There has long been a tendency to frame the Somerton Man as some kind of social outsider, whether as a spy, a loner, a drifter, a criminal, or whatever. The fact that, nearly seventy years on, he remains unidentified would superficially seem to support that view.

And yet he certainly did know people.

It was revealed not so long ago by Jessica Thomson’s family that she (the nurse “Jestyn”) did know who the man was, but chose not to disclose his identity. It therefore seems highly probable (though not completely certain) that he travelled by the 11:15 bus to Glenelg for the specific purpose of visiting her or her husband Prosper Thomson, a journey that ultimately finished with the man’s lying dead on Somerton Beach.

Along with the bus ticket in the Somerton Man’s pockets, there was also an unused train ticket from Adelaide to Henley Beach. It therefore seems very likely to me (though far from certain) that he was planning to catch the 10:45 train to Henley Beach to visit someone he knew, and perhaps even leave his suitcase with them.

Hence it’s an entirely plausible (but unprovable) scenario that he telephoned his Henley Beach friend(s) when he arrived at Adelaide Station that morning but got no response, and so decided to leave his suitcase at the station and go directly to Glenelg. (Though if he had missed the 10:45 Henley Beach train and found out that the next train left after one o’clock, he might well have changed his plans for the day.)


The charge for each article (Motor Bicycles excepted) is for day of lodging and one clear day thereafter 4d. For each subsequent day 4d.

But that’s far from the end of our search for the Somerton Man’s social network.

A suitcase was subsequently found in the station which was connected to him not only by a thread – specifically, a certain kind of thread (“Warm Sepia of Ridgway”) that both was in the suitcase and had been used to mend his trousers – but also by the same type of jockey-style underwear that he was wearing and that was in the suitcase.

SM Suitcase

And that suitcase, amongst all its pell-mell contents, contained a number of blank prepaid letters and envelopes, about which relatively little has been said so far.


John Burton Cleland’s notes

But John Burton Cleland noticed these: and in his notes to the Coroner, he wrote:

The appearance and history and social class of the deceased as revealed by the body and contents of suitcase:

1. Age: Dr. Dwyer estimated the age as probable 40 – 45. Supported by his appearance (as preserved), hair beginning to grey, several teeth missing, no appreciable atheroma in cornoaries or aorta.

2. Height: To be checked. Slimmer than I am (vide 3 in preceding section).

3. Hair: Brushed back off forehead, no parting, fair approaching sandy-coloured turning grey, rather long for a man. This item seems important in identification. Also do many Americans brush the hair backwards, more so than Britishers

4. Had shaved recently?

5. Nails of fingers and toes clean and carefully attended to – evidently particular in his appearance. Not those expected in a hard manual worker or seaman – more of a clerk or officer class.

6. Fingers tobacco stained. Shreds of tobacco in pockets of coat worn by deceased and coat in suitcase. Heavy smoker.

7. Trousers in suitcase well-pressed. Clean shirts and jockey-pants in suitcase. Garments quite clean – one slightly soiled. Particular in his dress.

8. Air-mail stickers in suitcase – corresponded with some one at a distance – other State more likely than Britain (special air-mail letter forms usually used for latter).

9. Empty squarish envelopes in suitcase suggest Christmas cards posted before November 30 (suggests overseas rather than interstate – America or Britain?).

10. Straight nose, not Jewish. Appearance not foreign. Not circumcised – Det. Leane points out [that this] excludes Turks, Egyptians, Jews.

11. New tan shoes on body, very little worn. Look as though they had just been polished and not worn all day walking about.

12. Had he been vaccinated? I could not satisfy myself that an indefinite patch below the left shoulder was a vaccinated area. Dr. Dwyer says that many service men vaccinated has ‘takes’ and showed later very little scarring.

13. Implements probably used for stencilling. A hobby or part of his work?

Cutting to the chase here, Cleland infers from the air-mail stickers found in the suitcase that the Somerton Man was corresponding interstate, and from the “empty squarish envelopes” that he had recently sent some Christmas cards (plural) overseas.

If Cleland was correct, I suspect that we perhaps can further rule out America’s West Coast as a likely location for him to be sending Christmas cards to, simply because the post boats got there too quickly from Australia.

And if we run with the American stitching in his coat and Juicy Fruit chewing gum in his pocket, we can possibly push the balance of probability away from the UK to America’s East Coast. But might he have been born in the UK circa 1900 (and not circumcised, as was more often the practice in the US then), and be writing back to family there? This is where the evidential crystal ball becomes too hazy to read.

All the same, what surely emerges overwhelmingly from all of this is simply this: that the Somerton Man was not an unknown lone wolf. He was actually connected into a wider social network of family, friends and allies… and very possibly enemies, too.

119 thoughts on “The very social Somerton Man’s suitcase…

  1. Nick, you weren’t clear as to what type of ‘friends’ the Henley Beach friends might be. If they were complicit in something illegal then you wouldn’t expect them to come forward when his body was found.
    If they were innocent you might expect they would.
    Add to that, if he was arriving with some illegal purpose in mind, something planned and ready to be executed with his friends (accomplices) – then you would expect them to pick up the phone on the day he was expected to arrive, not leave him free to visit an old girlfriend.
    I can’t make that work old bean, and Speculate is my middle name.

  2. Nick, it occurred to me, do you think a softcover rubaiyat might fit into one of those envelopes?

  3. pete: there are a hundred genuinely workable scenarios that make this work ok – e.g. the Somerton Man phones his friend, says “I feel awful, like I’m going to die”, his friend says “you’d better get yourself to Glenelg, my mate Prosper’s wife’s a nurse”, etc etc.

  4. Pete: the pocket edition of the Rubaiyat was small, sure, but I don’t believe it was small enough to fit in a Christmas card envelope. I could be wrong though…

  5. I’m finding Clelands theory about excess Xmas cards hard to take seriously, how may are there, six?
    With that many left over envelopes he had more friends than a publican

  6. Pete: without knowing how many were normal shape and how many were square, I can’t sensibly judge either way. But there must have been at least one squarish one for Cleland to have proposed that at all.

    …and maybe he did have more friends than a publican. When we determine his identity, perhaps we’ll all be surprised and find out he was the original Dave (who, in the Dave joke, knew everyone in the world).

  7. You have a sense of humour like a mud puddle, Nick, shallow and dirty.

  8. Pete: a new tactic – trying to kill me with kindness. I like it!

  9. If the Somerton Man was not an unknown lone wolf and had was actually connected into a wider social network of family, friends …then why this social network of family, friends did not start to worry when he did not send them Easter cards? Mother, brothers, sisters, ex wife, mother of his child, lover, best friend, auntie, boss, work mates ??? Why were not they looking for him?

    Because SM was, is and always will be Russian spy 🙂 (dressed and trained to look like an American/British, probably living many years in English speaking world, under fake name). He died and nobody from his Family was looking for him, because they were living “locked in” country with no contacts with outside world, there were always language and legal barriers to contact any International Missing Persons agency….and like millions other families in USSR who lost their loved ones in WW2, they just moved on and suffered in silence.

