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Beware of Spies !!!!! Especially the very friendly young woman sitting in the bar of a hotel just up from the naval base.

Now that the dust has settled and (nearly) everyone thinks they know who the Somerton Man was, courtesy of a faintly written tag on a 98 year-old photo, the committee thought to go back to the very beginning of this saga, after all knowing who he was is only one aspect of the mystery solved .. Jessica Harkness’ part in it won’t be as easy.


< — POINT 2. “Avoid talking about all subjects connected with your work especially in the presence of strangers or in any public place where it may be overheard by enemy ears. The public house or club is a place where talk of this sort is heard far too frequently and this fact is known to enemy agents.

There is no proof of Jessica Harkness ever joining the Australian Communist Party and none proving that she was used by them as a conduit for classified information, for that to have been successful she would have to have been placed in a … “public house where talk of this sort is heard far too frequently and this fact is known to enemy agents.”

Lieutenant (Engineer) Alfred Boxall was a regular drinker at the harbour-side Clifton Gardens Hotel after being posted to the 12 Aust. Water Transport Op. Coy (Small Craft) in 1943 and subsequently posted as Appointed Engineer of Craft – 13 Aust. Small Ships Coy (AIF) in 1945.

The Clifton Gardens ..

Lieutenant Boxall spent a lot of time in close working proximity to both incoming and outgoing harbour traffic; wartime traffic – allied troop ships, supply ships, battleships – even submarines as they had to travel on the surface because of the anti-sub boom net that stretched from Green Point to Georges Head, which itself is only a few minutes away from Clifton Gardens.


Boxall remembered in an interview with Stuart Littlemore that visiting the Clifton Gardens Hotel during his time at the nearby Water Base was only ‘very briefly, if only for half an hour and then get back, do a bit of revision on next day’s work and then go to sleep.’ He stated that his shifts started not long after 5:30 am and finished at 9:pm.

It was here he was introduced to Jessica Harkness. He knew her as Jestyn.

When interviewed in 1978 Boxall said  .. “Even today, I don’t know what the girl’s surname was.”


Was that a result of her methodology or just his bad memory?

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Clive #

    Why didn’t she just tell Alf her name was Jessie? Why ‘Jestyn’?

    May 15, 2023
    • To keep him in the dark .. if he was sprung talking out of turn to her in the pub then Miss Jestyn no other name was home free … Remembering that when Littlemore interviewed Boxall in ‘76 he said ‘even now I can’t remember her surname.’ And Verse 70 was a bit of a give away as to how their meetings developed.
      Not only that, Boxall remembered her as being an Army nurse … so it appears she added a bit more camouflage there as well.

      May 15, 2023
      • Clive Turner #

        Another question, why Alf?  Was he a type of ‘father figure’ she felt ok
        talking to, or did she know a bit more about Alf than Alf realised? 
        Can’t help thinking about the scene from ‘Casablanca’, something about
        “of all the bars in the world…..


        May 16, 2023
        • She was introduced to him by Tom Musgrave’s wife, she too was a nurse and Musgrave was about to be transferred north … he and Boxall had a lot in common and perhaps they chatted about ‘Army matters’ without realising Jessica was listening … nothing like a couple of snorts to loosen inhibitions.

          May 16, 2023
  2. a lurker #

    I’ve never liked the spy angle, but it does hint of confusing codenames – not unlike the Vasilliev notebooks. There was confusion because the code name ‘Stepan’ didn’t relate to Stepan (Apresyan) but possibly (his replacement?) Fedosimov (there’s a segue here I’ll avoid).
    So what if ‘Jestyn’ is a codename mimicking a predecessor – and has the added bonus of being vaguely similar to your own identity. Perhaps the biggest issue with such a thought, is that if she identifies publicly as Jestyn then either the people she talks to (ie AB) are part of the same group, or it’s not that sort of an alias – that is, perhaps it’s used to maintain anonimity rather than mask identity (if you can see distinction – the former being to mingle without using names, the latter being to talk about people without outsiders knowing who you’re on about).

    May 16, 2023
  3. Clive #

    But Jessie, 4 years after her last(?) meeting with Alf, knew what Sydney street he lived in, could easily remember those details, yet according to Alf, he had only a couple of meetings with ‘Jestyn”

    May 17, 2023
    • My view is that Alf was covering his arse … and Littlemore, despite his legal qualifications was worse than useless with his questioning .. too much pretty boy and not enough Perry Mason ..

      May 17, 2023
      • Clive Turner #

        I agree, Littlemore’s questioning was too vague, no determination in his
        questioning to get Alf to either ‘slip up’, with his replies or, spill
        the beans.  As you have mentioned before about Alf’s encounter with
        Littlemore, Alf was somewhat cagey and seemingly uncertain in his
        replies, surely Littlemore must have sensed there was something Alf was
        not being 100% kosher, if so why on earth didn’t Littlemore ‘needle’ Alf
        to get a better result?

        May 18, 2023
        • Remember too that Littlemore didn’t ask Boxall if he knew Jessica as Jestyn and the inscription signature on the Rubaiyat she gave him was covered up… This was in 1978, thirty years on and her identity was still kept secret. Not even a leak to the press … how very bloody unusual!

          May 18, 2023
          • Clive Turner #

            Unlikely, I realize, but is it possible that Jessie’s i.d. was kept
            under wraps because she was married to a ‘respectable’ business man and
            neither wanted to attract publicity?

            May 18, 2023
  4. When was a second-hand car dealer ever respectable?

    May 18, 2023
  5. Clive #

    Until Daphne Page made the acquaintance of PT.

    May 20, 2023
  6. John Sanders #


    Gonna sound as unlikely now as when I first bought it up years ago; but to me not so crazy at all. The dual language ROK that Alf was all too happy to show ‘just passed the bar’ Livermore for ‘Inside Story’ in 1978, was more likely to have been one and the same as the ’44 edition studied by Alf’s own SME Small Ships unit for their Bahasa/Malay course, not the W & T Courage & Friendship version that the nurse claimed to have given him at the Clifton Gardens army boozer. Proof can be found in her own version of said events given to Errol Canney on 26 July ’49, and varified by Mrs. Boxall who showed the copy to the Telegraph rag’s reporter at Maroubra in 1978. Sure you’ll say, ” Yair colonel smart arse. how’s about verse 70 and the JE Styn sign off?”. Well for a starters, the handwriting which I’ll confess does bare similarities to Jessica Thomson’s, is also very much like Alf’s as evidenced in his service file, and so too that William Jestyn Moulds’ according to both yourself and Gordon Cramer. I can say more on the subject but I dare not risk the dreaded ‘times-up’ hooter, hooroo.

    May 20, 2023
  7. Clive #

    ‘Times-up’ hooter, I wouldn’t worry about that, the game is still afoot. Alf’s wife, Susie did have a copy of the Rubaiyat which she received from Alf at Christmas 1944, per GF’s book. And, I think that GC noted that Alf wrote the number 70 on the inscription page after 1978. Something about the Rubaiyat is suspect.

    May 23, 2023

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