Probably the definitive starting point for any discussion about the sad affair of Keith Mangnoson is the inquest report into the death of his young son Clive. It’s on the Internet courtesy of the consistently intriguing blog The Marshall Files, though reading comments there tutting at the moderator of a certain other blog (*cough* Cipher Mysteries *cough*) for letting trolls get so badly out of hand did feel a tad surreal. 😐

But I digress. Let’s try to build up a picture of Keith Mangnoson’s early life…


Born on 9th May 1914 in Adelaide, Keith Waldemar Mangnoson at the age of 14 then…

…left home and worked on farms in the country until early in 1940, when he got lost in heavy scrub country at near Nadda where he was engaged in wood cutting. After the lapse of several days he was found lying unconscious and suffering from severe sunburn in an empty horse trough. After spending several weeks in the Loxton Public Hospital under the care of the late Doctor Tanko, he was removed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and later to the Convalescent Hospital at Magill. The doctor who was attending him at the latter informed Mangnoson’s mother that her son was not responding to treatment and advised her to have him placed in the Enfield Receiving Home. He was taken to the Home where he remained for three months, and then his mother took him to a farm at Alma Plains where he stayed for a few weeks.

On May 11, 1941, Mangnoson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces and served as a Private with the 2/48th Australian Infantry Battalion in the Middle East and later on in the Pacific Area, where he contracted malaria and suffered with war neurosis. On his return to Australia he was admitted to the Military Hospital at Northfield and remained there until he was discharged from the Services on February 7, 1945. He then returned to his mother’s home at 12, Magarey Terrace, Largs Bay and remained there until he was married in the following May.

Remembering Mangnoson’s claim that he worked with a “Carl Thompsen” in Renmark (250km ENE of Adelaide, not too far from the SA/Victoria state border) in “1939”, we can see that this could only have been in the period before his near-death experience in Nadda (60km South of Renmark, and similarly close to the state border), and while this may conceivably have been in very early 1940, it certainly could not have been any later than that.

Renmark is surrounded by mallee scrubland (fairly arid, with lots of eucalypts): circa 1940, I presume much of this was being cleared (by woodcutters such as Mangnoson) for large-scale farming, as it has now developed a very significant grape, citrus-fruit and nut farming industry. The local papers at the time have columns talking about removing the green tinge from sultanas and whether there would be a market for flax… you get the basic idea.

Trove can also give us (thanks to the Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record, as well as the Adelaide Advertiser and the Adelaide Chronicle) several other brief glimpses into Keith Mangnoson’s early life. In March 1940, he was living in Alma and got engaged to a certain Winifred L. Williams from Renmark:-

WILLIAMS—MANGNOSON — The engagement is announced of WINIFRED L., eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Williams of Renmark, to KEITH, W., second son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Mangnoson of Alma.

On August 1 1940, Mangnoson’s name appears as one of those volunteers for National Service from Renmark whose applications had been rejected.

We also know (according to the front page of the 28th March 1940 Murray Pioneer) that this had been the “Hottest March on Record – Thirteen Centuries at Renmark… all previous records for March heat have been smashed.” (p.16: “Wanted – Wood cutters and stump splitters, Moorook district”.)

However – as normal with just about everything to do with the Mangnoson family and the Somerton Man – throughout all this I find myself playing archival catch-up with the very splendid Barry Traish, who has been raking over (and indeed generously correcting) these Trove scans for some time now. But all the same, I have my own take on what these pieces of evidence could well mean if you put them all together…

If these fragments are all separately correct, then “early in 1940” must surely have been after Mangnoson’s engagement to Winifred Williams (announced in the 7th March 1940 editions of the various newspapers) and probably more than four months before 1st August 1940 (when his application was rejected), for surely he can’t have volunteered to join the AIF while still recovering in the Enfield Receiving Home? All of which seems to me to point to the incident happening some time in mid-to-late March 1940, just after his engagement… yet there is no mention of it in any of the newspapers in Trove.