    While if very social Somerton Man is American/British background..his Family in 50ies, 60ies would come forward (if they received Christmas cards from Australia, so they knew he is there), contact Red Cross Australia, Police, they could travel to Australia, they could put adverts in USA/UK/Australia newspapers, they could read English speaking world newspapers, listen radio or got the news through the friends of friends of friends that there was interesting case in Australia…

  10. Lelde: all kinds of people “disappear” for all kinds of reasons, and not just because they die – many start new lives, new jobs, have new beginnings, new families in new towns in new countries.

    More generally, the breadth and variety of human experience and lives resist all attempts to reduce them to any narrow set of possibilities. For that, we need actual evidence. *sigh*

  11. Lelde: I should have added that 1948 was, for a lot of people in a lot of countries, a good time to be starting anew.

  12. Milongal on February 3, 2016 at 10:24 pm said:

    Suppose Christmas Cards and Envelopes are purchased separately. Suppose Envelopes are packaged in packs of 10. SM might have sent 4, or 14, or 24.
    Maybe they were sold in packs of 6 and he had no friends….
    Maybe the remainder suggests lack of friends rather than plethora of friends.

    Of course, with left over envelopes you can’t help but wonder…shouldn’t there be left over cards too?

    (perhaps I’m more weird than I normally admit, but I’ve purchased a 24pack of envelopes before to send a single letter… the time it seemed to make economic sense compare to buying an individual envelope – except now (several years later) I’ve still got 19 envelopes…..)

  13. bdid1dr on February 5, 2016 at 5:20 pm said:

    Nick and Friends, You may, once more, want to follow up on the cooperation of the British military and the United States Military in the creation of the enhanced Uranium Bomb(s). Einstein and Fermi began developing ‘sophisticated’ nuclear weapons. Chicago was the initial location for the planning. The Los Alamos site (White Sands) New Mexico, was the site of the first test of the bomb.
    Their work went on for years after the attacks on Alice Springs. The teams (US and British) obtained uranium from Australian sources.
    You may be able to find the British and Australian records of their cooperation.
    It would be very interesting if any of the British/Australian scientists went missing, as did the American man.
    You may get an identification of the Somerton Man yet !

  14. bdid1dr on February 5, 2016 at 5:32 pm said:

    I’m returning to this comment page in a little while. The name Henley is significant in discussion of the development of the bomb. I’ll follow up later with any new info which may not have been discussed before on these pages.

  15. bdid1dr on February 5, 2016 at 9:44 pm said:

    ps: Somerton Man may not have been the only member of the team to disappear (and later show up dead on the beach). Apparently, the town of Henley was host to several of the scientists who were developing the first nuclear (uranium) bomb . Yes, the “Brig” may have been involved — from the aspect of National Security and Fermi and Einstein’s work in progress.

  16. Darwin, not Alice Springs.

  17. bdid1dr on February 6, 2016 at 5:25 pm said:

    Thanx, Pete! My first husband’s mother (Australian) rabidly hated the Japanese. She would get quite incoherent when trying to reminisce about her family’s experience. I later learned that her husband disappeared while working at the Alamagordo site. Her third child was born shortly after her husband’s disappearance.

  18. bdid1dr on February 7, 2016 at 5:56 pm said:

    So, Pete, the place names of Henley, Alamogordo, White Sands, University of Chicago, and names of persons Einstein, Fermi, Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves, Harold C. Urey, G. B. Pegram, L. J Briggs, Harold C. Urey, Otto Frisch, Rudolf Peierls, the MAUD Committee, Philip Abelson, Glenn Seaberg, Arthur Wahl…..
    Search the WWW for “The Manhattan Project (and Before)”

    My fascination for all things “atomic” “nuclear” (and ‘fall out’) began while I was in my teens. I was approximately 10 years old when I was subjected to C0-60 radiation to shrink what was left of post-surgical tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy. Some sixty years later, I have not forgotten the experience of a long slender wire being threaded through my nostril and the beaded end nearly touching the scar tissue at the back of my throat.

  19. I”ve done all that and made some interesting, though perfectly innocent I’m sure, connections between Mark Oliphant and some suspicious characters in the MAUD operation.
    What surprised me was the USA’s determination to keep Oliphant out of their country … He was allowed no visa.

  20. Pete: …so do you think he might be the Oliphant in the room?

  21. bdid1dr on February 7, 2016 at 11:41 pm said:

    The odd things about uranium, plutonium, and cobalt: uranium and plutonium can be shielded — cobalt cannot. I found that item of interest (a while ago) when I was searching the records at U-Chicago (who were keeping records of persons who had been subjected to medical trials of CO-60).

    So, Pete, Nick: Can you tell us more about MAUD (and the “Oliphant” in the room?
    Maud and an elephant …….? enuffalready?

  22. bdid1dr – Her husband may well have “disappeared” just before her third child was born but he seems to have been alive quite a while after. Are you talking about Normalee?

    Nick/Pete – I do think that Oliphant may have done some odd things to find himself persona non grata.

  23. I'm Abbott, he's Costello on February 8, 2016 at 6:13 am said:

    All I know is the yanks were keeping him the helliphant out of the country ..

  24. Milongal on February 8, 2016 at 9:24 pm said:

    I think most of this is irrelephant….

  25. bdid1dr on February 9, 2016 at 6:31 am said:

    Yes, I was talking about Normaleen Park (who preferred to call herself Noel). Noel’s sister, Aileen, married a ‘Murray”. There is a short street in a California town across the Golden Gate Bridge which is called Murray Lane. After her husband’s disappearance, she moved (with her three sons) in with the Murray’s for a while.
    Her son Preston may still be living. Her youngest son was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

  26. Misca & Pete (Hi Pete!) Oliphant merely spoke his liberal humanitarian mind.

  27. Robert Nowak: no wonder they barred him from coming in. 🙁

  28. Rob .. !
    The people you meet when you don’t have a shotgun. Howyagoinmate .. orrite?
    These Poms are a little hard to handle when you don’t have a pint to share with them, other than that we get along ok. Kind of.

  29. Pete: I’d certainly agree that sharing a pint or two would be a positive research asset. 🙂

  30. Pete & Nick: indeed, indeed and indeed. Cheers! Keep up the good work.

  31. So many websites and blogs on the Somerton Man.I’m really enjoying your articles Nick as they use or try and use facts or information that is available. There are so many other blogs out there that seem to be based on pure fantasy. Keep up the wonderful work.

  32. Pearl: thanks for the vote of confidence, I don’t tend to get a lot of positive comments. 🙂

    Unfortunately, it now seems generally true that the vast majority of websites (and indeed books) to do with historical ciphers falls in a spectrum ranging from narcissistic whimsy and speculative pseudohistory at one end through to angry self-delusion and acute mental dysfunction at the other. “Pure fantasy” doesn’t really sum this sad landscape up. 🙁

  33. bdid1dr on February 12, 2016 at 6:29 pm said:

    Surely Nick, you are not including me and/or my posts as being a ‘fringe lunatic’ ? If so, please let me know, now, so I won’t be distracting you and your long-time friends who seem to be compulsively circling around to the same “Voynich” manuscript discussions.

    Ennyway, keep on keeping on — no matter what the subject!

    Respectfully, but disappointed.


  34. bdid1dr: trying to control the flow of blog comments is a lot like herding cats… so I tend not to try these days.

