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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.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Somerton Man: Another Espionage Case & Another Rubaiyat and Code..

Another Rubaiyat and code found in an Espionage case.
As far as I know, no one has yet looked for let alone found, another espionage case where a copy of the Rubaiyat figured in the case. That is until recently, for some weeks I have been researching this issue and have found another such example.

The case is about an act of Espionage and is in itself quite well known. What wasn't known was that the main character had amongst their possessions, a copy of the Rubaiyat.

Roger Casement in earlier years
The man in question, the main character was Sir Roger Casement and depending on your perspective he was either an Irish Hero or a British Traitor. Sir Roger is actually the bearded man you can see in the front centre of the conning tower of the German submarine.

Casement was born in Dublin in 1864 of Irish parents; his father being a distinguished army officer. He went on to become a Consul in Africa and South America and he was awarded 'The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael' in 1905 for those services. His subsequent experience of the treatment of Natives in British territory was such that he became not only totally disillusioned with the British Government but he quickly joined sides with the Irish Nationalists to fight against them. Towards that end he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

(On a personal note, both Roger Casement and I were Baptised at St Mary's Catholic Church in Rhyl, North Wales by a Jesuit priest; some years between those events I hasten to add.)

The U19, referred to as 'Willies Yacht' by Casement, was commanded by a Kapitan Weissbach. In his previous posting, Weissbach was the torpedo officer on the U20, the submarine that sank the Lusitania.

Kapitan Weissbach
The Casement landing took place at around 3 a.m. on Friday 21st April 1916 at a place called Banna Strand not far from Tralee on the West Coast of Ireland but it wasn't until later in the day that he was found and arrested in the area of McKenna's Fort by a Sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary.

At around 4 a.m. on that Good Friday a boat was discovered near Tralee by a local farmer, John M'Carthy, It was found to contain  a tin box containing pistol ammunition, some 900 rounds in total including that found close by.
Boat found near Tralee

Nearby and buried in the sand were 3 Mauser pistols, more ammunition, several maps of Ireland of 'foreign origin', a flash lamp, an Irish flag, two lifebelts and also buried in the sand was found a copy of the Rubaiyat (See King Leopold's ghost by Adam Hochschild. Page 285. Copy here) Why would you bury a book?

Although our focus is the finding of a Rubaiyat amongst Roger Casement's belongings and parts of a coded message, it's only right that we should explain some of the background to the arrest of Casement and subsequent events leading up to his trial and execution.

Good Friday 1916 was a momentous one as it signalled the beginnings of the Easter Uprising in Dublin.

Casement, a confidant of both Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera was playing his part by organising the supply of arms and ammunition for 'the cause'. A German freighter, the 'Libau', (formerly known as the 'Castro' a captured British vessel), was renamed 'Aud Norge' and flying a Norwegian flag', was en-route to the West Coast of Ireland with a cargo of 20,000 rifles, 10 machine guns and 2 million rounds of ammunition although, according to records, that was well short of the 200,000 rifles that Casement had agreed with German High Command. So much so in fact that he had made efforts to have the planned Easter rising called off because of the lack of armaments.

The 'Aud Norge' was spotted off the West Coast first by HMS Shatter and was boarded by the Captain of that ship but nothing was found, later the Aud Norge was intercepted by HMS Bluebell and following a shot across the bows, it was escorted to a nearby port, Queenstown as was then. It didn't make the destination as the Captain of the Aud, Karl Spindler, opted to abandon ship with 5 officers and 16 men of the German Navy shortly before he scuttled the ship and its cargo. A Navy diver later found a sample of the rifles and munitions on board and presented them to the court at Casement's trial.

Earlier we spoke of the discovery of some coats along with the other items found by Police; in one of the coat pockets was a railway ticket from Berlin to Wilhelmshaven dated 12th April 1916. Wilhelmshaven being a Submarine base at that time, this was presumably where Casement and his two companions boarded 'Willie's Yacht'.

Seems we have yet another 'coincidence' with the SM case. Now we have a beach, a Rubaiyat, some code, a handwritten note and a railway ticket. No sign of any poison but Casement had not been a well man for some time, he was in fact quite weak and hardly able to travel according to some accounts. Something else we have is MI5 involvement.

Will there be more? There is another post under development and it also surrounds Espionage on a grand scale well seasoned with aspects of clandestine communication including confirmed use of micro writing. Once again you'll find similarities and the common denominator with the the Somerton Man case would be British Military Intelligence.

As you would expect with this form of operation, there was a code found. In this case it conveniently came with it's decoded information as you can see in the image to the left. The code is in number format and a typed decoded version is shown alongside each set of numbers.

In addition, on the back of the code there is a handwritten, pencilled, note as above on the right. Interestingly there was no code book as such found and hence the question regarding the Rubaiyat and its purpose. We should also take into account the fact that 2 prayer books were amongst Casement's possessions at the time though nothing is known about them to this point.

It's worthwhile mentioning that the Irish had a particularly good Intelligence arm in those times, it had successfully infiltrated MI5 and the Royal Irish Constabulary to the extent that Michael Collins was at one time able to enter Dublin Castle undetected and view his own MI5 file.

The IRA later had its own Intelligence gathering capabilities and were quite adept at using codes. In fact they used a book, 'The Scarlet Letter' for keys for their codes back in 1927.

One of the authors of the book 'Decoding The IRA', refers to his previous experience with The Voynich Manuscript. You can read more and see examples of his deciphering work on IRA codes here: Decoding The IRA.

In the book, they make reference to IRA codes going back 80 years, could it be possible that the Somerton Man Code has its roots in an old IRA code?

A good time to invite Nick Pelling in to this discussion, it seems that we now have some convergence :) I am sure Nick and his followers would add real value to the information that has been uncovered and presented here. It remains to be seen whether we can make further progress of course.

The lingering question is did the Casement Rubaiyat have anything to do with the code that was found on the piece of paper shown in the images? For the IRA, using a book for keys to a code was later found to be common practice. Therefore it is possible but we need to temper this view given that during research, I came across a document that discussed Casement's letters one of which was an exchange between he and Dick Morten, a long time friend. The letter was dated 1901 and in it Casement thanks Morten for a copy of the Rubaiyat that he had sent him. He goes on to write a critique of Omar's work. What we don't know is the edition or the size/publisher of this copy nor that of the copy found buried in the sand some 15 years later. Here's a link to the Dick Morten document.

There is a mass of information and research documentation about Roger Casement who was eventually hanged for the crime of treason, in fact the law was somewhat warped to ensure his death by the addition of a single comma, History has references to Casement having been 'Hung by a comma'

I found much of interest in the book 'The Trial of Sir Roger Casement'  and other sources including the links provided above in this post.

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