Butterfield & Swire Shipping Code

Administrative / Biographical History

By the early 1920s, it was clear that Butterfield & Swire needed a code of its own for telegraphic communications, to cover routine matters which were nonetheless peculiar to its highly specialised business operations. A unique code had the added advantage of keeping confidential memos secure, and of protecting the company’s interests against the unwanted attentions of unscrupulous rivals. The B&S Code was first introduced in 1925, at the then huge cost of £6,583, which covered its compilation and the printing of 250 copies. The code was based on five-letter phrase ciphers which covered every eventuality from "Act of God" ("lagbu") to "Wind up the Company" ("xuugo"), and included such obscurities as "xiywa"-"There is ice forming at the bends and another day or two will see navigation closed" (of the river at Tianjin).

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