  35. bdid1dr on February 13, 2016 at 1:08 am said:

    Talk about herding cats. We recently adopted a young cat from our animal control shelter. I swear she can leap six feet up. Her latest shenanigan was to climb the EDGE of 2-inch thick piece of foam insulation ( 4 feet wide X 8 1/2 feet tall). Gotta get around to trimming those claws ……

  36. More’s the pity …

  37. bdid1dr on February 13, 2016 at 6:25 pm said:

    Petey: Pity for me or for pitty-pat ? She is now known to me as ‘cat-nip’ ! NOT the herb!
    With her, I 1-dr no more — her claws shall have to be trimmed, once again, by Papi .

  38. Petey, as far as pitying me: I know that some people, who have never met me, pity me as being a lunatic. Well .. so be it ! I’ve had some very interesting conversations with the folks at Canyon de Chelley , the Hopi Mesa (Valjean Joshevema — silversmith extraordinaire), Crater Lake, Shasta Lake, Blue Lake, Clear Lake Pomo friends from all around the lake, and Kashaya Pomo (near Fort Ross) to name a few.

    Though I am hearing-impaired, and can read with only my right eye, I get along just fine when it comes to researching history — just about anywhere I go.
    A couple of years ago, I went to one of our Rancheria’s annual celebrations. I sat down in the front row (so I could read lips of the Master of Ceremonies and his guest speakers). Turns out that I was sitting in the seat which was to be for the guest of honor: Peter Coyote. Sh-i-i–ft –> and still find another seat on my right — for my husband!
    Fun !

  39. You misunderstood bdid dr: it was a pity young Nick didn’t control the comments last year, particularly in the case of Xlamb. This is old ground extensively covered, but the fact is he exposed one of his contributors unnecessarily, and one that has had more evil visited upon her than is imaginable.
    My apologies for the misunderstanding.

  40. Pete: you have taken it upon yourself to repeat Xlamb’s claim that I somehow (in your words) “exposed [her] unnecessarily”, which seemed (and still seems) perilously close to libelous on your part.

    Specifically, I did not expose her real identity on my site (and in fact made efforts not to): as I recall, she did that herself on the Smithsonian message board, which was a much more public (and in fact far more hostile) place than my blog. According to your site, you have reviewed pretty much all the comments she left on Cipher Mysteries as part of your own efforts to reconstruct her account of the Beaumont children: can you therefore direct me to any comment you think I should take down?

    When she made that claim herself, I denied it outright and asked her to give me even a single example to review and take down if necessary. She never did.

    Also: she made a very specific claim about the Somerton Man which I invested a lot of time and effort into researching, but which turned out to be false with no obvious basis in fact whatsoever. In my books, that makes her not just an unreliable witness, but an outright timewaster.

    Personally, I have no idea whether or nor her story about the Beaumont children’s disappearance is true: I’m simply not interested.

  41. So sue me Nick. Put up or shut up.

  42. Pete: let me get this straight – you’re happy to accuse me of ‘exposing’ someone on my blog yet you can’t point to even a single place where this supposedly happened?

    I hope you realise you’re coming across as a loudmouth who’ll happily parrot whatever he reads without actually checking it out. Which doesn’t bode well.

  43. You exposed her to Trolls Nick, by the bloody dozen. Loud enough for you?

  44. pete: Xlamb used the same freedom of speech that the trolls did, and many people might reasonably say that the claims about living people she made were many times more serious than typical troll nonsense.

    And anyway, since when did you drink some +10 Ethical Eye potion that lets you make moral judgments on other people?

  45. bdid1dr on February 14, 2016 at 5:56 pm said:

    Ah ! Pete and Nick, it dismays me (and probably several other long-time visitors to your various blogs) to see what appears to be a quarrel; rather than the more light-hearted commentary of past years.
    I hope I am not contributing to controversy or crossy sleepiness/ boring cross-referencing, and cross commentary.
    I am estranged from my children because none of them believe I have had so many life-endangering experiences.
    So, if I’m getting more egotistical in my commentary ( or more boring) please lemmeknow !
    Fondly following future findings ‘f-enny !

  46. bdid1dr et al-

    I have found a missing Australian scientist. I haven’t had a chance yet to try to track him down…If you search on Trove “Mystery Scientist Cannot be Found” you will find an article about an Australian “George David Taylor” who went missing from Mexico in October of 1948. There is a file on him at NAA that is quite interesting too. He got in a spot of trouble because he lied about a few things on his application for enlistment as an airman. He lists Princeton University (USA) on his educational qualifications.

    I thought it was interesting enough to share.

  47. That’s ok Bids, Nick and I share the same singular quality, neither of us is ever wrong.

  48. Milongal on February 17, 2016 at 4:50 am said:

    Re-reading other articles (both here and elsewhere) I come across references to 3 rubaiyats (which (some) people infer a linked):
    1) the SM one (which we assume is the one from the car in Glenelg)
    2) the Boxall one (which we probably think we know the most about)
    3) the Joseph (George) Marshall one….

    For some reason, people seem to take 1 & 3, occasionally add some of 2 to taste and come up with a military (usually Russian) spy conspiracy. I find it difficult to swallow – that we have 2 Rubyiats linked to deaths (one more suspicious than the other [no shyte sherlock]) occuring roughly in the same part of the world – and as far as I can tell are the ONLY obviously Rubaiyat and death connections anywhere in the world – and we leap to the conclusion that there’s an international spy game afoot….

    Digressing as I am wont to do…It also bothers me some that we seem to find potential links all down the Eastern Seaboard and Tasmania to various aspects of the case – but never in the West. If we considered the (reasonably compelling, IMHO) theories about a car racket (even Pruzinski potentially falls into that theory nicely) then wouldn’t the West be a more obvious place to look for links? My understanding is that many car dealers in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra were basically founded on the lucrative markets selling cars in Adelaide and Perth (and to a lesser extent Tasmania, I think) where the 2nd-hand car market attracted a higher price (lower incomes mean people can’t afford new cards and are more likely to buy 2nd hand, whereas as Sydney and Melbourne (and Canberra) thrived from a wages perspective, newer cars were more affordable – of course, this is legit business, not the stolen car trade (and a “steal to order” would be lucrative anywhere, I suppose), and I’ll concede that back then Adelaide might have been the 3rd largest city in Australia and so the 2nd hard market more stagnant (And I’ll even take on the point that the NSW laws at the time might have simply made it easier to go East), but it seems to me most (certainly amateur) investigators don’t seem to have considered the idea that SM might have been connected or had origins in the West rather than the East….
    Was nothing in the West, or has nobody looked?

  49. B Deveson on February 17, 2016 at 10:10 am said:

    Milongal, Prosper Thomson was involved in serious criminal activity while dealing in motor vehicles in WA. At his trial it was said that Prosper was under the influence of “an older man”, presumably a criminal. It seems that this “older man” later established himself in Adelaide, and Prosper worked and was associated with him in Adelaide.

  50. B Deveson: that’s very true, and as far as I am aware no efforts seem to have been made to identify that “older man” – perhaps a police information request could be made? (PMT was born on 26th October 1912, so would have been 36 on 1st December 1948, so that “older man” could very reasonably have been the Somerton Man. There seems to be no indication that the police inquiry at the time ever linked PMT with the Somerton Man, so they may well never have considered this as a possibility.)

