A foggy day in Old London Town (#2)

OSB 1 

By Alan Hamill

What happened on Somerton Beach and in Adelaide in 1948?

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Somerton, Code, Tamam, Shud, Jestyn, Thomson

In an office somewhere in London early 1921:-

“Sir, we’ve just received a letter from Australia with some troubling news.”

“Well then, out with it man, what’s the colony up to now? Do they want us to stop sending them felons?”

“No Sir, the letter is to advise us that they are disbanding the Australian Imperial Force as of the first of April, this coming April, next month, Sir.”

“They were all volunteers so I’d say they would be wanting to return to their families and previous lives. I suppose we shouldn’t interfere with anything to do with the governance of their country from over here.

Pity though, they did put in an admirable showing in Turkey and those other places.

That Light Horse lot will be remembered! The Fourth, the Fifth, the Seventh, the Eighth Regiments of the Light Horse Brigades in particular.”

“Indeed, Sir”

“Anyway, we did get a bit of a heads up that the various Australian Divisions were experiencing the repatriation of many of its members and subsequent manpower deficit. We know they have combined the Second and Third Divisions together, and the Fourth and Fifth Divisions together, so it wasn’t all that unexpected.

When I realised the Australians were returning, I thought I’d have an old sailing chum of mine to keep an eye on how things were happening out there. He has been keeping me up to date for several years.

I did think His Majesty’s interests would be well served for us to maintain some oversight of what goes on from time to time on the other side of the world. I think I’ll get my chum to head up a new group as he already has the feel for what’s required.

What we’ll do is to quietly use some of our citizens to keep an eye out for us. You know, just a little group of loyal Brits and ex-Brits, or refugees we have provided safe haven and new identities to, that can just go about their business and if something were to be building just under the surface they would be well placed to let us know about it. You know, many ears, many eyes.

The people best placed to do this task would be nurses, doctors, chemists, hoteliers, people of importance and standing in the community, and a few with a particular expertise in their field.”

“Military, Sir?”

“No, No, No, we don’t need this out in the open. Our military is always under scrutiny so we’ll leave them out of this for the time being.

And I think we’ll use the cover of local Infectious Diseases Hospitals and Asylums for the apparent legitimacy of this group. No-one really wants to be around these places for too long and it doesn’t really have to be at these hospitals, just look like it.”

“How will we refer to this group Sir? Will we need codenames?”

“No, we’ll just let the people go about their roles, no lights, no fanfare. As for communications, we can’t bring attention to them so we will use the old favourite of newspaper advertisements and the like.

I’ve always tried to keep things as simple as possible and one of my likes is the element of keeping things hidden in plain sight, you know what I mean?

Keep things hidden in plain sight.”

He looks down at his desk for a bit and strokes his left eyebrow with his yellow stained fingers.

Somerton, Code, Tamam, Shud, Jestyn, Thomson

“To those who need to know, and only them, we’ll refer to this group and their roles as The Army Club”

“The Army Club, Sir?”

“That’s what it will be.

And by the way, if you should see any correspondence from Australia marked M1171 make sure you let me know immediately, urgently.

My old chum has a yacht carrying that registration number and he wants to talk to me about it?

Now I have some work to do, people to contact.



The yacht in question

The Adelaide Yacht

The wheels fall off a bit:-

Unfortunately this group got off to a bit of a rocky start with a very public divorce case between Harold Bickford and his wife Tessa Bickford. Perhaps they were trying a bit too hard too early. Mrs Bickford was accused of having a very full dance card with at least 4 men continually fronting up to do the horizontal waltz with her.

Tessa wanted a quiet legal separation but the publicity and depth of the case wouldn’t allow this to happen. She was found to have entertained Napier Kyffin Birks (Prosper Thomson’s future boss), Frank Eric Hamilton (a vigneron from near Glenelg), Nathan Fryberg (a traveller from Melbourne) and General John Macquarie Antill (Adjutant General of Adelaide) on many, many occasions. It’s likely Napier Kyffin Birks was not a dancer in this waltz but more of a debriefer (pardon the play on words again).

When Teresa’s motives were discovered she had to be sidelined and it was hoped that creating a simple divorce proceedings case would let every player out of the spotlight, but it wasn’t to be. Teresa copped a bucketing publicly but she likely had done her bit “for King and Country”.



      Somerton, Code, Tamam, Shud, Jestyn, Thomson, Bickford

Teresa Veronica Murphy (maiden name) would later move to Melbourne and run one of the largest red light, gambling and SP Bookmaking operations in Victoria at the time.

During these investigations it was suggested “Charlie” Webb may have been a nitkeeper on the door of such a den in Melbourne, a Baccarat den. Had he known Tessa beforehand? Did he work for the Bickfords?

She would have likely also maintained contact with her former husband Harold Bickford (the Head of Stewards and CEO of the South Australian Jockey Club) for business advice. (What are the odds?)

Remaining 20’s and 30’s would go off quietly (on the surface anyway) with The Army Club going about its business. It must have been doing some work as there were regular advertisements in papers from almost every state and in several languages. They were generally job ads but must have had a message in them somewhere. Perhaps the wages with the slash? Something to look at later hey?

The M1171 would prove a valuable asset as it looked like a regular phone number. As the newspapers were not syndicated yet it couldn’t have been an account number for the placement of the advertisements, nor could it be a national number as all phone numbers related to an exchange switchboard in a specific geographic area being allocated the letter prefix and it would be impossible for them to be standardised across the country.


Fast Forward to about November 1944, same office in London:-

“Sir, General Fivestars to see you.”


Good Morning General, how can I help?”

“Good Morning, I need to make contact with someone in Australia to do some work for the US in this Pacific Theatre thingy and it needs to be soon if I could.

