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BATCO is a paper-based hand-held manual cipher system, introduced in the British Army in the early 1980s as a replacement for the ageing SLIDEX system that had been in use since WWII. The system consists of a set of vocabulary cards and cipher sheets for superencipherment of numeric code words. BATCO is short for Battle Code and was in use as a backup system until 2016, not only in the British Army, but also by the Armies of other NATO countries such as the Netherlands.

The BATCO system consists of a green plastic wallet that can be hung from the neck of the user by means of a black cord. When closed, the 370 gram wallet measures 215 x 145 x 20 mm.   

Occasionally, BATCO wallets can be found on auction sites like eBay, but in most cases, they come without the original cards and without their plastic sleeves. But even if the original plastic sleeves are still present, it might be wise to replace them anyway, as they contain chlorine.

As a result, the toner of the printed cards may stick to the inside of the plastic sleeves and leave a permanent imprint when removed. This imprint may then be transferred to new cards that are inserted. According to German collector Karsten Hansky [2], a good replacement sleeve is:

Lindner 885P Schutzhüllen 190 x 130 mm

Two holes should be punched with a regular office puncher (standard distance op 80 mm) after which the edge (close to the holes) should be cropped by 2 mm, so that the pages can be turned without binding. These sleeves may be available on eBay (use the above text in your search).

  1. Wikipedia, BATCO
    Retrieved April 2016.

  2. Karsten Hansky, Complete BATCO unit and scans of all cards
    Received December 2019.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Saturday 23 April 2016. Last changed: Friday, 13 December 2019 - 10:13 CET.
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