    At the very least, if we knew the man’s identity and subsequent date of death, we could very quickly eliminate him as a possibility. 🙂

  51. An ‘established’ Adelaide criminal would have been recognised by the police in the first five minutes of the investigation.

  52. Pete: but as you know, the man mentioned in PMT’s 1948 court case with Daphne Page was from Melbourne, not from Adelaide.

    All I’m pointing out is that the police inquiry at the time didn’t seem to consider at all that the Somerton Man might have been connected to Prosper Thomson, and the Melbourne black market car dealer ‘heavy’ PMT was working with may not have been looked at with this in mind.

  53. B Deveson: I’ve gone through Trove and added a “black market cars” tag to a few related stories from round that time, feel free to add more as you find them. But what I was immediately surprised by was the scale of the black market in cars in Australia during the years immediately after WWII, so this line of enquiry is definitely a “good runner”. 😉

  54. Nick : it still seems very unlikely as every state was circulated with photographs of SM by the SA police – a process I’m sure would have had follow up procedures.

  55. Pete: the point I think you’re missing is that because of the government-imposed price controls, a lot of entirely new people may well have stepped in to take advantage of the opportunity…

  56. My understanding is if anyone is a ‘heavy,’ in the criminal sense, his mug would be well known to the police in the states he was operating.
    He can’t be both a known ‘heavy’ and an entirely ‘new’ person, Nick.
    And if, as you say, the (size of the) black market in stolen cars was surprising, then it would be as equally surprising if the local plod didn’t have a few detectives working on the problem.

  57. Milongal on February 18, 2016 at 1:26 am said:

    @B Deveson: That’s sort of what I mean. There’s a WA connection in terms of the criminal element (and one that maeks a lot of sense when we talk car rackets), yet every time someone proposes a potential name to dive into (Keane/Reynolds etc) we find results for people originating in QLD, NSW and Tas (not sure about Vic)….not sure whether this is because for some reason we’re not looking West, or simply that similar names don’t occur in the West (which of course some (including many sand-gropers, I suspect) consider another country)…
    Even in terms of shipping manifests I would have thought WA (even then) would be busier than SA (although probably not as busy as the East back then) – Adelaide is an awkward place to get to by boat – you have to go around the country (wasn’t this the original dream (didn’t eventuate until recent history when I think scenic passenger travel was more a focus) of the Darwin->Adelaide rail line – to allow ships to dock in the North and then rail them to Adelaide?)

  58. A good explanation of what was going on:

  59. Re. George David Taylor (my post above)…Is this of no interest whatsoever? Did I miss discussions about him? There is another file on him. He was court martialled for participating in a mutiny in Sydney. I have not been able to find a death record for him. I have found record of his wife and two children travelling from Australia to the US but no returns???

    It would be great to “eliminate” this one if it’s not of relevance.

  60. pete: that is your own interpretation, but you don’t have any evidence to back it up. Perhaps the right thing to do would be to try to track down the person concerned…

    Also: most of the work against black market car dealing was done by the Prices Branch, which was a quite different part of the governmental apparatus…

  61. Taylor and his three daughters were repatriated from Mexico back to Australia in March 1949:

    However, Taylor did end up living (somewhat spookily) in Sussex Street, Glenelg, where in 1954 he was charged with defrauding Harry August Mann and was fined £35 with 10/ costs:

  62. Nick – I agree, the birthdate makes it unlikely that it’s SM as do two photographs I have found attached to his name…Nonetheless, his army files are very interesting and it would appear that his claims did not match his records when he applied for war medals. (This reminded me of Alfred Boxall’s record.) Remarkably, one of the times George Taylor enlisted was at Paddington on December 8, 1941. His unit is listed as “1 Aust Water Corp Group (Engineers)”. (Page 20 of 32). I went back to check and Alfred enlisted December 5, 1941. I am sufficiently intrigued to keep digging a bit…

  63. bdid1dr on February 18, 2016 at 4:40 pm said:

    @Misca: My apologies for the delay in following up on your referral. Sometime today, I hope to be able to spend some time on the WWW. All kinds of craziness still ongoing in re the 73,000-acre fire which left some 1,800 families homeless and tree-less. I have adopted a cat whose owner disappeared into the fire.

  64. @ Misca:

    I identified ‘Somerton Man’, on one of Nick’s posts (the photograph of the dead “Somerton” man). At that time, I immediately recognized him — because his son was identical in appearance. I lost my photo files during one of my moves from one side of the country to the other.
    So, my post, for the most part, was greeted with skepticism and or outright jeers. You may be able to ask Nick for the specifics.
    bd (still beady-eyed and still wondering)

  65. lewiansto on February 19, 2016 at 12:03 pm said:

    Anybody know what just happened to Pete’s blog? Seems it is no more.

  66. lewiansto: no idea what’s going on there, sorry. But it looks deliberate rather than an external hack: so I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

  67. lewiansto on February 19, 2016 at 1:09 pm said:

    I guess my top 2 fav blogs (in no particular order!) is now down to one! Hope you’re not planning on disappearing too Nick!

  68. lewiansto: to be honest, I’d rather both blogs were up than just one or neither. 😐

  69. @ Misca: You mention Mexico when discussing the man who went missing. Was that NEW Mexico (Alamagordo White Sands..) or Mexico south of the US border?

  70. I read today that Pete Bowes and Ruth Collins have been having a relationship for some time but it has ended badly. I believe Pete ended it!!!!!

  71. Pete Bowes on February 21, 2016 at 9:40 pm said:

    Putting this type of garbage up on your site, Nick, is yet another indication of your absolute abandonment of decency.
    No doubt you are sitting back, enjoying the great discomfort your trolls visit upon some of your site visitors.
    Cowardly stuff, Nick, especially for someone who boasts of over a million visitors, and one who is invited to lecture schoolchildren, then invite them to participate on your site.
    Any goodwill we may have had in the past is now totally erased.

  72. Pete: to be honest, I didn’t think anyone would be so stupid as to take it seriously. My apologies, obviously.

  73. Which two stupid people are you apologising to, Nick? There are two names mentioned.

  74. Gee, Nick! I just choked on my gruel! I’ve always enjoyed the outbursts of trolls, myself, but this is something else. Infra dignatum, we used to call it in the old country. Blog fever is rife. It’s getting like Garrison Keillor’s WLT: A Radio Romance round here. As Johnny Mercer put it in ‘The Strip Polka’ “Take it off! Take it off!/Cried a voice from the rear”.

  75. bdid1dr – Mexico, South of the border. Nick put up quite a few links relating to the scientist and what happened. Apparently, both he and his children returned to Australia.

  76. I suspect that Pete made the above comment about the relationship Nick. Pete has been using dozens of fake names recently. It’s just a scam to get people to go to his amateur writing blog. The final goal of enticing people to buy his long awaited Somerton Man Book. From what I’ve heard I wouldn’t call it a book, it’s more on the lines of the ramblings of a
    typed up and converted to a PDF. I have much admiration for you Nick and your site and work is wonderful. It’s a shame that there isn’t a Pete Bowes and Ruth Collins filter. Nobody wants to see it or read it.

