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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.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

SOMERTON MAN: OLD CODES, NEW CODES & CONCEALMENT 2, THE POEM CODE


THE POEM CODE

This is the second in our series of WW1 and WW2 codes that were in use by British intelligence services, in fact this particular one was used with great effect by Leo Marks of SOE. An example of his work follows the first few paragraphs.

THE POEM CODE EXPLAINED

This is how a poem code works. Start with a poem which you have memorized: it needn’t be especially long, nor complete. For example, this fragment from Ulysses will do: “for my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars until I die.” Select five words as a key from this: say, “for”, “sail”, “all”, “stars”, “die.” String them together and then number the letters, starting with “a” as 1, the second “a” as 2, etc.; or if there is no second “a”, then “b” is numbered 2; if no “b” then “c” gets labelled 2, and so on until we have numbered all letters. The result:


Now suppose we want to encrypt the message, “We have run out of cigars, situation desperate.” Incidentally, encoding must not be confused with encrypting—our message, for example, may be encoded, “Nothing left for Mark Twain to do, dammit” (where we hope the person hearing this is clever enough to figure it out). Since there are 18 letters in our poem selection, we write out the message in groups of 18 letters, padding the end with nonsense letters, like this:


Note the first letter from our poem snippet, an “f”; under it is a 6: the second letter is an “o” and under it is a 12. In our (padded, grouped message) the 6th column of letters is “eud”, and under the 12th is “tdk”. It was more or less standard practice to send the encrypted message in groups of five letters, which reduced (but of course did not eliminate) transmission errors. So the first part of our message would be:  eudtd koekc pmwrt.

SOE Poem Code

The 'Slideshare' presentation below is courtesy of Derek Buff, it discusses a Leo Marks Poem, in fact it is the one he gave to an SOE operative, Violet Szabo, you may recall her name, a film was made of her work and her sad passing, CARVE HER NAME WITH PRIDE. It is an excellent presentation and one I hope you will enjoy.

We have a number of upcoming posts in this same vein and all related to various war time codes including the Cold War and agents such as the Somerton Man, Pavel Ivanovich Fedosimov..

24 comments:

Катя said...

Hello, Gordon!
You have a very interesting blog! Found it a few days ago, I can not tear myself away)
Forgive me for writing a comment not on the topic of the post. I caught sight of a strange note with initials similar to Jestin's in 1936. Of course, she was then 15 years old, rather early .. But even if it's not that Jestin, it's still a very strange note ..

The Wooroora Producer (Balaklava, SA)
12 ноя 1936
Balaklava, South Australia, Australia
"... Personal Sister Harkness, daughter of Mr & MrsJHarkness, left for England by the "Moldavia" to gain further experience in her nursing career"

https://www.myheritage.com/research/collection-10450/the-wooroora-producer-balaklava-sa-12-%D0%BD%D0%BE%D1%8F-1936?lang=RU&itemId=37418517&action=showRecord&recordTitle=The+Wooroora+Producer+%28Balaklava%2C+SA%29

Moldavia was built by Caird & Company of Greenock, Scotland for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. Her yard number was 301 and she was launched on 28 March 1903.
Moldavia was later serving as a troopship and was carrying U.S. troops when she was sunk on 23 May 1918 off Beachy Head in the English Channel, by a single torpedo from the German Type UB III submarine SM UB-57. .[1][3] Her sinking resulted in the deaths of 54 U.S. soldiers on board, and 1 further at Western Heights Military Hospital Dover 2 days later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Moldavia


Катя said...

Hello, Gordon!
You have a very interesting blog! Found it a few days ago, I can not tear myself away)
I caught sight of a strange note with initials similar to Jestin's in 1936. Of course, she was then 15 years old, rather early .. But even if it's not that Jestin, it's still a very strange note ..
The Wooroora Producer (Balaklava, SA)

12 ноя 1936
 Balaklava, South Australia, Australia

"... Personal Sister Harkness, daughter of Mr & MrsJHarkness, left for England by the "Moldavia" to gain further experience in her nursing career"

https://www.myheritage.com/research/collection-10450/the-wooroora-producer-balaklava-sa-12-%D0%BD%D0%BE%D1%8F-1936?lang=RU&itemId=37418517&action=showRecord&recordTitle=The+Wooroora+Producer+%28Balaklava%2C+SA%29

Anonymous said...

