A WARNING: Those site visitors of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Culture should be aware that there are photographs and images of the deceased.

The author of this blog is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers and as such the views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the views and opinions of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, its staff or Directors.

Learn more about the Association including membership requirements at

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.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Somerton Man: Keane, Secret Aircraft Production, The Code Page & A Communist

de Havilland Venom

More to come on this post, not as simple as some would think. 8th October 2014

About This Post

This is a lengthy post and there's great deal of background information that I wouldn't normally include but in this case I think it is particularly relevant. To give you an exec brief of the post, what we have is a known communist whose files have been held by ASIO since March 1949, Edward John Rice. He is before a Commission of Enquiry and a man named Keane is referred to as speaking out against Rice's political position and inflammatory statements by reporting him. We also have some detail on Lawrence (Lance) Louis Sharkey the then Chairman of the Communist Party in Australia on record as having suggesting the use of killing 'scabs' and strike breakers. Six years after this Commission of Enquiry, a man with the name Keane written on some of the clothing found in his suitcase, is found dead on Somerton Beach, he had been poisoned. This man has never been identified.

Does this mean that the man on Somerton Beach was the man 'Keane' from Fisherman's Bend? Does it mean that the Communist Party of Australia had a hand in the events leading up to the discovery of the body? The only way we will find out is to investigate the information provided here, There are numerous leads to be followed up not the least of which is information and photographs of the man Keane. There are a number of links and other starting points in this post and I look forward to comments and feedback from our audience which, by the way, has now cracked 2000 visits per month.

There are a number of links at the bottom of this page that those interested can follow and find additional information.

But first, here's the text version of the Newspaper article above:


'Once a Communist, Says Machinist SYDNEY.-He ceased to be a member of the Communist Party before it was declared an illegal organisation, Edward John Rice, machinist, said at the inquiry today into his suspension five weeks ago by the management of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.
In his evidence Rice told the Commissioner of Inquiry that stewards.had made a round of the various departments, and had called for applications from employees willing to join the Volunteer Defence Corps in the factory. It was considered by shop stewards that a V.D.C. should operate. Not quite 60 applications had been received. Replying to Mr. Lamaro (assisting the Commissioner). Rice said he had no knowledge whether 70 or 80 per cent. of the applications had been from members of the Communist Party. 

Referring to a report of the personnel superintendent (Mr. Edmonds) that Rice and his colleagues had tried to control the air-raid precaution organisation In the factory. Rice said that the only approach they had made to the Minister for National Emergency Services (Mr. Heffron) was through a shop committee. The statement by Edmonds that he had told Naylor, a company official, that he had been to V.D.C. headquarters and had obtained permission to form a unit was more or less correct. 

NOTE THE AUTHOR Rice said that an article in 'The Bomber' dealing with canteens was not written by himself. He was only one of an editorial board of four members which had passed it for publication. Questioned regarding the evidence by Mrs. Dawkins. manageress of a benefits society controlled by the employees, Rice denied that he had asked her for paragraphs for the paper dealing with gossip-and scandal, or that he had threatened her that if she did not give him the materials he wanted he would influence the committee controlling her activities to withdraw support from her. Rice also denied a statement made by Mrs. Dawkins that he had spoken to her about the insecuritv of her position. 

Mr. Ashburner (for the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation).- What is the organisation that you report to at Daking House every afternoon when you leave this court? Rice--I never visit Daking House. Isn't it a fact that you are in favour of a revolution in this country?---No. I am not. Do you remember when you were distributing literature in the factory telling a man named Keane that, "'My one wish above all is to lead a revolution in this country, and when the shooting starts you want to shoot fast"?- No. I never said anything like that. You produce this man- Mr. Ashburner·-Don't worry. he will be produced. (Proceeding)'

Lance Sharkey

NOTE: For researchers, There is a trail that leads by default to Lance Sharkey who was Chairman of the CPA
(Communist Party of Australia) until 1948. This included the years 1940 to 1942 when the Communist Party was driven underground as a result of it being a banned organisation. It is said he directly contributed to the Malaysian insurrection in 1948 and in one instance is said to have told Malaysian Communists that the way to deal with 'scabs', (strike breakers) was to eliminate them. He qualified that by saying that this should happen only in the country areas and not the big cities. In particular he mentioned the mining industry.

