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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, 23 July 2017

SOMERTON MAN: M SPECIAL UNIT, UPDATED 25th July


Members of M Special Unit, 1945, Beaudesert, Queensland


This image is from the Australian War Memorial website, it shows what is believed to be the entire complement of men of M Special Unit on the date of their disbandment. at 'Tabragalba' on 10th November 1945. I would assume that some may not have been present due to illness which was an issue for many men serving in the islands. The M Special Unit was, in fact, the renamed and to an extent repurposed Coastwatchers organisation

These men sometimes working alone and sometimes in small groups, were the eyes and ears of the renowned Z Special unit who took the fight to the enemy in many locations in the islands and notably at Singapore Harbour. The men of M special unit were under orders not to engage the enemy directly except in extreme circumstances. Their role was to remain hidden and carry out surveillance n Japanese troop and ship movements.

Spend a moment and think about these men and the work they did along with their native guards and bearers. There was a lot more to the job than being a skilled radio operator although that did necessarily form an important part of the job. Imagine their day, they might well head off into the bush to find a convenient location where they might construct a rough hide and from where they could clearly see the waters below and the flow of waterborne traffic or patrol boats carrying men and materials from one location to another. Whilst the traffic of most interest would be under a Japanese flag, they would also see and record the movements of allied shipping.

The information they gathered needed to be detailed with ship/hull types, ship names and numbers if possible, the nature of the cargo if visible, the number of guns and types, the numbers of troops and their equipment, dates, times, locations and more.

Think about this carefully, how would they record all of that information? A book to lean on, small flimsy message slips and a pencil or three. The task would be done hurriedly and with paper in short supply, they would fit as much as they could on to each precious piece. 

The format would be arranged in shifts, a line for each period of time and then finished off with a coded message at the bottom.

The Somerton Man code page image below shows that sort of format. Pay attention particularly to the letters 'M' circled and the last line that starts with the letter V and ends with AR. There are two kinds of M used in the first lines and two kinds of M in the last line. The last line V is a prosign in radio operators lingo, it tells us who the message is from. The AR at the end of that line is the prosign for 'This is my last message, no reply is expected or required'. These are the pro signs used by members of M Special unit.


Who do we know that plied the waters of the islands sometimes ferrying men and materials from one island to another in small boats?

UPDATE
A Coastwatchers experience:
'However, I should note that on a recent cruise to Milne Bay a native tour guide described the conditions of 1942 as being ‘the place of hell’. It reminded me of a brief stint I had there when a mobile dental unit caught up with me! During two consecutive days, I suffered gruelling drillings of four molar teeth on each day with no anesthetic needles and driven by foot pedal power. Occasionally the dentist had to stop when the drill jammed and he had to crank it up again. It was indeed a ‘place of hell’! Apart from that experience, I came home missing about eight teeth, finishing up with one in each corner of my mouth. Remarkably, I passed as dentally fit as well!'

We have more information to be published shortly on this topic, a busy few weeks ahead.






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