Moldavia was built by Caird & Company of Greenock, Scotland for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. Her yard number was 301 and she was launched on 28 March 1903.
Moldavia was later serving as a troopship and was carrying U.S. troops when she was sunk on 23 May 1918 off Beachy Head in the English Channel, by a single torpedo from the German Type UB III submarine SM UB-57. .[1][3] Her sinking resulted in the deaths of 54 U.S. soldiers on board, and 1 further at Western Heights Military Hospital Dover 2 days later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Moldavia


USSR

The passenger-motor ship "Moldavia" was built by order of the USSR in 1928 at the shipyard "Schiffswerft & Maschinenfabrik" (formerly known as "Janssen & Schmilinsky") in Hamburg and in the same year entered the Black Sea for Odessa's "Sovtorgflot".
Building number of the ship "Moldavia" - 677
After completion of the construction and commissioning on the Black Sea, which took place approximately in 1928-1929, the ship began work on the line of the Court, assigned to the port of Odessa, were put on the cargo-passenger line Odessa-Nikolaev-Kherson-Odessa. (Ukraine) .
This line was attractive not only for passengers traveling between Odessa and Kherson (or Nikolaev and Ochakov, if there were calls made there). Kherson was the final destination of river passenger vessels making trips along the Dnieper along the Kiev-Kherson line, and thus, the opportunity was opened for connecting flights - transfer to another line and convenient communication between Odessa and the ports on the southern part of the Dnieper and, if necessary, even to Kiev .
The ship "Moldavia" worked on this line until the very beginning of the 1941-1945 war.
With the outbreak of the 1941-1945 War, the ship was included in the Soviet Navy.

http://kruiznik.ru/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2761


In July 1936, General Franco raised a military mutiny, thereby initiating a civil war in Spain.
In this situation, the Soviet government decided to help the Spanish Republic in the fight against the rebels.
Almost all Soviet aid went by sea. The first Soviet courts that arrived in Spain were the Kuban and the Neva. On September 23, 1936, they brought food and clothing to the port of Alicante. The first Soviet transport with weapons was the motor ship Komsomol, which arrived in Cartagena from Odessa on October 13, 1936. On its side, besides other military cargo, there were fifty T-26 tanks. The next ship of the Black Sea Shipping Company with 25 I-15 fighters was the ship Kursk, which arrived in Alicante on November 2. And on November 1, steamships "Andreev" (Baltic Shipping Company) and "Turksib" (Belomorsk Shipping Company) came to Bilbao. In total, from October 13, 1936 to September 1, 1937 52 Soviet transport vehicles with military cargoes arrived at the republican ports.
The ships of the Spanish fleet approximately equally went to the Republicans and the Francoists. On November 18, 1936, the rebels declared a blockade of the republic's ports. Soon they were joined by the Italians.
In October-November 1936, more than 510 tons of Spanish gold was delivered from the port of Cartagena to Odessa on four ships - Neva, Kim, Kuban and Volgoles. Perhaps, some other part of the gold in the same way was later sent on the steamer Khrushchev.

https://history.wikireading.ru/98945

I apologize for my English (I'm from Russia)
Kate

Gordon332 said...

Thanks Kate, very interesting information. Am I correct on saying that the Harkness family departed from Balaklava, (North of Adealaide and not far from Port Wakefield) in November 1936 aboard the Russian built Moldavia and probably left via Port Adelaide? MISCA, were you aware of this family? Clive?

Please keep an eye on this post Kate and many thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

As mentioned Gordon, look at "The Pinnaroo & Border Times" 9 Sept 1943 Page 3--Sister Jessie Harkness-what a surprise!

Gordon332 said...

Well, curiouser and curiouser! Another Jessie Harkness in South Australia and a nursing sister to boot. I wonder if she is the same one that you refer to Kate? Another part of South Australia by quite some distance. If you try Trove and enter the term Sister Jessie Harkness you should get to the article. Whatever next.

peterbowes said...

An empty identity waiting for someone to slip inside. GC, this is too good to be true.

Gordon332 said...

I think you're probably right, too good to be true... Let's see how it unfolds though :) The press articles are the real deal, hmmm...

Anonymous said...

Hi Gordon, See "Chronicle" 5 July 1945 Page 16 and same paper dated 27 June 1946 Page 16-interesting?

Gordon332 said...

An update, thanks to Misca we now know that a Harkness family was quite well known in the Balaklava area in the times shown by Kate. This means that it is a coincidence a fascinating one nonetheless. Many thanks for your comment Kate and keep them coming, it is an extraordinary subject and the answers pop up now and then where you least expect them.

What this proves of course, is that people with the same names and even involved in similar occupations do crop up even at the same time in history. The mention of the name Pavel Fedosimov for example led one inexperienced sleuth to conclude that it must be the same person as the man who disappeared in 1948, this was done with no photograph and nothing more than a mention of the name. The moral of the story is that you need to bring forward the photographs and/or solid documentation proving that you have the same person before making a claim, when that is done then you have a case. I am not suggesting that you shouldn't bring it up as a topic worth investigating as Kate has done here, it's just best not to make it final.

Gordon332 said...

Are we looking for a particular name?

peterbowes said...