You will note the interesting ear shape, this man could not be SM as he survived until 1968. The Ear may be of interest for other comparisons hopefully carried out by a properly qualified person/organisation. There are few images found of this man thus far, this particular one dates to the 1930's, he would have been around 52 years old in 1948.

In 1949, Sharkey was put on trial for sedition and was imprisoned for 3 years with hard labour. Was he guilty? Here's a link to an article written by Harold Rich, Sharkey's solicitor at the trial:
There is ample further information to be found on the web.


The name of Keane or  T. Keane has long been associated with the Somerton Man Case with case being the operative word as it was in the suitcase found at Adelaide Railway Station that this name was found on a number of items including a tie, a white laundry bag and some items of underwear,

People have searched far and wide for this person who has proven to be quite elusive. Local searches extended to Australia wide searches with numerous candidates put forward; to this point, all have been eliminated. Adelaide University has long ago given up the search which I suspect is more down to the attitude of  'If it isn't a simple answer then it must be wrong'.  

Having said that, giving in when you hit a hurdle is not something that I nor colleague Pete Bowes can live with and so I put forward yet another Keane only this time, we have a link that in my view brings together a man named Keane, the Communist Party, secret aircraft manufacture and a union organiser called Edward John Rice. The link to the Somerton Man Case is via the code page where an aircraft name, the Venom, was detected adds to the puzzle, read more below. (You may recall that some time ago we posed the question of Venom or Venona, we have dealt to an extent with the Venona possibility and now we have the Venom to investigate.)

Edward John Rice

This man is of great interest and this is not meaning any disrespect to his descendants. He was a known Communist prior to the hearing described in the newspaper article that heads this post and he does have a file on NAA which you are able to search. You will find it is held by ASIO and it has been since March 1949 so we do not know much about this man nor have I been able to find any images of him. I am sure there are some quality researchers out there who could find the appropriate information and perhaps images as well as details on the Victorian Branch of the Communist Party.

That's the summation of the newspaper article, top secret aircraft production at the time of the newspaper article, Communist activity suspected and two names; KEANE as a witness to the pro Communist activities of EDWARD JOHN RICE. There are a number of other leads in the article including the Volunteer Defence Corps issue, 'The Bomber' publication and Mrs. Dawkins, the Manageress of the Employee Benefits Society.

The Code Page & The Venom

Regular visitors to this blog will recall a post made some time ago regarding the finding of the following micro words and numbers on the Somerton Man code page and beneath the letters S and A in the last line of the code:

2YRS 42

Venom X4512

Earlier investigations suggested that the X4512 closely matched a tender document for the
De Havilland Venom aircraft which was issued in 1942.

1942 was the same year that the DH Vampire Jet first flew in the UK, the Vampire being the forerunner to the Venom. Read more on the Vampire below.

For those who are interested, the orange colour is applied on to the base image on the right to highlight aspects/characters on the code page.

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation

The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation had a facility at Fisherman's Bend in Victoria and it's main purpose through the war years was to firstly produce Wirraway fighters then Beaufort Bombers and later Beaufighters for the RAAF. In the post war years they progressed to Stirling Bomber assembly and then on to the building of components for the de Havilland Vampire, at the time the world's fastest Jet fighter and forerunner to the Venom.

The Vampire first flew in fact in 1942 in the UK and it is believed that first tenders/expressions of interest for building the Venom were also released in 1942, it taking many months and even years for an aircraft to be designed and built. An example would be the Vampire which although first flying in 1942 it was 1945 before it was in front line service in the UK and 1947 before it was produced in Australia,

Fisherman's Bend Production

The place where it all came together, all the components including engines were assembled here and each aircraft flew from the airfield adjacent to the factory.

Below is a rare promotional video showing the operations at Fisherman's Bend in 1941:

Fisherman's Bend Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.


