How did the Allied forces decode Adolf Hitler's top-secret messages during World War II?
A piece of that great puzzle was found languishing in a shed in Essex, England, with rubbish strewn all over it.
The teleprinter of the Lorenz cipher, a machine used in World War II to exchange personal messages between Hitler and his generals, was discovered by a volunteer of the National Museum of Computing (NMC) after the highly valuable piece of equipment was put up for sale on eBay by an unsuspecting woman.
"My colleague was scanning eBay, and he saw a photograph of what seemed to be the teleprinter," John Whetter, a volunteer at the museum in Buckinghamshire, south England, told the BBC.
Whetter then travelled to the town of Southend to inspect the machine and determine whether it was a piece of history. There he found the teleprinter on the floor of a shed with "rubbish all over it".
An archive detailing a historic hack and its fallout has been handed over to the UK's National Museum of Computing.
— Carla Kumasaka (@CarlaKumasaka) May 30, 2016
"We said 'Thank you very much, how much was it again?' She said '£9.50', so we said 'Here's a £10 note -- keep the change," he added.
While NMC bought the teleprinter for mere pocket change, even the volunteer wasn't aware of the full scale of his discovery until the Lorenz teleprinter was given a dust down.
— Llewelyn Morgan (@llewelyn_morgan) May 30, 2016
According to the Guardian, NMC discovered swastika detailing and a special key to the Waffen-SS insignia on the teleprinter which is linked to the Lorenz cipher.
Andy Clark, the chairperson of the trustees at the NMC, called the Lorenz cipher "far bigger than the famous portable Enigma machine."
"Everybody knows about Enigma, but the Lorenz machine was used for strategic communications," said Clark.
"It is so much more complicated than the Enigma machine," he said while adding that the discovery of the teleprinter was a "chance to show the breaking of the Lorenz cipher code from start to finish."
Some intriguing leads coming in about the missing motor for the Lorenz SZ42. https://t.co/76HD5Vopjq
— TNMOC (@tnmoc) May 29, 2016
The museum, according to the Guardian, already has a Lorenz SZ42 cipher machine on loan from the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum, and is now looking for a missing motor, which along with the teleprinter, would help restore the encryption machine.
Pieced together with the decryption devices, the NCM will be able to detail just how messages between Hitler and his forces were decoded by the allies.
The museum has reached out to social media for leads.