At the moment we have little trust in the Australian messaging system as there have been some unwanted leaks, plus we need to make this contact on the QT. We’re still working with Australia but this may be more important than they can manage to run safely if you get my drift.

The other issue preventing us from informing them of our intentions is that Australia is not a signatory to the UK’s and US’s Quebec Agreement we’ve just recently ratified about Nuclear Weapon Development.”

“Indeed, but first could I have your level one authentication for today please? I don’t mean to be rude, just, you know how it is.

Thank you, yes I have such a contact. We refer to him, or should I say them, as the Army Club.

Would you mind letting me into the story so I can ensure it doesn’t place my operation in jeopardy by doing so?”

Harold Bickford A

Harold Bickford

About the war in Europe:-

“As you are aware, we are developing a nuclear system quietly but as fast and heavily as we can for use to end the German activities, and we thank the UK and yourself for the help that’s being provided for both our country’s benefit in that direction.

We’re processing the base materials as quickly as we can in the US but it looks like we may need to obtain some yellowcake from Australia.

Mount Painter in South Australia will provide more Uranium Ore and we’re installing four Denver #30 Sub-A Floatation Machines at the Broken Hill Ltd plant in Port Pirie near Adelaide and will have another machine sitting ready in case of breakdown.

We’ll then fly the trays of Yellowcake to the UK and put it through your processing facility at Flintshire’s Rhydymwyn Valley Works near Mold in Wales.

I’ll let you know the details a little later when we get a better grasp of time frames.”

Later about the War in the Pacific:-

Up until Victory In Europe Day (VE Day) on May 8th 1945 (and for several weeks after) the intention to use a nuclear deterrent was still aligned towards Germany.

“Sir, General Fivestars”.


“Now that Germany is quiet we need to turn our eyes towards the Pacific.

Our US Chiefs intend to make a very big push at the heart of the Japanese War machine, and at the heart of Japan itself, at the end of this winter when clouds are beginning to thin. In comparison to what we have done so far in this war effort, the logistics and manpower needed in the primary mission we’re talking about are minuscule, maybe microscopic. I can tell you it’s something the world will remember for a long time and should bring this Pacific Action to an end quickly. At least that is our hope.

We have been sending elements of this equipment to Australia in boxes marked “Chevrolet-General Motors” as one of the design centres we have is beside the GM Plant so it’s not difficult. If we need something more urgently, the Air Force drop the item at the nearby RAAF strip and run it across.

As we speak the actual plan, and the machinery to do it, haven’t been fully designed or manufactured yet.

It will be touch and go if we’ll be ready in time.

Somerton, Code, Tamam, Shud, Jestyn, Thomson

Little Boy.

Somerton, Code, Tamam, Shud, Jestyn, Thomson

Fat Man.      

And it is this readiness where we need your connections again.

As well as silent delivery of some of this equipment and materials, we have a secondary mission and it requires building a stockpile of Cyanogen Chloride Gas, Tear Gas, Mustard Gas and Phosgene Gas at a place called BABAT on the Solo River in Java from where it can be quickly deployed to an airbase we will be establishing on Morotai then on to Tinian in the Marianas Islands Group.


Moulds Gas Training

Major William Jestyn Moulds MBE has done gas handling training.

Should our primary mission not be ready in time we will quickly move to deploy this secondary action.

The gases will be sourced quietly, and primarily, in Australia and your team will load and deliver them to a Major William Jestyn Moulds personally at BABAT.


Here is BABAT:-

Somerton, Code, Tamam, Shud, Jestyn, Thomson, Babat

We will still also be sourcing an amount of Yellowcake from Australia that we may ship through this arrangement and on to Wales or Washington for preparation.

We don’t have to ship much of these mineral substances at all as the project only uses minimal quantities but it will make a substantial result in the Pacific area.

We’re building two models of armaments and we call one “Little Boy” and the other is “Fat Man”.

“Little Boy” will require us to make two shipments. One shipment will be seventy pounds in weight and the other will be 72 pounds in weight. The material will be Uranium and we need one hundred and forty two pounds per weapon.

It takes about six weeks to produce enough explosive for each one and then put it together, so it is an ongoing activity.

“Fat Man” only requires twenty three pounds of a processed type of Uranium called Plutonium to be complete.

Should the first mission be successful, your team will recover this redundant gas stockpile back to the safety of Australia.

The cargos will not to be listed on any shipping manifest.

We asked Australia for an officer somewhere near our operations in Morotai and they nominated said Major William Jestyn Moulds to be our man. He had training in gas handling and deployment a few years ago. He is expecting to get some deliveries, he just hasn’t been advised what he’ll get and when.”

“Ok, here’s how we do it General.

Sir, if you could place an advertisement in the Motor Car section of the main newspaper in Adelaide, South Australia you will get through to them. Just make up a legitimate looking ad about a car for sale, leave some method of getting in touch with you, and at the end leave the notation M1171. They check these ads regularly.

To be doubly sure, place a second similar ad directly after the first and mark the end contact as Henley Beach W9048. Where these people see a W they look for a switch in the text. In this case the number reversed is 8409 which is a contact number we know of in Henley Beach if you need it. The contact at Henley Beach 8409 is one of our people and he’s got a small workshop there. The number is partied up with a legitimate business so you just have to play that one by ear.

If perchance you don’t get the required response quickly, let me know as I believe they may have someone in the Postmaster General’s Department that we can call on to get a copper wire connection done. You would see him referred to as just PMG. Armed with nothing more than an old hand piece and two alligator clips he could literally get you anything you would want to know. And with us recommending governments recall all tunnel maps of their cities, local knowledge is vital.”

“Thank you, The US appreciates your assistance with this.”

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