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The Somerton Man Case. The body of a man found on an Australian beach close to a major Atomic Testing ground, he was probably poisoned, a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and an unbroken Code page found and associated to him. Set against a Cold War background in 1948, was this man a spy? We think so and this blog focuses on the evidence that was left behind and in some cases missed, the Code page, Dry Cleaning numbers, A Poem and a small, torn piece of paper bearing the words TAMAM SHUD.

Saturday, 9 August 2014



(UPDATED 10th August. See time line 1947)

This image was first posted on the Internet about 3 years ago, someone has anonymously sent it to me again in recent weeks, It is appreciated and if you know who created it then please pass on my thanks.

The case for a VENONA related killing..

Over the years, many people have presented their thoughts on how the Somerton Man died, amongst the theories put forward was suicide, accidental overdose, poisoned by mistake and even that he was murdered. The latter coming as no surprise given the findings from the inquest which suggests as much but, in my humble view, it makes sense to question every aspect when espionage is a suspected element of a case.

In this post, (it will be lengthy and broken into a number of parts), the plan is to present a series of events that took place in the years leading up to the discovery of the mans body on Somerton Beach and how these events provide us with clues and evidence, albeit circumstantial, that point to a VENONA related killing/assassination. By default this post will tell us why he was killed and perhaps give us some options on just who may have caused his death.

Who Knew About VENONA & When?

         Ben Chifley                          Clem Attlee                     'Doc' Evatt

Sir Percy Sillitoe DG MI5      Roger Hollis MI5        Guy Liddell, DDG, MI5

VENONA Summarised

'A Soviet code clerk preparing a message first reduced its text into numeric code groups drawn from a code book (a kind of dictionary in which the words and common phrases correspond to four-digit numbers). After encoding the plain text with numeric code groups, the clerk would obscure the code groups by adding them, digit by digit, to a string of random digits. This second series of digits, called 'additive' or 'key,' was known to both the sender and receiver because it was printed on the pages of a 'one-time pad. ' One-time pads were periodically pouched to Soviet consular missions in sealed packets. The pad pages--with 60 five-digit additive groups per page--were used in order, always starting with the group in the upper left hand corner (the pad-page number to be used was more or less concealed somewhere on the face of the message). Code clerks in different Soviet missions used up these packets at varying rates, depending on the volume of messages to be enciphered or deciphered'. Source CIA website

Time line of events

Finnish Intelligence sell copies of Russian Code books to OSS officers, these books contained the top secret codes that became the beginning of the VENONA project, a US led and organised Signals Intelligence operation. The Americans discovered that the Russians had unwittingly distributed duplicate copies of some of their 'One Time' pads that contained code sequences that should only have been used once. This enabled US cryptologists to 'break' some of the vast volume of Russian secret Military and Trade cable traffic.

Second set of Russian code books found in a German Army building which was about to be handed over to Russian Forces.

US sets up Army Security Agency with a mandate to establish a World Wide network of specialised 'listening' stations to intercept Russian radio traffic.


UK-USA Security Agreement known as the 'Secret Treaty' is signed. It's focus was SIGINT or signals intelligence and the signatories were the US as the first party and Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand as the second parties.

QUESTION: Where were the Australian Listening Stations Located? From an unnamed source one location could have been between Woomera and Nurungara. From personal knowledge, there was a US radio station in SA close to Adelaide on the road between Salisbury and Gawler. You could drive right past it and above the barbed wire fences and behind the red brick buildings you could see numerous large radio masts. This was in the late 70s and my understanding is that they had been there since WW2 days. If you have any other locations that you are aware of or have any relative information please let me know.

September 27th 1947
An entry in Guy Liddell's diary: 'We have the book!' 'Not only have we got the book, but also the instructions for its use and a special code used for prominent personalities' He also mentions that the informant was impressed at the rapidity at which the work was done.  Apparently the project had the name 'OPERATION GOULASH' not to be confused with the 1960 operation of a similar name. There is no mention of any country in this entry although the previous entry had been masked over.

October 28th. 1947
Another entry in Guy Liddells diary  regarding two Czech agents. One named RATSCHITSKY (Unusual choice of name) and the other NEDJEDKY. Both had kept in touch through and after the war years using postings to the London office of a magazine, 'The Ironmonger', the subject of messages was the state of Russian Iron and Steel production. messages were sent via secret writing on the back of the covers of the magazine issues and various propaganda documents sent through the post. Apparently neither the Russian or British Intelligence services discovered these messages.