  77. Sandra: in this instance, I doubt that comment was from Pete unless he knows how to post from IP addresses in two different countries. 🙂

    I know of no evidence at all that even suggests that he might posting under different names. That sounds like trolled allegations from a different site, nothing I know anything about.

    To date, I have read not even a word of Pete’s Somerton Man book, and now suspect it might be some time before a review copy lands on my (virtual) doorstep.

  78. I agree with the above to an extent. It seems when there is trouble Ruth Collins is connected to it. Nick I love your work and all you did was research Ruth Collins ID Card for which everyone is grateful. I think that Ruth needs to stop commenting and have a break. She is really upsetting people. If it isn’t Somerton Man related.. don’t publish it! Ruth had her own agenda. I ignore it personally. It’s a shame six sites have been shut down because of her already. Pete should have known better by blogging her stories, attracting online predators and putting people’s lives in danger.

  79. Andy: I have no idea why Pete removed every single post from his site (and would prefer not to speculate), but I suspect he’ll be more than happy to tell the world quite why when he’s good and ready.

    Right now he seems to be going through a blaming-everything-bad-that-has-ever-happened-to-him-on-that-bald-Pommie-bastard-Nick-Pelling (I paraphrase slightly) online phase, which would seem from the outside to be a displacement activity to help shift his gaze away from several genuinely important issues he needs to face up to. Such as: why would anyone care to read his book? As a writer and publisher myself, I can attest that writing – though time-consuming and often very hard – is by far not the most difficult part of the book production process.

    I’ve already had various people speculate that this is all some kind of PR gameplan on his part in the ramp-up towards selling his book later this year: but if this is true, he would seem to be acting on some very specious PR advice.

  80. Just because somebody comments on Nicks site doesn’t mean Nick agrees.
    It has been going around for months that the Collins woman / xlamb has become close to Pete Bowes. She even blogged how emotionally and physically connected she felt to him. Big shout out to Nick, Your site is great!!!

  81. paula: can you please tell me where these comments are? (I’ve had “Beyond Highbrow” suggested separately, is that where you saw this “for months”?)

    I have Pete Bowes hopping up and down in high dudgeon on his blog every time someone posts a comment on Cipher Mysteries, and I’d rather he directed his vitriol at the sites where the comments are actually being made.

  82. Pearl: can you please tell me where you read this claim?

    Moderating in this comment has led to Pete Bowes calling you a “troll”, me a “moral coward”, and your comment “garbage”: so it would be nice to know if there’s any fire behind the smoke. 🙂

  83. Milongal on February 22, 2016 at 9:11 pm said:


  84. Maybe a little brimstone?
    Pete, I sincerely hope you are not ‘going off your rocker”!

  85. Pete Bowes and Ruth Collins need to calm down. They are currently using Nick as a scapegoat for the trouble they have attracted. The name xlamb is a troll name. How can a troll complain about a troll. Pete Bowes turned his SM blog into a Beaumont blog attracting all sorts of deranged people. All this has nothing to do with Nick. Pete + Ruth PLEASE go away. It is also widely known that Pete has been commenting on Ruth Collins behalf.

    * This is my opinion and not necessarily the opinion of Nick Pelling

  86. bdid1dr on March 7, 2016 at 6:55 pm said:

    @ Pete:
    It may be that I shall have to share some of the blame for the latest series of ‘troll’ nonsense/discussion.
    Several months ago, I offered a name for the “Somerton Man”. I immediately identified him, and immediately posted his identity to Nick’s blog. I left it up to Nick to follow through however he wanted to handle the information I gave to him.
    Somerton Man’s wife had three children. Her youngest son ( Mark) was killed by a hit & run driver. I know little, next to nothing, about her third son Preston.
    Nick, I hope Petey can calm down a little (even if I appear to be interfering with Pete’s ongoing discussions).

  87. bdid1dr on March 7, 2016 at 11:21 pm said:

    Nick, I hope I’m not creating another ‘tempest in a teapot’. I’m hoping that Pete does not totally ‘lose it’ (an American term for going crazy or ‘mad’ as you British say?
    Sincerely worried,

  88. No worries Bids, everything is good here …

  89. Misca on March 8, 2016 at 12:17 pm said:

    bdid1dr – The person you are suggesting is “SM”, outlived all three of his sons and died on February 10, 2005. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

  90. bdid1dr on March 8, 2016 at 5:30 pm said:

    Thanks, Misca ; I’ll do the math (birthdates/death dates) for father and sons. Does Arlington have a website/post/blog? Does Arlington give birthdate or age at death?

  91. Misca on March 9, 2016 at 12:12 am said:

    The father was born 17 May 1922 in Norfolk, Virginia. He died 10 February 2005 in Alexandria City, Virginia. The sons…Preston was born 19 April 1948 in Marin, California and he died 8 September 2001 in Yorkshire, England. Lee was born in 1945 in Sydney, Australia and died in 1997. He has a U.S. Veteran’s Gravesite and is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in San Rafael, California.

  92. Misca on March 9, 2016 at 12:14 am said:

    Mark was born 27 September 1952 in New Mexico and died 14 November 1974 in Marin, California.

  93. bdid1dr on March 9, 2016 at 6:49 pm said:

    Misca, earlier this morning, I wrote a very excited thank you note — tried to print out at least this last post. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago, our cat somehow managed to tip my custom-built computer over and onto the floor. Everything seemed to be just fine — until this morning, when I tried to print out this latest and greatest news from you. So now, rather than later, I’m giving you a heartfelt thank you !!! I’m fairly certain that Nick will be relieved to hear/see the last of my posts in re ‘Somerton Man’ .
    Thanks, Nick, for bearing with me !
    beady-eyed wonder-r

  94. bdid1dr – I’m happy I was able to help! : )

  95. B Deveson on March 12, 2016 at 4:53 am said:

    Prosper Thomson seems to have been a “garage proprietor” in Adelaide prior to September 1946 (ie. earlier than I think we knew). I note that his middle name is miss-spelled “McTaggert”.
    South Australian Police Gazette 9th September 1946 page 352.
    “Warrants issued: Prosper McTaggert Thomson, non-payment of fines and costs …… or six days, 2 days and 24 hours, for breaches of the Road Traffic Act. Garage proprietor, no further description . Warrants (three) filed at C.I.B. – (C11796).”

  96. Byron: excellent find, thanks! 🙂

  97. bdid1dr on March 13, 2016 at 5:00 pm said:

    @ Nick: D’ ya think I was going to pass right by you when I was thanking Misca for his discovery of my children’s grandfather?
    Am I forgiven for my “nearly troll’ discussion? I made some cheese , but it got moldy while it was still in the mold ! (Misca’s discovery was much more interesting.)

    So, I thank you, Pete, and Misca for your very kind discussions and replies to my various queries/suggestions.

  98. Anytime Bids, and when the time comes you’re up for free copy of the book, it’s at the last edit stage right now …. I think it might just hang together as the longest train of speculative fiction anyone has put together about The Very Social Somerton Man.
    We’ve got Mr Francis figured out as well.

