Thursday, May 12, 2005

This date in history: XU approved

On this date in history, 12 May 1941, the Interdepartmental Committee on Cryptography met in the East Block of Parliament Hill and approved the establishment of Canada's first code-breaking agency, the Examination Unit (XU). The Committee decided that the XU would be headed by Herbert O. Yardley, with the unit's policy and operations controlled by the Department of External Affairs. Present at the meeting were Hugh Keenleyside of the Department of External Affairs, Chairman of the Committee; Captain Eric S. Brand, Director of Naval Intelligence; Lieutenant C. Herbert Little of the RCN's Foreign Intelligence Section; Lieutenant Colonel William W. Murray, Director of Military Intelligence; Tommy A. Stone of the Department of External Affairs; Herbert Yardley; and "Miss Geary", sitting in for C. J. (Jack) Mackenzie, the President of the National Research Council.

The XU began operations in June 1941 with a staff of nine. It was housed in rooms 202 and 203 of the NRC Annex, located on Montreal Road.

XU staff, 1942
Photo source: CSE

The photo above shows the XU staff, then about 20-25 strong, in front of the NRC Annex in mid-1942. By the time this photo was taken, Yardley had already been replaced by GC&CS cryptanalyst Oliver Strachey (third row from front, second from left). Strachey was replaced by another British cryptanalyst, F. A. (Tony) Kendrick, in July 1942.

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