Allow me to replace your ribbon! (#13)

Screen Capture B

By Alan Hamill

Who is The Somerton Man?
Why was he in Adelaide?
What happened on Somerton Beach?
Was Charters Towers the site of the masterplan?

Back to Home Page

Take me to the Index Page please!

Typewriter Mechanic D 1

One of the first times we hear the name of R. E. Davis in relation to the Somerton Man saga is when two men from Darwin thought the description they read in a local newspaper matched Roy Edward Davis from the Department of Works and Housing.

Typewriter Mechanic F 1

But searchers have not yet found the existence of Messrs. D Gordon or J Commins who believed the Somerton Man’s body description matched a workmate from Darwin.

RE Body 1

However, the height of Roy Davis (5′ 5½”) didn’t match the height of the man (5′ 11″) found on Somerton Beach on Wednesday the First of December 1948.

But let’s examine why these 2 men may have had a different reason for suspecting Roy Davis had met his end! 

Don’t you hate it when people ask those questions that people ask and then they answer their own question straight away?

Well, I’m going to do the same thing, sorry!

Question:- Why would someone go through the younger part of their life in Australia as a Navy Sea Scout and Able Seaman, as a waiter/steward on ships, then be brought into the family business fixing and selling typewriters, adding machines and teletypewriter devices only to then, from 1943 to 1949, list their occupation as a US Army employee?

Answer:- When you’re recruited into Operation Venona!


WarRecord 1

WarService A

A summary of Roy’s RAN Service.


Typewriter Mechanic G

1941 Traveller

In 1941 Roy Davis was listed as a Traveller for his Father’s Typewriter Business


1943 US Army 2

In 1943 Roy Davis is listed in this Australian Census as a US Army Employee. You will also see his new wife (Lillian Francis) at the same address. It’s about the only time they are listed under the same roof.


1949 US Army

In 1949 we still see Roy Davis as a US Army employee. You will notice Lillian has moved away.


This is what Roy Edward Davis (aka R E Davis “The Typewriter Mechanic” from the Somerton Man articles) did during the period from 1943 till 1949.

ribbon 1

ribbon 2

Many people found it interesting reading old typewriter ribbons or used carbon paper sheets but for Roy Davis it was more than that. It was his duty to King/President and Country.

He was looking for the remnant texts or messages that may have been left by someone passing information to the Soviets. Something that was mentioned in the earlier posts of this blog such as the name of the US Army Officer in charge of the delivery of nuclear materials and equipment, and the demise of a person of the same name i.e. George Marshall.

It also conveyed the amount of nuclear material needed to produce a weapon. The quatrain numbers pointed to 23lbs of Plutonium or 2 shipments of 70lbs each of Uranium 235.

USSR surprised the US, UK and the Allies when it successfully deployed a nuclear device in 1949 when the West believed they wouldn’t be ready till at least 1952 or later.

Roy Davis would set himself up in the corner of a hotel bar and, for a week or two at a time, encourage anyone with old typewriters or similar machines to donate or sell these to him for him to refurbish and then deliver to any of many military sites on the East Coast.

FixType 6 AliceSprings

At Alice Springs


FixType 5 Inverell

At Inverell (NSW) where the Freemans were based.


FixType 4 Innisfail

At Innisfail


ChartTower Hosp 1

He also did establishments where machines were available to multi-users like Charters Towers Hospital.


LodgeTypewriter 1

And he also plied his trade at his own Lodge. He was a Brother in Queensland.


But it was these machines (below) that were of significantly more interest to Roy!

These were the Teletypewriter machines and tapes that were used to send important messages between military locations.

They were the main primary machines used to send and receive secret and encoded/encrypted messages between military locations.

These were the type of machines referred to as the type used to transmit the Somerton Man Code nominated in post #4.

Teletypewriter 1

Teletypewriter 2

Teletypewriter 3

Teletypewriter 5

The teletypewriter tape machines were also used extensively by all the banks in Australia and worldwide as a secure means of passing customer data between each other.


In another post (#4) I mentioned Elmer Sylvester Klein. His Australian wife Elsie May Liebke did an advanced signals course in Richmond (Vic) and her relatives, the ROBERTS family, owned hotels in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide. Their home base was Charters Towers.

The Pier Hotel in Glenelg was part of this family’s portfolio and Roy regularly visited the East and South Coast capital cities doing his 1943-1949 role.

Following (and during) his visit he would remove machines from these military and civilian sites and refurbish them while he was at the corner table at the hotel, but he would actually be reading these for messages or checking for tell-tale misprints/strikes that these machines may produce to allow linking of any machine with a received suspicious message and then follow it up.

His eyes and ears would also be doing surveillance of the passing drinkers.

And this is what Roy Davis would have been looking at for all those years.

CarbonPaper 2

Can you see the reversed imprint of the original text? This is what Roy was checking.
TypeOnRibbon 1

– or reading this. It is clearer if the ribbon was only used for a few passes or less.
TypeOnRibbon 2

Another example of residue print on a ribbon.


Roy Edward Davis was born in Armadale, Victoria in 1909 and during his early years was engaged in the Sea Scouts based at the HMAS Tingira Training Ship in Sydney, then HMAS Penguin in Tasmania.

Strangely, several of the players in this saga started their youth in either the Sea Scouts, Scouts or Army Cadets. Max McIntyre comes to mind.

Later he would do several training courses at Stott’s Secretarial Services at Townsville in Queensland.

This led into a career with his father in the Davis Typewriter Repairs business operating out of Townsville.

In 1938 he would marry Lillian Francis Huxley, although it appears he spent very little time with Lillian. Instead, as a traveller, roaming the country during WWII servicing or collecting typewriters as the clippings below will illustrate.

Ribbon 2

FixType 5 Inverell Inverell

FixType 4 Innisfail    Innisfail

FixType 2    Alice Springs

Ribbon 3


However, the end of war (and with activities tapering off) sees the apparent end of R E Davis Typewriter Services as we see Roy appear in papers and he has become “down on his luck” as he tries to utter stolen/dishonoured cheques and is charged for vagrancy several times.

Cairns Court 1952

Roy is charged for producing and cashing a cheque he is not entitled to have. The vagrancy charge is dropped.


Roy Edward Davis then appears to become reclusive, living on boats moored around Maclean and Hemmant in New South Wales till his passing. He also lists his address at times as houses around the same moorings.

1968 Boat A

Roy’s living on the water.


And his passing is listed as 1992 in the same area.

Ancestry 1


* on one of the R E Davis’s Navy Cards it lists his mother as Florence G of a Crows Nest address. Although this woman did exist, it could at best be an aunt or a mistake by the Navy.

* also on an Attestation Form it lists his DOB as 15th of January 1909, this is due to the way the editor handled a dip/fountain pen as the remaining 6s on the page also look like a 1. His DOB was 15th June 1909.

* there doesn’t seem to be a photo of Roy anywhere unless he is the blonde man in the Webb photo, yet he had many connections.

To take you to the Home Page …………  click here.

To backtrack and brush up on what this case is about, go to Wikipedia here


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