  99. Byron: by the way, have you got the 1947 SAPOL gazette to go through as well?

    I’m now wondering what the address of Prosper Thomson’s garage was, since SAPOL didn’t appear to know as of September 1946.

  100. Pete: …but I’m guessing you haven’t got Ronald Francis’s real name yet, right?

  101. No ….. I had a couple to choose from but I’m not the hunter Byron is.

  102. Milongal on April 19, 2016 at 4:24 am said:

    is there a photo of the bus ticket anywhere? I recently saw a drawing of SM and some of the items, and there was something amiss with the bus ticket (which might be artistic license, but I’m interested to see).
    In the picture, the ticket has been punched at “2 down” – which is section 2 heading away from the city. North Tce is DEFINITELY in Section 1, and I suspect there wouldn’t have been a section change until you go off West Tce onto Anzac Highway (ie, cross South Tce) – because I’m pretty sure the whole Adelaide square mile is section 1 (although currently it looks like the Section change is J1 West Tce – which is the last stop before South Tce).

    I’m guessing this is just something that the artist has added/created however if the actual ticket is Section 2, then the whole idea of catching a bus near the railways station is questionable (I doubt a conny would make a mistake on the section – especially in the city).

  103. Milongal on April 20, 2016 at 12:12 am said:

    NB: I’ve always been uncomfortable about the unused ticket – it doesn’t seem like something you would thrust into your pocket (if I buy a ticket that I’m not using straight away it goes in my wallet, or bag, or somewhere where I feel it’s safer). Of course, you might argue “but he had no wallet” – this in itself opens a can of worms, because it means that he’s managed to buy a train ticket, a bus ticket (as well as leave his luggage and pay any bathing fees) and have exactly zip left over.
    So, we either have someone who had the foresight to carry exactly the amount of money he needed (including knowing that he might miss the train and need a bus, and knowing that he wasn’t returning) or someone who is fairly reckless in storing a ticket for future travel (although I suppose we don’t quite know what time that was purchased – I think the only reason people assume it was for the 10:50 train is because he was supposedly in the city around that time (unless tickets back then were for a specific service?)).
    While there are possible scenarios (he had no wallet and any change in his pockets was stolen by someone) to me it’s hard to get past the idea that his wallet was taken but the train ticket was quite deliberately left (either planted, or at least removed from his wallet).

    I notice the “wiki” (which we all trust) article says “…bus ticket which could not be proved to have been used…” – I thought the ticket had been linked back to a specific conductor on board a bus (which means it could not possibly have not been used – pretty sure you couldn’t (and still can’t) buy tickets for future travel on board a bus in Adelaide) – but either way a picture of it would soon clarify that too (and there’s a post on busaustralia from 2010 by a user “giacomo” (which I’m drawing a long bow and saying it’s related) that suggests the ticket wasn’t punched – which is quite extraordinary for one purchased on board)

  104. John sanders on November 26, 2016 at 3:40 am said:

    Milongal: If the ticket was punched ‘2 down’ and that is correct it puts SM in a rather strange out of the way setting, so whats he up to? Is it possible that he was visiting West Terrace cemetery and caught the bus from there. I happen to have a young American ballerina who was interred there towards the end of November 1936 and if it transpired that an old touring pal (or admirer) was in town for the opening of Ms. Joanna Priest’s world premier ballet ‘The Listener’s’ on the 30th instant, he might be inclined to pay his respects. We note that he had sand in his Marco cuffs along with unspecified plant matter that he could have acquired on a visit to the site on her 12th anniversary death date a day or so earlier. He may also have had with him on that day for sentimental sake a couple of her cherished possessions, namely her stage ‘make-up brush’ and a little fluted powder/mascara dish. His copy of the rhubaiyet with his personal message to her was subsequently left on the bus for the conductor to find, and sadly he was so overcome with remorse that he offed himself (missing a bloody good show). Of course Jessica had nought to do with anything, she having come forward of her own volition like many other ghouls to view the bust and reeled back in shock when she recognised one of her old asylum patients Hannibal Lector (still with me I trust). Thats my take sort of but now you all shout what about the phone number well you’ll have to ask Messrs. Lawson or Feltus about that but my own feeling is that it was written small by Det. Brown so as not to effect the book’s evidentiary value and had no other nefarious purpose.

  105. John sanders on November 26, 2016 at 4:05 am said:

    Of course good old Prosper ‘the fence’ ends up with the gold watch for a pittance then immediately inserts the lost add to cover himself; and the small change along with SM’s other effects are retained by the finders, who having rifled the deceased’s pockets and propped him up afterwards go on their merry way. Remind me if I have missed something which I’m sure you will because we’re not done yet by a long shot.

  106. His name. You forgot his name.

  107. John – What would be the reason for faking his death?

  108. John sanders on November 27, 2016 at 4:29 pm said:

    Bumpkin: If I knew his name I’d go to the cops. Misca: I’m not sure that he did but with team backing and in a remote setting such as it was it would be unlikely to draw the crabs. If we could do some in-depth research on the cause of death which goes beyond ‘suddenly’ that might help. As for possible motives its not really wise to speculate beyond the usual such as getting out of an unwanted relationship and starting afresh (he’s done that once already). However I’d be inclined to go for something more upmarket. The war in Europe is near done and everyone including the loyal (& not so loyal) little helpers are deciding their collective fates. If I was a half decent Spanish speaker I’d like to think that a slow boat from NZ to Santiago Chile might have some merits for a safer future. Of course TS as a candidate for SM is still dubious despite a host of very positive pluses for his nomination as a candidate many of which fit the bill uncannily. I’m absolutely confident about SMs involvement with the ‘Ballet Russes ‘but TS is only one of a number who share similar credentials. Sorry to sound so vague but you must understand I want this business to play out for an absolute outcome to satisfy the three main elements of this perplexing case, hence my ‘devil’s advocacy’ ploys which I make no apologies for. PS. You’ll note that the ballerina’s initials MP are coincidently included in the Tamam Shud code but I wouldn’t get exited about that. You might think me a sentimental old sausage but does anyone know what became of the lovers ‘betrothal’ sixpenny coin from the pocket of our men’s duds?

  109. milongal on November 27, 2016 at 10:02 pm said:

    @John – 2 Down could put you on the current Section Change (but I’m not sure that’s where it’s always been). But I don’t know how much I like that scenario – it adds (another) missing ticket (a walk from the Railway Station to Cemetery would be over a mile….which adds to the walking he supposedly did around Glenelg (from Adelphi St to Somerton, if we believe all accounts of which bus he caught, and where he got off) without scuffing his shoes). What I DO like about that idea, is supposing he bought a Henley Ticket and decided to go to the cemetery before returning to the railway station. As he leaves, he spies a bus coming down West Tce, and realising it’s going to the Beach (and not being entirely familiar with Adelaide) he thinks that will get him close enough (in fact, it’s possible that he simply wanted to go to the beach – Henley, Glenelg – it’s all beach), and so heads on from there….The phone number is easily explained as relatively mundane – he saw an ad for a car at some stage and jotted down the number (of course Prospers connexion to both Henley and Glenelg is potentially interesting – and AFAIK the train ticket was 1-way?? ). The other thing I like about this theory, is (I’ll have to double check) I think that at that time there was 2 trains running to Glenelg (The tram later replaced one of them), at least one of which left from the Adelaide Railway station – so why catch a St Leonards bus (which at it’s closest hits the Northern border of Glenelg), when you could have caught a train from the same place where the Henley one was. Assuming none of the tickets were planted (and I still think we could make a case that they were), the bus appears very opportunistic whereas the train was planned (not sure if you could pre-purchase tickets then – that was before MTT ran the buses – but it’s difficult to explain the bus given the other options).

