Sunday, February 5, 2023

Documenting the Origin and Early Evolution of British Airborne Forces Insignia

 Tcrown, a member of the British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum, recently has provided his research on the origin and evolution of British Airborne Forces insignia, in the 1941 -1945 time period. He has encouraged conveying the information to collectors, historians, and all interested parties, with acknowledgement. In addition this blog author thought the information, augmented with added colored imagery of the insignia was worthy of republication. To the best of my knowledge all of the images presented herein are genuine and are discussed in detail in various other blog articles previously presented.

A Story of the British Parachute Distinguished Insignia

A few years back, I planned a bit of research on the various patches worn by the parachute battalions during WW2

After analyzing a lot of photos mainly from the IWM and Para Data collections, I tried to summarize and share my findings. I don’t pretend to provide an exact story of the evolution of the British Airborne Forces insignias but to offer my contribution to research on this topic. An abundant and very well documented literature exists already on British Airborne uniforms but somehow these books lack details about the chronology of the various patches. I’ve tried to fill the blanks with a special focus on the Parachute units.

This first post will cover the 1940 to 1942 period up until the creation of the Parachute Regiment.

1- Initial Regulations in the British Army

ACI 419 issued in May 1940 stated that Divisional Signs or badges will not be worn by British divisions during the war. This coincided with the introduction of Battle-Dress which was to provide an utilitarian uniform with no particular means to identify arms of service.
General Gort, Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force at the time disapproved the decision and objected that Esprit de Corps, particularly in the Infantry would suffer if soldiers in Battle-Dress were not allowed to wear an emblem showing the regiment to which they belong.

ACI 1118 published on 18 September 1940 finally approved certain distinguished marks. For the early parachute troops, this translated into the introduction and approval of a special badge for wear by qualified parachutists through ACI 1589 dated 28 December 1940. As for Regimental flashes or other formation signs, there were none for the only parachute unit at the time – the 11th SAS.

Members of the 11st SAS photographed in Feb 1941
(source IWM)

2- Introduction of Additional Formation Badges

ACI 2587 dated 27 December 1941 set out formation patches as well as arm-of-service strips, rank badge backing and regimental badges to be worn at the top of both sleeves of the Battle-Dress blouse.
The Army Air Corps had just been formed on 21 Dec 1941 with the intend of overseeing all airborne forces that were under (glider, parachute and air landing activities).

Around the end of 1941, a group of airborne officers led by Gen “Boy” Browning formed the “Dungeon Party”, so named as they were located in the basement of GHQ Home Forces in Storeys Gate London, to create British airborne forces. Gen Browning was acutely aware that the then fledgling airborne forces needed a powerful, unifying symbol, taking advantage of the fact that formation patches had just been authorized to be worn on Battle-Dress. The myth of Bellerophon astride Pegasus was chosen as the symbol of airborne forces. The design of the now famous Pegasus flash was commissioned by General Browning to Major Edward Seago, a reputable artist.

The “Dungeon Party” ca mid 1942. Lt Col JA Goshen
 can be seen on the far right front row.
 He was the G4 logistics staff officer under
 Gen Browning (source ParaData)

It is believed that the Airborne signs (both curved and strip) were designed at the same time as the Pegasus patch and started to be issued in the course of 1942.

An interesting photo taken immediately after the return of the raid party to Bruneval aboard Prins Albert, shows that both printed Pegasus and Airborne strip had already started to be issued in early 1942.

Lt Col John Goshen, G4 of Airborne Forces Staff,
 with Major Frost aboard Prins Albert
 in Portsmouth on Feb 28th 1942 (source IWM)

3 – The Use of Airborne Signs in the Early Days

So far, Airborne forces haven’t been formed into Regiments: Parachutes forces grouped in battalions and their members were still wearing the cap badge of their original regiments which didn’t provide a sense of unity. Having no regimental designation yet established, it is believed that the curved airborne sign was used as a shoulder title for providing a mean of identification on top of the parachute wings. This was also the case for the glider pilots until the creation of the Glider Pilot Regiment with effect from 24th Feb 1942. However, photos of members of the GPR exist indicating that the Airborne strip was worn in 1943 (source IWM H28694 & H28695). 

