Government Radio Listening Stations - Ships Nostalgia
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  #1  
Old 8th March 2015, 08:22
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lagerstedt lagerstedt is offline  
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Government Radio Listening Stations

I reached the retirement age some time ago however I have decided to carry on working until I have completed 50 years in the workforce (this Christmas coming) and when I am not going to work I have gone back to reading and when I get motivated I will pull my old FT101EE apart and replace the PA tubes (what a job looking for manufactures/designers spec tubes, finally found some here in NZ). Ham radio call sign ZL2BFO.

Three recent books read are "HMS UNSEEN, The LOST SYMBOL and the current is about GCHQ in the UK. In 2002 I was laid off from a large Telecommunications Company (after some 30 years in the industry) where I had an Operations/Project Managers position. During that time I had worked on many interesting projects involving the Government and Private sectors and as you can imagine many different disciplines were involved, I was in fixed line and briefly involved in the installation of MAR's .

Looking through the book about GCHQ I see that they had or still have a listening post on the Iran/Russian boarder. While you were at sea you would have pasted or berthed at many ports or countries and I was curious to know if any of you have ever been approached by any of the Comms Agencies to have a listen and report basis. During my 30 years in the telecom industry I never was but I knew that I was being watched.

Regards
Blair Lagerstedt
NZ
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  #2  
Old 15th March 2015, 16:32
Naytikos Naytikos is offline  
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It is difficult to comment on this thread (would that it were not). I'll put it like this: if one was "approached" the question of confidentiality might arise right after the initial greeting with the effect that the conversation never took place at all.
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  #3  
Old 16th March 2015, 03:35
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Yep...
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  #4  
Old 16th March 2015, 13:31
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In the 70's during radio school in Bristol, we had a visit from an MI5 spook who asked us to spy on the pesky Ruskies. He was a real cloak and dagger weirdo. We also learned to decode some daft cryptic messages on a silly machine, a bit like a child's toy. No need for secrecy now. It was all b******s.
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  #5  
Old 16th March 2015, 14:21
trotterdotpom trotterdotpom is offline  
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There are abiding rumours of Hull and Grimsby trawlers being recruited to spy on the commies up round the White Sea area. The names of a few ships are quite well known, but one of them was the Gaul which disappeared off the North Cape of Norway in 1974. Here's an interesting snippet I found regarding John Doone, the ship's radio operator:
http://www.theguardian.com/g2/story/...774678,00.html

I'll never forget arriving in Sydney on a ship which had loaded in Commie China. A bloke from RAN Intelligence came on board and the Old Man brought him into the bar. The Old Man, a bit the worse the wear after a few scoops, introduced him, saying: "This is Lt Commander Sommat, he's a spy!"

Haw haw, don't think he got much in the way of useful info out of any of us.

John T
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  #6  
Old 16th March 2015, 19:53
Dartskipper Dartskipper is offline  
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Post #5.

There were a couple of programs on TV about the loss of the trawler Gaul some years ago. So long ago, in fact, that I recorded them on VHS. There were claims and counter claims about watching Russian Fleet movements in the Barents Sea, but the one fact that stuck in my mind was that some official visited the crew and handed out cameras for them to use. I don't remember if it was disproved or not.
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  #7  
Old 16th March 2015, 20:33
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At GKZ we had regular annual visits from MoD Inverkeithing. He gave out various info charts and suggested we report anything 'dodgy'. We replied that the Secrets Act might just prevent us from doing that !!

As an aside, during a westerly gale (offshore) I did see a pale green painted Russian trawler/whatever bristling with aerials sheltering just a very short distance from GKZ. It is about this time that paranoia sets in...... !!

David
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  #8  
Old 16th March 2015, 21:20
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Does anyone have any theories about those weird numbers stations that you could hear broadcast on shortwave?
I read somewhere that they were operated by intelligence agencies and used to pass coded messages to their agents in the field.
Whatever the reason for their existence, they were really spooky. Usually a female voice counting numbers seemingly in groups, interspersed with short intervals of music.
I wonder if, now the Cold War is over, they still exist.
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Old 16th March 2015, 21:58
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Interesting story, thanks, JT.

Brian
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  #10  
Old 16th March 2015, 21:58
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They were called numbers stations. One UK station apparently based in Cyprus was called the Lincolnshire Poacher on account of its interval signal. There are still many on the high frequency bands.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua94OV9Ter8
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  #11  
Old 17th March 2015, 03:32
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Thanks for the responses. The one on Cyprus was to be close down during the 1970's because of the UK's financial problems. That changed when the USA advised that they had very little monitoring activities in the area and would upgrade the station if the stayed, they did, and the UK were happy with the new ELINT monitoring equipment.