Of course, the logical question for those Australian genealogist researcher readers who have managed to hold on this far into such a TL;DR post is surely this: whatever happened to Winifred L. Williams of Renmark? Did anyone ever think to ask her about Keith Mangnoson and his 1939 Renmark workmate “Carl Thompsen”? I’m guessing that she would be in her 90s now: I know I’m jinxing it by even asking, but might she even possibly still be alive?

19 thoughts on “Keith Mangnoson / “Carl Thompsen” continued…

  1. B Deveson on October 31, 2013 at 9:35 pm said:

    Winifred Lilian Williams, eldest daughter of Wilford Samuel Williams and Alice M Williams nee Chigwidden. Wilford and Alice were married at Broken Hill (ie in New South Wales) in 1912 (Ref: 1170/1912). Wilford died in Adelaide, Colonel Light Gardens in 1948 (Ref: 729/3924).

    Wilford and Alice lived in Renmark, South Australia 1933 to 1943 and then moved to Enfield.
    Wilford was a boot maker at Renmark, also a Scout leader.

    Winifred Lilian Williams married Harold Beresford Bridger (NX169868 born 17th December 1910 at Bingara, NSW) at Sydney in 1944. Ref: 14344/1944

    Harold was a sapper/welder and served in New Guinea and Burma.

    Harold and Winifred are recorded as living at: Petersham North 1949, Belmore East 1954, Clemton Park 1958 and 1963. Marrickville 1968. North Cronulla 1980. In 1980 Harold was described as a salesman, and Winifred was a stenographer.

  2. The article about Mr Mangnoson being lost appeared in the Bunyip (Gawler, SA : 1863 – 1954) on Friday 18 October 1940, page 5, and the Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record (Renmark, SA : 1913 – 1942) on Thursday 10 October 1940, page 1. He went missing on Tuesday 1 October, so the incident did not occur in ‘early 1940’. His name is spelt ‘Magnussen’.

  3. B Deveson: excellent digging, thanks, that takes us all the way through to 1980… but what happened next? 🙂

  4. Debra: fantastic, that sorts out all the timing, then. I guess what they probably meant in the inquest report, then, was probably ‘early in the summer season’ (i.e. the working year) rather than ‘early in the year’.

    PS: I tried a whole load of mis-spellings for his name in Trove but “Magnussen” had me beaten, well done! 😉

  5. December is summer there. The “virtual” new year begins with Christmas, as I’ve only just realised. Formal new year of course Jan 1st.

  6. I actually searched for “horse trough”, but the very creative “lost in the bush” would have been just as successful.

    Winifred died in 2007 and Harold in 2010.
    See Macquarie Park Cemetery

  7. Debra: ah, now I know your searching secrets… 😉

    Sad to hear that we missed Winifred by only a few years. Did they leave any family?

  8. T Anderson on November 3, 2013 at 4:07 am said:

    Did they live in a neighborhood long enough that someone might remember something?

  9. Escaped Mental Portent Still Sought
    The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954) Saturday 25 March 1950 p 9 Article
    Police are still searching for Keith Waldemar Mangnoson, who escaped from the Parkside Mental Home on Tuesday. … 71 words

    Escaped Man Believed Seen In Hotel
    The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954) Monday 27 March 1950 p 4 Article
    A man believed to be Keith Waldemar Mangnoson who escaped from Parkside Mental Home last week, had dinner at a … 53 words

    Mental Home Escapee Found In Hills
    The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954) Thursday 27 April 1950 p 1 Article
    Keith Waldemar Mangnoson, 36, who has been missing since his escape from the Parkside Mental … 196 words

  10. The Dude on November 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm said:

    Man thats the same hospital that Jess worked at and at the time she was working there . Like you said Nick , truth and fiction aye. Amazing!!

