invented in 1923, the first models were marketed for commercial company use, as a counter to industrial espionage. German re-armament in the 1930's under Hitler, with the expansion of the Army, Navy, and Luftwaffe, led to the adoption of the Enigma machine by the German government and armed forces to maintain secure radio communications. Different versions of the Enigma were developed for use in different German organisations, such as the Armed Forces, the Security and Intelligence Services, and the Diplomatic Corps. German refinements to the Enigma increased the complexity of the ciphers during the Second World War. The British Government Code and Cipher School was set up in 1939 at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, and devoted large resources to breaking the various Enigma ciphers. This became known as the ULTRA programme, and was increasingly successful from 1941 onwards in penetrating German enciphered radio traffic. This machine was restored for an appearance in the film 'Enigma' in 2001, when actress Kate Winslet was shown working with it. This pre-dated its acquisition by the museum.

Physical description

Three-rotor German Enigma enciphering machine, built into a wooden case.


'A 1206' on lid. (This is an Army-issue number and not the serial production number).

Associated people and organisations

Fair Dealing

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.