    I think I posted here somewhere in the past that even more curious than the presence of the used (wikipedia says “that couldn’t be proven to be used” – but I don’t know whether that’s accurate – it would suggest it wasn’t punched [but if they’re only available on board every ticket must be used]) bus ticket (worth 7d?) is the absence of an inbound (to Adelaide) train ticket (which suggests he didn’t arrive in Adelaide that morning – or at some stage disposed of the ticket (yet held onto this cheap used bus ticket)). Suppose, he stayed in a hotel along North Tce (even then I think there were many of them) but was sufficiently ordinary not to be remembered by the staff – he’d still go to the railway station to buy a train ticket (especially if it’s the morning he intends to travel from there).

    I don’t know that it helps identifying the guy, but there’s a lot of “facts” in this case that are built on a snowball of assumption and speculation – but don’t seem to make any sense. It sort of bothers me more that what little actual facts we have (The bus ticket sequences – which as told imply to me Section 1, not 2), the Train Ticket and Suitcase Stub etc – all rely on accurate Human memory, record keeping and calculation – and my faith in human accuracy is limited. What if the train ticket was sold the day before, but for whatever reason the clerk (having been told it was sold on his shift) worked out that it must have happened on his shift? What if the conductor transposed a digit in his sequence number of bus tickets – or retrospectively estimated the loading (if he was required to keep track of ticket sales and you forget to fill them in at the time, you sort of guesstimate (based on experience) how many were sold in each section**).

    When somebody comes to you asking for corroboration of a story, you tend to prove rather than disprove their theories. So if the facts doesn’t match the supposition you mould the facts – why must the suitcase have been checked after 11AM on 30 Nov? Why must the Henley Ticket have been sold between 6AM and 2PM 30 Nov? Why must the bus ticket have been sold in Section 1? People don’t like responding with “I don’t know”, and even less with “no, you couldn’t possibly be correct because…” – Obviously we can’t prove that people got things wrong (accidentally or for any motivation), however I’m reluctant to take people’s memories as gospel when there’s enough murkiness in other apparent facts to question their accuracy….

    tl;dr : I think a lot of “facts” aren’t that at all….

    **This may seem like I’m clutching for straws, however I spent a couple of years driving buses. For certain types of shifts where non-standard ticketing was used, or free travel was available (eg News Years Eve shifts, Football runs etc) we were asked to keep track of the number of passengers each journey. I know that many drivers (innocently enough) just made up numbers because it was too hard to keep track of it.

  110. Who or what is TS?

  111. milongal: I suspect there are (at least) three decent enough explanations for the single-not-a-return ticket thing:
    (1) He didn’t have enough money to buy a return ticket because he was going there to visit someone who was supposed to give him money
    (2) He was going to meet someone who he expected would drive him back into town
    (3) He wasn’t planning on coming back (for whatever reason).
    All of these might well turn out to support other scenarios, but they don’t quite tell a whole story in and of themselves. 😐

  112. John – I have had the opportunity to inspect TS’s feet in the 1920’s and they were not in the least “wedged” at that point. In fact, I would be more inclined to describe them as splayed outwards (his toes). It tells us nothing I suppose as 20 plus years can do much to one’s toes and feet…

    I have followed up on many a ballet dancer who was part of this (TS’s) troupe as well as others and there are a couple of interesting possibilities in there if one is willing to be open/flexible to facts that don’t quite fit…

    I don’t discount your theory for a minute; in fact, it’s more believable than many that have been proposed for SM’s identity…

    I have been unable to determine his manner of death. I suspect he may have killed himself but without documentation of such I am with you, left wondering.

  113. Milongal – I admire your perseverance and research but unfortunately, even if you figure out the whole “ticket business”, it’s unlikely that you’ll figure out an identity. You might figure out why the man did what he did but it’s unlikely to tell you who the man was.

  114. John sanders on November 28, 2016 at 6:01 am said:

    Bumpkin: who = Tadeusz Slavinski a Polish ballet artiste who toured Aust/NZ and is said to have died on tour in Dunedin 22/1/45. This info. was mentioned in earlier posts and you can search them on this site from around late July. T.S. also could equate to Tamam Shud which should at least hold up without the need for substantive proof…Nick Pelling: (4) It is also possible that SM found the unused rail ticket on his railway cafeteria breakfast table left by an errant commuter or likewise on the desk at the ‘left baggage’ counter, or a number of other like stops in the vicinity of Adelaide station but we will sadly speculate on this until the cows come home… Milongal: For such a well laid out city grid plan (thanks to Col. Light), they sure messed up with the city/suburban rail network and right from the start it seems. I’m sure most resident users over the last 150 years since its inception have remained confused. Your thoughts on evidentiary proofs are well put and should give us armchair detectives cause to pause before accepting any witness assertions at face value, especially those of the so called experts…Misca: The sad case of Madeline Parker, the young American ballerina who died on 22/11/36 is easy for you to find and makes for interesting reading whether relevant or not. Teddie was in Melbourne rehearsing when she died and although a large funeral service was held, I’m not sure whether he was in attendance. It took place on or about 30th instant, a date which we are all somewhat familiar with are we not.

  115. John sanders on November 28, 2016 at 10:10 am said:

    Misca: when he was cited for not attending rehersals sometime in June of ’37, his excuse was something to do with foot problems which was accepted by his employer J. C. Williamson & Co. I also note that on the 23rd of that month he signed his nuptual contract with Marie Doran and then promptly took off for Melbourne on the ‘Spirit of Progress’ leaving his sweetheart at the alter ( Syd. Reg. Office) so to speak. It does seem likely that his performance days were nearing an end by about this time and so bad feet is not out of the question, which raises the bigger querie as to what he was doing with Borovansky 40 ballet troupe in NZ when he “died”. From about 1940 onwards he only did charity performances in Australia and also dance tuition. He could have gone as choreographer or dance instructor but it really doesn’t quite fit the prevailing circumstances and he certainly wasn’t best buddies with his Czech boss. When John Beaumont (RAAF) accused him of some treasonable act at outbreak of WW2 he promised to not associate with people of questionable allegences and Ted Borovansky was such a person rightly or wrongly. People in Australia had to be pretty careful about what they did and said in those heady days or you could end up like Alf and his buddy Xavier, bundled off to God knows where for merely being considered “disturbing elements” by the powers that be. Of course the jury is still out on whether or not Teddie toured or was substituted by another who could pass for him before the ignorant antipodean audiences of that era. His reported demise and its likely cause are a matter which I can hopefully leave in your much more capable hands, with much gratitude of course. We are all getting exited about the big coming event and of course Xmas will always have that aura about it ; and by the way luck with the publication Pete.

