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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.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Somerton Man: Jestyn: Links To The Russian Social Club, Petrov Affair

Jestyn Linked To The Russian Social Club 

Where The Petrov Affair Commenced..

Sydney in the 1940s was a rushing, bustling place and the end of the war in 1945 saw if anything an increase in activity across a wide spectrum. The building of infrastructure to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population, the creation of jobs for Australians and the huge numbers of refugees from all over Europe, Poles, Hungarians, Latvians,  demobbed servicemen and women and not a few ex-POWs. The place was alive.

Everywhere, things. people and ideologies were changing. On a Global level there was an increasing awareness of the emergence of new World powers and the perceived threats that came with them.

Going back a little further, it was in Sydney in 1930 that the Russian Workers Association, a pro-Soviet organisation was formed and it grew until in 1943 it moved from its tiny premises in Oxford Street to larger accommodation at 727 George Street Sydney, just next door to the Great Southern Hotel, a gift for any intelligence agency. 

Modern day photograph, the old Russian Club was in an earlier, now demolished, building to the left. The Great Southern Hotel, number 717, is clearly seen on the right.
In a way, the club became the de facto HQ for the Communist Party of Australia, a convenient watering hole and meeting place, for the real HQ which was situated just a few doors down at 695 George Street.

The Russian Social Club would have been across the street to the left of this building.

Interestingly, the new premises for the Russian Social Club were almost directly opposite the Russia House at 800 George Street, an organisation with its ranks being filled mainly with Russian Monarchists, the White Russians. Through the war years, both organisations closed ranks and worked together to raise and send funds to Russia. When the war ended, the organisations drifted apart once more and in fact at around that time, the CPA went into decline.

The image below is from 1942, taken in Melbourne:

It would be fairly certain that many of Australia's leading Communists would have been regular visitors to the Russian Social Club, not hard to imagine the likes of Fred Rose, Jack Miles, Wally Clayton (code named Klod) and Lance Sharkey being amongst the visitors. Indeed in the years to follow, Vladimir Petrov met a certain Polish emigre, Dr.Michael Bialoguski, a classical violinist and a qualified medical practitioner at the club. After first having tried to recruit the good Dr., Petrov himself was recruited by Dr.Bialoguski who was, in fact, a part-time agent for ASIO who had been involved with Australian Intelligence organisations since 1945. And, as they say, the rest is history.

So, what has this to do with the Somerton Man Case? 

Jestyn Spoke Russian & Jestyn Was A Member Of The CPA..

Jessica Harkness was training to be a nurse at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at Camperdown, a 5-minute tram ride from the Russian Social Club and it is known that she became a member of the CPA in her time in Sydney. What better place to become acquainted with Communist ideals than the Russian Social Club? Of itself, it is something of a stretch to make that statement but there was something else that brought Jessica into the Club.

We've already touched on the fund-raising activities carried out by the club and which included the Russian Medical Aid and Comforts Committee amongst others but they also used to raise funds by holding Russian language classes for fees.

 'The main functions of the club were to provide a place where Russians could meet to hold functions, social gatherings and other activities such as church services and musical events. Other aspects of the club included a school to teach the Russian language and a Russian library.'

Jessica could speak Russian, there seems to have been no opportunity for her to learn the language in her home state of Victoria, but when in Sydney, The Russian Social Club and it's proximity to the Hospital would make it very probable that this was where she learnt to speak the language. (Note: There were also Russian language tutors available in Sydney but that was at a cost which would likely have been out of the range of a young woman on a trainee nurses salary.)

And there you have it. Jessica was a member of the CPA, she could speak Russian and given this information, we now have a very real probability that Jessica learnt that language at the Russian Social Club, she would have joined the CPA in the same location or just a few doors down the street from it. It was an ideal hunting ground for Australian and Russian Intelligence agents as was later proven by the Petrov case.

There is another question that remains, just how did she come to meet Alf Boxall a man with an Australian Intelligence background?

We know that Military Intelligence and later ASIO agent Dr.Michael Bialoguski frequented the club, it would be no great surprise to find that he and others would have done so to source and recruit agents from other members. Could it be that Jessica was amongst those recruits and she was introduced to Alf as a result of those efforts? On the balance of probabilities, that is what happened. Bear in mind that in those post-war years, there was a huge effort to close down the communist party by the then Labour Government and the subsequent Menzies Government, counter-espionage activity was very much on the cards. That would explain her meeting with Alf Boxall, she was recruited and then introduced to him for further training.

Could it be that the Russian Social Club is where Jessica first met the Somerton Man? Was he her language tutor? Was he another attendee at a course? Or was he another recruit for Australian Intelligence or perhaps even a Russian agent?

The Russian Social Club still exists today only  now it's based in Lidcombe. What a trove of information might still be in existence there, photographs, membership records, visitors books. A task perhaps for the dedicated enthusiasts?

This blog has many visitors from all parts of the world including a good number from Russia. I ask our Russian followers to please share this post and the latest, photo-realistic image of the Somerton Man shown below in the hope that we can get him identified and have him returned to his homeland wherever that may be.

Short description: About 1750 mm tall, grey eyes, auburn hair, physically a very fit man for his age which was around 44 years in 1948, unusually high and well-developed calf muscles.

Three more posts in this series yet to come, each offers something new and hitherto not published in connection with the SM case.

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