Page 10 - The 'X' Chronicles Newspaper - April 2024
P. 10

10             Ghostly Radio Station That No One Runs

         The Ghostly Radio Station

           That No One Claims to


               Continued from Page 8

        Another idea is that the radio station
        exists to “sound” out how far away the
        layer of charged particles is. “To get good
        results from the radar systems the
        Russians use to spot missiles, you need to
        know this,” says Stupples. The longer the
        signal takes to get up into the sky and
        down again, the higher it must be.

        Alas, that can’t be it either. To analyse the
        layer’s altitude the signal would usually
        have a certain sound, like a car alarm
        going off – the result of varying the
        waves to get them just right. “They sound
        nothing like the Buzzer,” says Stupples.

                                                         agent caught an employee sneaking into a difficult to generate a completely random
        Intriguingly, there is a station with some       communist news office in London, police number because a system for doing so
        striking similarities.  The “Lincolnshire        officers stormed the Arcos building. The will, by its very nature, be predictable –
        Poacher” ran from the mid-1970s to               basement had been rigged with anti- exactly what you’re trying to avoid.

        2008. Just like the Buzzer, it could be
                                                         intruder devices and they discovered a Instead officers in London found an
        heard on the other side of the planet. Just      secret room with no door handle, in ingenious solution.
        like the Buzzer, it emanated from an             which workers were hurriedly burning
        undisclosed location, thought to be              documents.                                       They’d hang a microphone out of the
        somewhere in Cyprus. And just like the                                                            window on Oxford Street and record the
        Buzzer, its transmissions were just plain
                                                         It may have been dramatic, but the British traffic. “There might be a bus beeping at
        creepy.                                          didn’t discover anything that they didn’t the same time as a policeman shouting.

                                                         already know. Instead the raid was a The sound is unique, it will never happen
        At the beginning of every hour, the              wake-up call to the Soviets, who again,” says Stupples.  Then they’d

        station would play the first two bars of an      discovered that MI5 had been listening in convert this into a random code.
        English folk tune, the Lincolnshire
                                                         on them for years.
        Poacher.                                                                                          Of course, that didn’t stop people trying
                                                         “This was a blunder of the very first to break them. During World War Two,
        “Oh ‘tis my delight on a shining night           order,” says Anthony Glees, who directs the British realized that they could, in

                                                         the Centre for Security and Intelligence fact, decipher the messages – but they’d
        In the season of the year
                                                         Studies at the University of Buckingham. have to get their hands on the one-time
                                                         To justify the raid, the prime minister had pad that was used to encrypt them. “We
        When I was bound apprentice in famous            even read out some of the deciphered discovered that the Russians used the out-
        Lincolnshire                                     telegrams in the House of Commons.               of-date sheets of one-time pads as

                                                                                                          substitute toilet paper in Russian army
        ‘Twas well I served my master for nigh on
                                                         The upshot was that the Russians hospitals in East Germany,” says Glees.
        seven years…”                                    completely reinvented the way messages Needless to say, British intelligence
                                                         are encrypted.  Almost overnight, they officers soon found themselves rifling
        After repeating this 12 times, it would          switched to “one-time pads”. In this through the contents of Soviet latrines.
        move on to messages read by the                  system, a random key is generated by the
        disembodied voice of a woman reading
                                                         person sending the message and shared The new channel of communication was
        groups of five numbers – “1-2-0-3-6” – in        only with the person receiving it. As long so useful, it didn’t take long before the
        a clipped, upper-class English accent.           as the key really is perfectly random, the numbers stations had popped up all over

                                                         code cannot be cracked.  There was no the world.  There was the colourfully
        To get to grips with what was going on, it       longer any need to worry about who named “Nancy Adam Susan”, “Russian
        helps to go back to the 1920s. The All-
                                                         could hear their messages.                       Counting Man” and “Cherry Ripe” – the
        Russian Co-operative Society (Arcos)                                                              Lincolnshire Poacher’s sister station,
        was an important trade body, responsible         Enter the “numbers stations” – radio which also contained bars of an English
        for overseeing transactions between the          stations that broadcast coded messages to folk song. In name at least, the Buzzer
        UK and the early Soviet Union. Or at             spies all over the world. Soon even the fits right in.
        least, that’s what they said they did.
                                                         British were doing it: if you can’t beat
        In May 1927, years after a British secret        them, join ‘em, as they say. It’s quite (Continued on Page 24)
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