Gordon, do we know where Jessica 1 was when Jessica 2 travelled abroad with the Russians?

Gordon332 said...

Jessica 2 travelled abroad when Jessica 1 was 15 years old approximatley, I guess that makes her living in Mentone?

peterbowes said...

When did J2 reappear, do we know?

Anonymous said...

Where have you gone Kate? Just like that? This bit of info and off you go?

Anonymous said...

Gordon! I can post! My message to Kate (just above) is from me!

Misca

Gordon332 said...

Kate, a bit puzzled by your absence. There is quite a discussion happening on the www.tomsbytwo.com blog on his topic, your input would be valued.

Anonymous said...

Sister Jessie Harkness of Owen/Balaklava appears to be the same Sister Jessie Harkness (matron) of Jamestown (150km North) in the 1950s. There's pictures of her on trove if anyone's interested - however I think given she's still there in the 1950s (And still a Harkness) everyone loses interest....

Gordon332 said...

Thanks for the comment, it is interesting as a coincidence as it appears to be. Does leave you wondering though, it is remotely possible that there is a connection but I stress 'remote'

Anonymous said...

Hard to say. Harkness seems to be a reasonably common surname at that time in Adelaide -
search through trove and/or the almanacs and there's spatterings of them all over. Of course, Jestyn wasn't an Adelaidean (was she?). So it would seem if there's a connection it would either mean a relative or (as I think Pete suggested) someone taking on an existing identity. From what I can tell, this J Harkness had returned to Australia by about 1943 -
can't find it now but there was an article in trove that talked about J Harkness giving a talk on her meeting with the queen - actually maybe it was one of the 2 mentioned by someone above.

The fact this Harkness continues to exist sort of points to them being relatively (no pun) independent. It might be interesting to try to trace when she went from Owen to Jamestown, and compare that to when the other Jess Harkness appeared - not just in Adelaide, but how far back can we definitively trace Jestyn? It might also be worth seeing if we can find a re-entry record for this Jessie into Australia - and double check the identity records (eg birth date) are conistent.

"Jessie" doesn't really sound consistent to me with Jestyn (who used "Jo" as a nickname?) - but that might just be me.
This Jessie:
"Jessie Read Harkness"
- Passed Nurses Exam, memorial hospital May 1930
- Passed (just a pass, ie no credit) Midwifery exam June 1931 - Queen's Home (I think - not entrirely certain)

Of vague interest:
There appears to have been a ship called "Jessie Harkness" (an 1882 record)
There's a deceased estate in a 1945 paper for a Jessie Harkness Kate Laity (Wagga Wagga)

Gordon332 said...

I agree with you that the Harkness family name was widespread throughout Australia and probably still is. We found a number of press articles as J2 gave talks or attended weddings in SA but nothing that led us anywhere. Yes, I saw the boat described as a 'Barque', goodness knows we do seem to have a lot of barking going on in one corner of this blog topic though not this blog :) The first name of both nurses was Jessica, Jestyn being the name J1 signed on the Verse 70 from the Rubaiyat written for Alf Boxall.

It is interesting that we have two people of the same name, the same occupation, the same State and in the same time frame and shown to be two quite different people The lesson I take from that relates to our other topic, Pavel Ivanovich Fedosimov, is that PIF 1 was last seen in July 1948 and when someone of the same name turns up 10 years later in Vienna, there are those who immediately jumped to the conclusion that it must be the same person.

The Same name from the same country many times larger than Australia, one was a known spy and the other a recognised diplomat with a 10-year gap between the name being mentioned. We have a photograph of PIF 1 but a thorough search found that no photograph existed of PIF 2. As a wise man recently stated, no evidence is evidence.

I thank you for your comment and what you have to say is interesting, I will spend some more time on this but it may be a few weeks before I get back to it, there are another couple of posts in the offing that need some attention right now.

One final thought, isn't it interesting that it has taken so many years for this 'coincidence' to turn up?

Anonymous said...

Your last point is probably the most interesting - although I think we amateur sleuths have only known of Jessica Harkness for less than 10 years (until then she was 'Jo Thomson' or 'Theresa Powell' or 'the nurse'). That it's not mentioned in any official investigation may suggest they ddn't see the similarity or, more likely, they had good reason to dismiss it. If we follow the media trail the authorities seemed quite uninterested in her at the time and don't appear to have delved to deeply into who she was or where she came from.

I see Jestyn's birthdate (on various sites, and alluded to in the commetns above) listed as 1921 - but it's always on Tamam Shud sites, so was wondering if you knew whether that date actually came from?

Gordon332 said...

Thanks for your comment, the date of 1921 I think came from the original FB page that was, World Search for a Rare Copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Must be 12 years ago or close to.

Gordon332 said...

Re Fedosimov, I will move this comment to the appropriate thread, saves confusion.