Cadet Randall Tanner

Naval Cadet and Code Breaker


Randall Tanner is a very charming open young man who, despite his penchant for getting into trouble, always manages to get himself out of it. He is clean shaven, and his hair is cut regulation short. Though he is gifted in his job as a code breaker, he can quickly tire of desk work. He always looks forward to receiving a telegram from the lovely, yet distant Beatrice Emmott.


Randall Tanner was born on 5 April 1895 to George and Mary Tanner in Liverpool. The Tanners were confidence artists and pickpockets, preying upon the sympathies of the upper and middle class. When Randall was young, he often assisted in these cons by acting as a distraction. Randall’s childhood was often unstable. as they might be living in the lap of luxury with “distant relatives” one day, and out on the street the next. The tanners moved constantly from one part of the country to another

This ended in 1907, when George was shot and killed in an altercation with a member of a London gang. Mary and young Randall escaped with a small fortune, though Randall blamed his running for his father’s death. The two set up a life for themselves in London. At this time, Randall attended the first formal schooling in his life, though his father had taught him to read and write. He took well to it, especially mathematics and linguistics.

Despite his good marks, Randall never quite left his roots and his mischievous streak became very prominent. He would steal exam sheets for his fellow students and sneak out of dorms at night to smuggle in alcohol. All this made him very popular with his classmates. He was only caught once, trying to set up a practical joke in the teacher’s lounge. He was often suspected of other misdeeds, though nothing else was proven.

Through the last bit of their stolen fortune and her own personal charm, Mary Tanner was able to enroll Randall in The Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth in 1913. His interest in mathematics and linguistics began to morph into an interest in cryptography, and he attended classes on the subject.

When the war was declared, most of the cadets were moved to the Naval Auxiliary. Randall’s professor’s were recruited to the Naval Intelligence Division’s Room 40, or cryptography group. John Milton, Randall’s cryptography professor, requested Randall be transferred to the decoding office to act as his assistant. Randall took the roll with vigor.

In 1915, over the initial attempts by the Royal Navy to force the Dardanelles, British marines captured an Ottoman collier. That boat attempted to scuttle, but was stopped. It was discovered that the boat had top secret coded correspondence from Austrio-Hungarian high command to Ottoman minister of war Enver Pasha.

This message was sent to room 40 for decoding. It made its way to the desk of Cadet Randall Tanner, where he was able to decode the message, but in the process discovered information related to operation EDOM some 23 years prior. The significance of this revelation was lost on him, but Randall was transferred to work with Lieutenant Bradley McFarlane.

Cadet Randall Tanner

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