During the 50's the RN upgraded their subs to the standards of the German T (I think) class of sub as it was regarded as a better sub. Maybe some of the RN crew would like to comment on the class of subs used. These subs were engaged monitoring in northern waters.

One sub had all its hatches welded shut once all the crew and monitoring staff were on board. This was in case the sub was rammed. One of the monitoring staff received permanent neck injuries when they crashed dived and the periscope or snorkel came crashing down during a possible ramming after they found by the Russians who used the Q band for tracking. The Q bands had a limited range. Maybe someone would to comment on the range of the Q band also sonar had little effect in the area because of the cold water. Once again someone may like to comment on the cold water effects on electromagnetic waves through cold water.

During the 50's and maybe latter there were very large antenna farms (covering several hundred acres) in various parts of the UK. I have not researched this as yet and would like what type of antennas they had etc, maybe some photos, that were used for monitoring.

Regards
Blair Lagerstedt
NZ

Last edited by lagerstedt; 17th March 2015 at 03:46..
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  #12  
Old 17th March 2015, 03:55
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With regards to Pat's comments the numbers were a form of coding and were called "One Page Codes". These numbers were written on a page or pages if it were a long text. The numbering sequence was never to be used again ie they were to destroyed when used. There was evidence by lax operators and coders who did use the code sequence more than once.

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Blair Lagerstedt
NZ
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  #13  
Old 17th March 2015, 06:03
trotterdotpom trotterdotpom is offline  
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They still do that today but it's called Bingo.

John T
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Old 17th March 2015, 08:08
Dartskipper Dartskipper is offline  
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Post #11

Some of those large arrays were built for different purposes.
Cobra Mist on Orfordness was a project to develop an "Over the horizon radar" capability.
Chicksands, in Bedfordshire, has a history of service in intelligence gathering, but the array built there in the 60's was part of High Frequency Direction Finding system.
These can be found on Wikipedia, amongst other sources.
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Roy.
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  #15  
Old 17th March 2015, 09:47
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These numbers are for One Time Pad operations. These cannot be broken unlike any machine generated number generators where eventually a pattern will emerge.
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  #16  
Old 17th March 2015, 10:13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by King Ratt View Post
These numbers are for One Time Pad operations. These cannot be broken unlike any machine generated number generators where eventually a pattern will emerge.
But who operated these stations? I read that The Lincolnshire Poacher station was located at an RAF base in Cyprus and was an MI6 operation, but no government has ever admitted to operating any of the numbers stations.
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  #17  
Old 17th March 2015, 17:40
IMRCoSparks IMRCoSparks is offline  
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A few years ago I wrote a couple of articles for the ROA, regarding my time with Cunard. This attached excerpt covers RMS Caronia on a North Cape cruise back in 1961.
-----------------------------------------------------------------


Another piece of equipment joined us on the North Cape cruise only. This was installed by the Southampton shore staff every year and originated from the UK government. In the transmitting room was a VHF tunable receiver, together with a very high quality tape recorder. The North Cape journey took the ship, as its name implies, from New York to Reykjavik and then up to the top of Norway. We were given a list of frequencies to monitor and tape if we heard anything in Russian on the noted frequencies. . Not being linguists we took a stab at recording anything that did not sound “Scandinavian” That was all we were told to do. I think the VHF receiver was VHF-AM, so it was probably intended for the aircraft bands - cannot remember the details. This was at the height of the cold war, so I guess all governments try anything. As all this was over 50 years ago, I’m sure this little piece of John LeCarre info does not infringe the Official Secrets act - not that we signed anything or had anything explained. We dutifully did our recordings and made sure to dismantle all the equipment before the ship entered the Baltic and docked at Gdansk. We secured the tape recordings in the office safe. The 4th R/O wanted to label it “Spy Stuff” but the chief was not amused. As it was, the Polish authorities came aboard and sealed off the radio room during our stay there. .
Watching the recent Euro2012 football from Gdansk it’s hard to accept how the city looks now from the drab, miserable and dirty place of the 60's.
[/I]
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  #18  
Old 19th March 2015, 07:34
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lagerstedt lagerstedt is offline  
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In answer to Pat's question "Who operated the stations". From my reading the field operators came from the Army, Navy and Air force. The code breakers during the 40's through 60's appeared to be from GCHQ (mainly civilian academics with high knowledge of maths) however the military did have code breakers. The three military divisions operated there own listening stations and had GCHQ decode the info. The RAF had a number of sites around the globe. One being in the hills behind Hong Kong.