  116. B Deveson on December 12, 2016 at 7:14 am said:

    The Woomera rocket range commenced serious testing in 1949 and it is likely the USSR, and quite possibly the USA, would have been establishing means to monitor the rocket tests (and the later atomic tests) in late 1948. This would have involve both human agents and technical services such as equipment for radio interception of rocket telemetry data. My understanding is that the nature of the radio frequencies used in rocket telemetry at Woomera (465 MHz) meant that successful interception of the telemetry had to be made within about fifty kilometres of the test site.

    In 1962 Russian intelligence attempted to deliver a state of the art “squirt” radio transmitter to an agent in Adelaide (the Ivan Skripov affair). The agent was never identified. The need for such equipment implies that the information was urgent. It was suspected that in the 1960s the Russians somehow used submarines in the Great Australian Bight to monitor weapons test telemetry from Woomera but a submarine could not sit on the surface for very long before being detected, even in such a remote place as the Great Australian Bight in the 1940s and 1950s. So, it would have been essential to know when the tests were scheduled. I think (based on physics and a small knowledge of radio) that a submarine in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s would have to surface to be able to receive shortwave radio signals.
    A submarine in the Great Australian Bight (Great Southern Ocean) would not be able to receive the telemetry signals while the rocket was not in a line of sight. If the submarine was say 600 Km away then the rocket telemetry signals would only become detectable when the rocket got to a height of about 6 miles. I understand that from an intelligence point of view the telemetry data for the first few seconds of rocket flight is the most interesting and revealing. Bottom line – I think the telemetry would have had to be intercepted no more than 50 Km from the test firing site. Which means that the submarine in the Bight in the 1960s was probably inserting a team to hide in the scrub close to the launch sites (there were about 13 launch pads in the 1960s from memory) where they would have operated a radio receiver with a magnetic tape storage system to capture the telemetry.

    I note the SM’s suitcase contained a small screw driver that was described as an “electrician’s screw driver”. A search of the advertisements in the 1940 will show that electrician’s screw drivers (ie. Screw drivers specifically made for electrical work and electrically insulated to protect the user from electric shock and to prevent accidental short circuits when working on live electrical circuits) were uncommon and expensive. The presence of such an unusual tool in SM’s suitcase suggests that he was either an electrician or somebody who worked with electronic equipment. Maybe working on radio equipment?

    I note that a jar of magnetic iron oxide powder was found amongst the Kroger’s (Portland spy ring, UK 1960) spying paraphernalia. This “black powder, magnetic iron oxide, (is) a substance used for making Morse symbols recorded on magnetic tape easier to read.” The Illegals. Nigel West. 1993. page 170. It has been pointed out previously by Pete Bowes and others that it is strange that the stencilling brush handle is not stained and does not appear to carry any traces of paint. I wonder if SM used the stencilling brush to dust magnetic iron oxide powder (which is black) on and off magnetic tapes holding coded radio messages? The Russian used automatic high speed radio transmitting and receiving equipment where coded messages were pre-recorded on magnetic tape. These “squirt” transmitters could send and receive encrypted Morse messages in perhaps one hundredth the time required by a human Morse operator. This speed made interception of the messages and radio location very much more difficult, and probably nearly impossible with the equipment available in the 1940s and 1950s. If the stencilling brush still exists it would be an interesting exercise to see if it carries any ingrained particles of magnetic iron oxide.

    Segueing to the SM “code” I have often wondered if the SM “code” enciphers numeric information rather than alphabetic information. Just using the letters A-J would be a give away so maybe a simple “code” using 21 letters (each number enciphered by one of two letters, plus a full stop to separate numbers? I note that a radio frequency of 12 MHz appears to be the optimum frequency for day and night communication. “During the day, frequencies higher than approximately 12 MHz can travel longer distances than lower ones. At night, this property is reversed.” Wikipedia Shortwave radio. Propagation characteristics. I also note that 1949 was a year in which sun spot activity was at a maximum so short wave communication would been generally favourable. The pair “AB” occurs twice in the SM “code”. “AB” = 12? So, just maybe the “code” enciphers a short wave communication schedule. What sort of information would be required say for a message concerning the launch time of a rocket test? A time – four digits? The radio frequency to be used the next communication – three or four digits? I assume that the radio frequencies used for the rocket telemetry were fixed so that information would not need to be transmitted. I note that the telemetry frequency used a bit later on was 465 Hz. Search the NAA for 465 mc/s (mc/s = Hz in today’s speak). “Weapons Research Establishment 465 mc/s sub miniature telemetry ground receiving equipment.” NAA Item barcode 8952921

    My working hypothesis is that the Russians (or possibly the Americans) had an agent who would send details of the proposed rocket tests and this agent lived in Glenelg or Somerton. This agent either passed the information to a radio operator or was a radio operator him/herself. I note that rocket test personnel who didn’t live at Woomera or Salisbury were housed in Glenelg. See “Glenelg North acquisition of homes for long range weapon staff 1948-1951. NAA Item Barcode 924064” National Archives of Australia.

  117. Pete bowes on December 12, 2016 at 11:21 am said:

    Thanks JS, to quote the great Hillary, I knocked the bastard off.

  118. John sanders on December 13, 2016 at 4:06 am said:

    BD: your synopsis re the collection and collation of info. from the Woomera tests works fine for me and you certainly have done some great work putting all this together so that even duffers like me are able to get the guist of it all in layman’s terms. I’m just wondering however in those early days, would it not have been possible to collect the relevant communications from a disguised fishing trawler or even an ore carrier in port at Whyalla eg. Your close enough to the action and providing your intercepts aren’t compromised a vessel could hang around for quite awhile (maritime strikes organised when necessary) and even be relieved from time to time. Of course if your working for the Soviets then you just get Messrs. Evatt & Dalziel to set up a camp for you in The Olgas or perhaps on top of Ayers Rock and that way you obtain some good visuals as well. Now getting back to the suitcase & contents thereof (everyone’s pet topic) has there ever been any comment made about its possible origins apart from indications that travel labels were removed. Surely the latches would have had an impressed manufacturers name like Cheney (GB), Acme (USA) or Rakketa (Soviet) which would be helpfull indeed but alas no mention that I can recall. Yes that little (never seen) screwdriver described as being of the electrician’s style will forever be a mystery I’m afraid and in fact unlike your take, I always thought of it as being the kind with the little lamp in the handle for testing circuits and thereby used to secrete exposed film. Tell me if I had in my collection, a length of light cord, a paper clip, two hair pins, a safety pin, a coat hanger or two, a pair of scissors, a loupe magnifier some envelopes, a contained soap holder and an army lighter with sealed fuel reservoir, would I have the means whereby to develop 9.2mm Minox film; that is assuming that I can have access to developer solution, an improvised dark room and my wee Minox which I have stored for protection in my rolled up woollen socks. Seems quite feasible in my simplistic view though I will stand corrected without question. Of course the light chord is used to determine the focal length once true focus has been made through the viewfinder and may have been once used to photograph pages in a certain one off ‘Courage & Friendship’ publication no doubt. With regards to the stage makeup brush I can see no reason why it should not suit your described purpose and I note that there seems to be an impressed makers name on its metal casing which might be readable if it could be focused then raised successfully under magnification.

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