  11. The Dude: sorry to have to ask the question, but how do you know what hospitals she worked at? I’m just saying because there’s a whole load of trolled fake information about her life out there, making it quite hard to separate truth from outright fiction. 🙁

  12. Hey Nick
    I believe I have a good source on that but will double check and get back to you. I can tell you that the house that the Thomsons eventually settled in at Hazelwood pk was minutes from the Glenside hospital.

  13. medrasa on February 15, 2016 at 4:41 pm said:

    So…my question is where does the name of Jessica Harkness come from?

  14. medrasa: her family confirmed in a recent TV interview what had been rumoured on the Internet for many years – that Jessica Ellen Thomson (nee Harkness) was indeed the nurse “Jestyn” whose Glenelg phone number had been written on the back cover of the Rubaiyat the police connected with the Somerton Man.

  15. medrasa on February 15, 2016 at 5:29 pm said:

    I have a theory, Alf Boxall has more to do with this than we lead on, he has confirmed ties to the Australian government that would definitely make contact with the level of covert operations that his is touching if we are going to consider this possibility. Plus if it is true that he went from Lance Corporal to Lieutenant then we must ask for what? Generally speaking in the military, you will not see an enlisted man get bumped up to a commission without considerable valor or some type of significant educational milestone. Also, though this does look very sloppy for a covert operation in a lot of ways the sloppiness is very pivotal, and every key coincidence seems to lead to some very awkward dead end which to me indicates at least a certain level of purposeful false-information, for example the Marshall case of the man lying on the beach reading the same book who poisoned himself this would have been well documented, it looks like an effort to make it seem like a copy cat suicide. Also, has anyone ever checked to see if the verse Marshall scribbled on his book as has anything to do with the code found on the Somerton Master of mystery man ” ah, make the most of what we yet may spend before we too into the dust descend, dust under dust under dust to lie Sans wine sans song sans singer and sans end”? But Alf Boxall also said that if Jessica had known about his work with the government it would be because someone had told her, What if the person who told her was Somerton Man? Since supposedly JEStyn was also a spy and could speak Russian if our SM was a Russian spy and informing her about Alf Boxall then this may be a reason to off him, plus if the book was in fact in the car weeks before he arrived then this would be a very real possibility. Also it seems that if Manganoson is part of of the puzzle piece then we would have to figure out what the hell he was doing in Renmark because this would not have really been a combat post in the war. In fact, I am not really able to find a whole lot of information on Renmark during WW2 so why would he be doing any military work with this alleged Thompsen character?

  16. Medrasa – Boxall was a heavy duty mechanic, he was posted to the NAOU (north Australian Observation Unit) specifically to help maintain heavy machinery. Most of his days would have spent in a shed, under a truck or a bulldozer. Some of the old airstrips they cleared are still in use from time to time. Some have been rebuilt and are being used today.
    His ‘bumping up’ may well have been more for managerial purposes.
    He was good with machinery and effective in his profession, reason enough, to my mind, to put him in charge of the entire maintenance operation while everybody else went on with the war.
    Boxall spent the war as an enlisted mechanic / engineer and went back to his old job at the Randwick tramshed when the war was over.
    If you feel he did a little undercover work then the best place to look is in his war records, line by line.
    You might find something there.
    I did.

  17. Chloe on April 19, 2016 at 7:45 am said:

    Which hotel was Keith seen in? How do I access the reports and stories?

  18. Chloe: I’ll check my files later for a copy of the Mangnoson inquest document, but “The Marshall Files” website went private a long time ago, amid a whole lot of loud claims and counterclaims of trolled activity. If you contact the Marshall Files website owner, he/she may give you access to this file, or he/she may not.

  19. Chloe: searching by ascending date for “mangnoson” on Trove should return newspaper articles from the time that answer many of your questions.

    However, seeing as you’re so quick to rubbish Cipher Mysteries elsewhere, all I can really say is… good luck with getting anything reliable from xlamb and Pete Bowes.

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