An Adelaide Connection

The smartness of the design was such that the Beauforts and later, Vampires were actually made in separate sections and in different locations including Fisherman's Bend in Victoria, Chulora in New South Wales and Islington Railway Workshops in Adelaide. In Adelaide they made the Main Plane or central components of the aircraft. What makes this information of value is that this assembly method gives us an Adelaide connection, it could be that Rice and perhaps even Keane would have travelled between Fisherman's Bend and Islington as part of their employment.

This being the case then you could ask the question, would they as employees of the CAC have
needed a railway ticket or would they have been issued with a travel warrant that was handed in on completion of their journeys?


Chulora NSW

Chulora appeared to have been the busiest of the three locations charged with making the rear fuselage and central/cockpit/forward areas of the Beaufort:

For all researchers, Fisherman's Bend is in Victoria and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was set up in 1936 to head off a perceived gap between Australian and Japanese military aircraft production capability. As things transpired it was an extraordinarily wise move given the vents in Dunkirk and the UK notifying Australia in 1941 that they could not expect any further shipments of weapons or military aid for the foreseeable future.

For those interested, here's a link to a large photo gallery of Marxists over the years:

Northern Star, Lismore NSW, Tuesday 4th August 1942:

Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 4th August 1942:
NO LONGER A COMMUNIST Dismissed Man's Evidence

Daily Advertiser, Tuesday 4th August 1942:

West Australian, Perth, Tuesday 4th August 1942:
AIRCRAFT EMPLOYEE. Inquiry Into Suspension.

Barrier Daily Truth, Broken Hill, Tuesday 4th August 1942:

Canberra Times, ACT, Tuesday 4th August 1942:
AIRCRAFT WORKER Suspension Inquiry SYDNEY, Monday.

Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, Saturday 1st August 1942:
SUSPENSION INQUIRY "Political Issue Feared"

Daily Advertiser, Wednesday 5th August 1942:
Rice Suspension, Security Department Intervention
Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 5th August 1942
Inquiry Into SuspensionYou will notice that in the Daily Advertiser dated 5th August link that another man's name is mentioned, a Mr. Charles Keenan, however in another article from the Sydney Morning Herald dated 5th August he is also referred to as Frank Keenan, whether this is the same man we have as Keane is a matter to be researched. Which reporter got it right? The only definitive way to prove that it was not Keane is to research the employee names of CAC at the time. Any experienced takers?

I would stress that this at this point is a tenuous link and further research is being undertaken in the UK and here in Australia but it does seem more than coincidental that we have Adelaide, Keane, secret aircraft manufacture, ASIO and the CPA all mentioned and connected in the one post.


Anonymous said...

How many links make an unbreakable chain Gordon?

Gordon332 said...

That's a good question, why do you ask? :)

FYI, there is a lot more to add to this post including an Adelaide connection and ASIO involvement from March 1949, sealed papers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gordon, Interesting article on TROVE from "The Truth" dated 2 August 1942-Clive

Gordon332 said...

Do you have a link to that Clive? Can't find anything for that date.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gordon, I tried to bring up the didn't work!! Just go onto the TROVE website, NSW newspapers, 'The Truth' for 1942 Aug 2, once it appears the article is on Page 17-Clive

Gordon332 said...

Great stuff Clive, will follow up. Also got a Allan Sydney Pickup but the post from you disappeared? Can you repost?

Anonymous said...

Hi Gordon, Allan Sydney Pickup (1916-2001) was one of the 15 engineers who were sent to UK in early 1946-Clive

Gordon332 said...

Got the URL OK and read the article. Could this be the same P.Thompson? If so I think this would be the first time he has been directly linked to a known communist and it would put him one step away from Wally Clayton and all of that in a top secret aircraft environment.Better check the name first though. Great find Clive!

Anonymous said...

Hi Gordon, Sydney Morning Herald 5-8-42 P9 "Keane" was a Frank Keenan who was spoken to by Rice-Clive

Gordon332 said...

Yes, saw that a while ago, there will always be a question of which was the right spelling, it would turn up in CAC records I would think. That would be the only way we would be able to hope to get the right answer. So much more information out there waiting to be uncovered.