In amongst Guy Liddells diaries for 1947, there is mention of Czech and Balt refugees entering the country using fake documents issued by British agents, the reason being that the recipients were not Czech or Balts, they were Russian defectors.

1. Was operation GOULASH anything to do with Australia?
2. Would either of the two agents mentioned in the October 28th entry have had a connection with Australia either at the time or later?
3. Given the habit of Australian Intelligence to closely follow British methods, is it possible that Somerton Man was a Russian defector under a false passport? Where would we find such records?

December 1947.
Sir Percy Sillitoe, Director General MI5, having been briefed by senior US Intelligence officers, meets with British PM Clement Atlee in December 1947 and discloses the VENONA project to him. In particular he tells Atlee that there had been a serious leak of very sensitive information about British long term strategies and that the leak had been traced to Australia and the Department of External Affairs. Atlee tasked Sillitoe with travelling to Australia and informing Ben Chifley, Australian PM of the findings. This presented a major problem to Sillitoe as the disclosure could put at risk the whole VENONA project, a cover story was suggested and adopted as the best way forward. The cover would be that the information on the leaked documents came from a Russian defector and plans were made to have Sir Percy travel to Australia, he would take Roger Hollis, MI5, with him. In fact they eventually both travelled on separate days towards the end of January 1948. Atlee cabled Ben Chifley and told him to expect a visit from Sillitoe on a matter of some importance. In Defence of The Realm

January 1948
According to Guy Liddell's diary, (Deputy Director General of the Security Service) during January 1948 a number of top secret meetings were held within the offices of MI5 with the topic being the US cables (VENONA) project and Sillitoe's impending visit to Australia for meetings with Ben Chifley and 'Doc' Evatt. The cover story was expanded and was somewhat nervously agreed to. Roger Hollis would accompany Silletoe with both men leaving for Australia at the end of January.

During Silletoe's absence, further meetings were held discussing the setting up of an MI5 Australian Office with a number of potential MI5 officers being considered for the position in Australia. This was even before Sillitoe and Hollis had met with Chifley and revealed the real nature of VENONA and an unusual level of confidence on behalf of MI5.

February 2nd 1948. Courtenay Young was selected as the man to head up the new Australian office for MI5. Also on this day Winston Churchill let it be known that he wanted to inlucde SIGINT information in his upcoming book, MI5 thought this was 'naughty'

February 16th 1948 Livanov, Soviet Ambassador to Australia, was in transit in London and openly boasting about having numerous 'Informants' in Australia.

A man called POLDEN from Australian SIGINT , had been found to have passed on sensitive information to an unauthorised source.

During February, a man called BLOUNT ( Not Blunt) was mentioned in connection with SIGINT Australia.

There were a number of other references to Australia within February/March which will be posted when further information is confirmed.

April 14th, Milne is named as a person with a Communist background who had requested information on the telegrams that formed the original leakage from Australia. Milne sat on the JIC (Joint Intelligence Committee).

NOTE: Both Roger Hollis and Guy Liddell were later to be accused of being Russian moles.

In the next post, which will be added here within 48 hours, we will move the time line of events further along into 1948 and include more people who were involved in the project. There is much already revealed here with more to come, for some site visitors this information will be quite new and may even cause them to rethink their views of those early cold war years and the involvement of Australians.


Anonymous said...

The listening posts GC ... would it have been likely that Canberra, or Sydney had one for embassy and legation traffic?
- possibly manned by a dozen vivacious nurses?

Gordon332 said...

Has to be possible, listening posts were found to work better in fairly remote areas. Has something to do with 'ionospehric propagation' of signals I believe but not being an expert in this field we will have to find someone to asssist us in that task. Whilst much of the outgoing traffic may well have been from Canberra, I would feel sure that some would have emanated from other locations in Australia. Incoming traffic would generally have been from Moscow or the US.

Anonymous said...

another question - who do you think controlled the staffing of these stations?

Gordon332 said...

There are a couple of names that I have come across, I need to do a little more work and then I will publish them. At a higher level it wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that the Americans would have a big input but there were a number of Australian Officers who may have had a level of control in the selection of local staff. Another few days ought to do it.

Gordon332 said...

Pete, I have added two names, Polden and Blount, both of whom were SIGINT Australia people and who could only be reached by MI5 by going through Australian authorities. Polden committed a security breach in January 1948 according to Lidell's Diaries, by disclosing the contents of a Venona cable with someone from the Australian Government. I will try to find out who that was and post it.

Gordon332 said...

Byron, Tried to contact you but emails bounced on .com and