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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, 22 July 2017


About a week or so ago, I came across a press announcement regarding the release of a new historical account of Australia's involvement in the massive code breaking efforts of the Allies in the Pacific Theater of War.

I was able to contact the author, David Dufty to congratulate him on the release and told him that I was looking forward to reading it as I had a particular interest in the topic. He kindly wrote back and I believe we will continue our discussion.

I acquired a copy and immediately I started reading it, it was clear that the author wasn't just writing an account based on pure academic research, he had completely immersed himself in the subject and the complexities of relationships between enemies and friends during this time of a war the likes of which no one had ever experienced. 

Being involved in the Somerton Man case, like many others, you get used to reading texts about WW 2, and the early Cold War years and, of course, about espionage and the work of the intelligence services. They all seemed much the same.  However with this work, right from the get go, I wasn't just reading a book, I was being taken on a fascinating journey and became quickly engaged with its content. Those others involved in the SM case will know that when researching if you can find just one nugget of information amongst the many hundreds if not thousands of pages we all must read, you will have done well. With David's book, you feel like you've struck the mother lode. Page after page of really useful and relevant information is contained within its covers.

One example of this relevant information relates to the leaking of top secret information from the higher levels of the Australian Government which had a significant impact on the nature of the relationship between the US and Australia to the extent that information sharing between these Allies was greatly reduced and became even more closely monitored. It turns out that leaks from Australia were detected much earlier than 1948 when Roger Hollis and Percy Sillitoe paid their visit to the Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley. A series of Japanese reports, The Harbin Special Spy Reports, contained secret information that in the end could only have come from Doc Evatt's department or from that of the Minister of Supply and Shipping, John Beasley. This information had come via the Russian Embassy in Canberra. The date was Christmas Eve 1944.  Even though it was to be 1954 before this detail was made public, it was obvious even then that the US, UK and Australia knew of the problem years earlier than the MI5 visit.

Yet another example is that of Australian Code-Breaker, Eric Nave, a man, who of late, has been the subject of much, heated, discussion between two rivals in the blog space covering the Somerton Man case. As David reveals, whilst Eric Nave was a well-respected member of the team at Central Bureau, there were doubts held about his proficiency to the extent that his superiors were disinclined to recommend him for an award at the conclusion of hostilities. The reason given was that whilst Captain Nave had made significant break throughs with Japanese air to ground codes there were thoughts by some that he had breached security on a number of occasions and that his work constantly required supervision.

For me at least, both of these examples, and by the way, there are many others in the book, have shed further light on the background to the Somerton Man case. It is a great resource and I am sure I will be using it as the trusted book of reference it undoubtedly will be. David's 'human' touch made it a thoroughly readable account and an engaging experience. I thoroughly recommend it to all who are serious about following not only the Somerton Man case but also the many other intelligence aspects of the world's greatest conflict.

David Dufty

David Dufty is a Canberra-based writer and researcher. He completed a psychology degree with honours at the University of Newcastle, has a PhD in psychology from Macquarie University, and has worked as a statistician and social researcher at the University of Memphis, Newspoll, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. His previous book, How to Build an Android, described modern developments in robotics and artificial intelligence.

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