Regards

Blair Lagerstedt
NZ
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  #19  
Old 20th March 2015, 17:11
PeterMoore PeterMoore is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lagerstedt View Post
In answer to Pat's question "Who operated the stations". From my reading the field operators came from the Army, Navy and Air force. The code breakers during the 40's through 60's appeared to be from GCHQ (mainly civilian academics with high knowledge of maths) however the military did have code breakers. The three military divisions operated there own listening stations and had GCHQ decode the info. The RAF had a number of sites around the globe. One being in the hills behind Hong Kong.

Regards

Blair Lagerstedt
NZ
To name a few:-
RAFs Gatow (Berlin), Scharfoldendorf (near Hameln), Butzweilerhof (Cologne) in Germany.
Chicksands, Digby, Cheadle in the UK.
RAF people were in GCHQ, but in the late 60's.
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  #20  
Old 25th March 2015, 00:28
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What was or is the objective of the tread. As I have said I am reading a book about the GCHQ and given that MN shipping carried RO's for many decades I was wondering if any RO,s had been approached about doing a bit listening during their travels for any government agency ie a bit of covert work.
As for the name GCHQ, it was originally developed as a code name for Bletchley Park (B.P) in 1939 however it competed for usage by other designations such as B.P, Station X, and GC&CS. During 1946 GC&CS re-designated itself the "London Signals Intelligence Centre". In 1948 they all became know as GCHQ when they moved from London to Cheltenham. The name has remained ever since. GC&CS commenced its work in November 1919.

Regards
Blair Lagerstedt
NZ
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  #21  
Old 25th March 2015, 10:50
trotterdotpom trotterdotpom is offline  
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I did read somewhere that MI5 or 6 or one of them, placed people on board ships in the capacity of RO because their activities were separate from the rest of the crew and they could go ashore unnoticed in port.

I do remember that secret password: "You buy me one coca cora, I rove you very much."

Sorry, Blair, if I told you any more, I'd have to kill you.

John T
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  #22  
Old 25th March 2015, 11:14
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Thanks for all your comments. Some of the reply's have been interesting as they have lead me to looking up other info ie some of the antenna farms. As stated above I have a Ham Radio License and are a fan of open wire antennas. Don't know why other than they work well for me - only got one - she who must be obeyed makes the rules. Anyway the book is a good read for $5 from a second hand book store. Ill close off my input to the thread now and thanks again for your comments.

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Blair Lagerstedt
NZ
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  #23  
Old 26th March 2015, 13:21
PeterMoore PeterMoore is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lagerstedt View Post
What was or is the objective of the tread. As I have said I am reading a book about the GCHQ and given that MN shipping carried RO's for many decades I was wondering if any RO,s had been approached about doing a bit listening during their travels for any government agency ie a bit of covert work.
As for the name GCHQ, it was originally developed as a code name for Bletchley Park (B.P) in 1939 however it competed for usage by other designations such as B.P, Station X, and GC&CS. During 1946 GC&CS re-designated itself the "London Signals Intelligence Centre". In 1948 they all became know as GCHQ when they moved from London to Cheltenham. The name has remained ever since. GC&CS commenced its work in November 1919.
Regards
Blair Lagerstedt
NZ
Blair, good day.

Although I know your thread was more related to MN radio operators (and I never was one!) I read the responses with interest as my father was a radio operator with the RAF for 27 years.
After a brief spell after the war working on Icelandic fishing boats (!) we was posted first to Hong Kong and then Melbourne before being sent back to the UK/Germany in 1954 specifically to "listen in" on the Russians - hence how I know where some of the RAF listening stations were (and we lived near most of them).
In 1968 he was posted to GCHQ in Cheltenham....

Perhaps of interest to you is that my Dad worked with (and even bought a car from!) Douglas Britten, who was later prosecuted for spying:-

http://www.kissack.co.uk/index.php?p...ted-for-spying

Peter
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  #24  
Old 27th March 2015, 00:13
Bill.B Bill.B is offline  
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When I was ROB on RFA Sir BEdivere we used to pass traffic through MHI, Whitehall but sometimes they just ignored you and so had to use GKB. One trip from hell crossing from Antwerp to Marchwood the atmospherics were so bad no one would answer and so after trying all night had to give up. A few months later I got a snot gram from the MOD to say I had been excessively calling. So obviously they did monitor us. Nothing came of it but if they heard me calling why didn't they answer. Can only surmise that whoever heard me wasn't MHI.
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  #25  
Old 27th March 2015, 00:27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R651400 View Post
I'm a one station long wire antenna myself lagerstadt.. Does your GCHQ book have an iban number or other reference?
I have a book called GCHQ published in 2010,by Richard J Aldrich with an ISBN 978 0 00 731266 5. I also have another book called GCHQ published in 1986 by Nigel West, ISBN 0 297 78717 9.
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