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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 March 2019



(Updated 31/05/19, see below)

The first image above is from the Major Moulds file which contains some good samples of his handwriting and the second image is of Verse 70 in the copy of the Rubaiyat supposedly written into by Jessica Harkness and given to Alf Boxall.

In the previous post, we were able to show the distinct similarities between the signature shown in verse 70 and that of Major William Jestyn Moulds.

The comparison shown below focuses on just two letters for now, the 'R' in Verse 70 compared to the 'R' in Retirement from Major Moulds' file and then the letter 'b' in 'but' from line of Verse 70 compared to the letter 'b' in the word 'be' the third letter on the top line of the Major's file:

And now a close-up view:

And there you have at least some of the evidence that yet again shows the similarities between the handwriting of Major Moulds and that writing found on Verse 70.

I am as sure as I can be that Major Moulds was the person who wrote the inscription in the Rubaiyat given to Alf Boxall. 

As usual, there's more work to be done on this comparison. We will bear in mind that a handwriting example is rarely an exact match even from the same hand so allowances should be made for slight variances and for the difference in the writing instruments used. The two examples above are extremely close in this instance and they stood out from the first examination.

If you are going to use the term 'explosive' then this evidence is just that. It turns the whole case on its head, more questions need to be asked and answers found:

1. What role did Jessica really play?
2. Why did Alf go to such lengths to conceal the truth?
3. Why did the Police not pursue questioning of Alf?
4. Did the Police know the truth all along?
5. What role was played by Major Moulds?
6. Is this another example of The Association in action?

I am sure there will be more questions but right now there's further work to be done on this and on other issues.

UPDATE 31/05/19

A very useful document dealing that discusses life in and around Manly during WW2 has come to light, you can download it here: 


  1. how do you know it's his writing on file? surely he wouldn't be recording stuff himself....
    that's why all the other entries are in a different hand....

  2. Thanks for the comment. Short answer is yes, Officers would generally fill in some or all of their own service records, records were kept in the field and also at HQ plus a third set. If you look down the right hand side columnon the service record form you will see a set of initials and amongs them you will see WM.

    You will also see that there is a duplication of some of the records for Major Moulds and sometimes in a different hand. What you can do is to go through the file, the attestation form is a good starting point, and check samples of his writing and signatures including the signed surname MOULDS and you will be able to match the handwriting from that part of the signature to the letter 'd' for example in the form above and from the other forms he completed and then of course the example provided in the post. Reading up on Army Forms at NAA will also be of some help.You can contact NAA or AWM and ask them the question. Hope this helps!

  3. Certainly the letters 'B' and 'R' do standout as exactly the same in Verse 70 and Mould's service record. I would also look at the letter 'P' in the word Spring in Verse 70 and, compare the letter 'P' in the word Upon in Mould's record? I think that Jessie may have been acting as a go-between Moulds and Boxall, she had a very good idea of what was going on but, only Moulds and Boxall had the key? Clive

  4. Hi Clive, Agreed, the letter 'P' in 'Spring' is very similar to the letter 'p' in 'placed'

  5. the initials next to the handwriting shown above are definitely not WJM (or any combination of it), although I'll agree some other examples certainly appear to have something that could be WM.

    I also asked some ex-military colleagues, and a historian from ADFA, and both thought it fairly unusual that someone would write in their own records - apparentl there's a dedicated office for that. But I'd be interested in reading the bit on the NAA that you referred to (I couldn't find it), in case I misunderstood something or my sources are simply wrong.

  6. Thanks for the comment, to get clarification on the issue of whether service people filled in their own records, you might find it useful to give the NAA a call. That's where I got the information from in the first instance. They were quite clear on the issue and referred to the various copies, up to 3, one of which was quite possibly signed by the officer concerned. The other question related to one officer filling in the comments and anothersignibg them off as correct. Not quite as straightforward as it may appear it seems. There are other examples of WJMs writing on some of the documents that you might want to look at. Is your point that the handwriting doesn't match or is it more about the process?

  7. Can't speak for OP, but for me both are problematic.
    I think the handwriting isn't all that similar. sure some consideration that different types of pens were used, but to me the differences outweigh the similarity. The R on the right is more flourished, while the b on the left looks more enthusiastic. the e following either letter differs too.

    All of that said, as the OP points out - unless we're certain the service record is in Moulds' writing, the comparison is irrelevant.

    So for me, both the comparison AND the process are a problem

  8. Just spoke with NAA, they confirmed yet again that the person who wrote the comments section of the forms is not necessarily the same person who signed off the information as being correct. Indeed the heading for that end column suggests as much. They also confirmed that Officers on occasion did complete their own comments/information on their records. Bear in mind that there could be 2 or more versions of the same form/information which, in the case of Major Moulds seem to have been assembled into one version.

    With regards to the handwriting comparison, I am sure you would be aware that with handwriting, it is rarely 100% consistent and that individual letters and signatures will vary from day to day or even word to word as is the case with the comparison in the post above. You will note that the letter R for example is shown in the same ink but looks different within the same entry. So for those reasons I disagree with you, in my view the writing is very similar and I am still as sure as I can be that Major Moulds not only signed the verse 70 inscription it is highly likely that he wrote it as well.

  9. 8109, many thanks for your message and yes, I do remember that number:) With regards to the issue of handwriting comparison, you correctly state that many regard the process of handwriting comparison as being pseudoscience. There are others that think otherwise and of course that leaves us having to contend with a less than perfect result.

    What has been found here is that there was indeed someone bore the name JESTYN, a Major William Jestyn Moulds who happened to serve in the same regiment and at the same time as Alf Boxall. The Major used the name JESTYN regularly in his signature and when signing official documents.

    In actual fact, he is one of only 4 records of men at NAA who bear the name JESTYN either as a first or middle name. Two of them are records of men who apparently served in the CMF, (Civilian Military Forces), a third served in the RAAF.

    Major Moulds is the only man with the name JESTYN who served in the same regiment as Alf Boxall and to our relatively unskilled eyes, his handwriting, specifically his signature, is noticeably similar to the signature 'JESTYN' found in the copy of the Rubaiyat that was apparently given to Alf Boxall by the nurse, Jessica Harkness.

    For the record Jessica was never known as 'JESTYN', it was a name given to her by ex Detective Sergeant Gerry Feltus, the author of the book, 'The Unknown Man'. My understanding is that she was nicknamed 'Tina' in her nursing days.

    We have a link between Lieutenant Alf Boxall, Major William Jestyn Moulds and Jessica. You could say that we have found a 'Major' piece of the Somerton Man puzzle but it leaves us with a question, just Where does that take us? We could start with the RSL and 'The Association'.

  10. I have a Harkness marrying a Moulds ... we might get lucky.

  11. Interestingly, whilst doing a little extra research, it seems that Major William Jestyn Moulds, who had a wartime address on the Esplanade in Manly, lived just a short distance from the home of Commander Rupert Basil Long, head of NIB and and the Australian connection for SOE, MI5 representative and other Allied intelligence organisations. Commander Long was also a leader for the NSW anti communist group known as 'The Assocation', a group that had strong connections to the RSL and, earlier, to the VDC.

  12. Useful document link for those interested in Life in Manly WW2 is included in this post as at 31/05/19