The situation was much different for the glider or airlanding troops as they had been transferred or converted into airborne forces by formed regiments with their own designation. They already had their shoulder titles, although unofficial. So, for these airborne troops who were not parachutists, the Airborne strip was introduced in early 1942 which was to be worn below the Pegasus patches. The Airborne strip would later be officially authorized by ACI 2816 on 31 Oct 1942.

Printed Airborne shoulder titles issued to Parachute
 forces and to Glider pilots in 1942 (source IWM)

It seems that Airborne shoulder titles had been issued at the same period to qualified and active parachutists as we can see in the following photographs. ACI 2587 of 27 Dec 1941 didn’t authorize regimental designations except for the Household Cavalry and the Foot Guards. The designation ‘Airborne’ was added to the exceptions for the members of the Airborne troops.

Inspection by HM the King of 3rd Parachute Battalion

 on Mar 25, 1942 (source IWM)


Inspection by HM the King of members of the 5th
 (Scottish) Parachute Battalion at the time in formation,
 with Brigadier Flavel and Maj Gen Browning
 on May 21, 1942 at Bulford (source IWM)


Sunday, November 6, 2022

A "Spy" Story Within a Spy Story - "Ring Them Bells"

 During the course of my dual career as a naval intelligence officer and civilian systems engineer/threat analysis manager, one of the most challenging and rewarding programs I worked on was a black program called Ivy Bells, a joint Navy, CIA, NSA, civilian effort (1971-1981). In essence Ivy Bells provided the US Navy comprehensive 24/7 access to unencrypted Soviet Naval communications between Soviet Pacific Fleet Headquarters located in Vladivostok and the Soviet Navy Pacific Submarine Force Headquarters in Petropavlovsk. In all aspects it rivals, and in some exceeds the more well known Operation Jennifer/Azorian, partial raising of the Soviet Golf Class SSG K-129 submarine north-east of the Hawaiian Islands in the mid-1970’s, by the identical group of agencies. See;

Like any program of this nature it was highly classified and compartmented, Security was successfully maintained, and for that reason, most participants in the program never knew of the following episode that occurred during the span of the effort. Even commanding a naval reserve unit directly supporting the Naval Investigative Service Regional Office in San Diego.


Due to my affiliations and the unique nature of this story, I thought all though quite lengthy, it was well worthy and sufficiently interesting, of repeating it the blog. With full acknowledgement and expressed gratitude to POCKET WORTHY: Ivy Bells: A Spyhunter Series Story,Truly Adventurous | Greg Nichols;


The specific two modified submarines used during the course of the operation and other elements of Operation Ivy Bells are shown in the following images. The USS Richard B. Russell (SSN-687) and the USS Seawolf (SSN-575) were also employed in similar intelligence gathering missions.

USS Halibut (SSGN 587) with Ivy Bells elements

USS Parche (SSN 683) again with Ivy Bells
 elements shown

AT&T Bell Labs "Mdnster"(never otherwise
 named/designated) Nuclear Powered
 Induction Receiver/Recorder, all 6 tons

Two more images of the same device

The "Monster" in fully deployed status

Westinghouse/Kirby-Norman Mk 11
 rebreathing mixed gas diving system

Mk 11 Mod 0 US Navy rebreathing
 mixed gas deep sea diving equipment

(Ivy Bells: A Spyhunter Series Story

After plans for the most expensive covert operation in U.S. history are stolen, the future of the free world rests in the hands of two teens and a professional spy hunter.)


"The divers emerged from a secret compartment in the belly of the spy sub. Breathing an experimental gas mixture and operating at previously unthinkable depths, they descended in near-darkness toward a thick undersea communications cable. 

The American sub and divers were operating deep in Soviet territorial waters. Codenamed Ivy Bells, it was a joint mission of the CIA, NSA, and Navy, and it was the most important intelligence-gathering operation of the Cold War. 

Working in the twilight of 400 feet below the surface, the divers lassoed the cable with a custom-made undersea listening device that acted like a giant stethoscope for electronic pulses. It recorded communications on physical tapes, which had to be retrieved and replaced by divers every month. Every mission carried the greatest possible risk of discovery and death. 

The job was nearly finished when an audible pop, loud as a starter pistol, stopped the divers cold. In an environment where the slightest sound could tip off the enemy — the area was littered with undersea microphones and the Soviets patrolled by ship and sub — the sharp noise was a sign something had gone very wrong. Sure enough, currents from a storm had rocked the vessel so violently that an anchor chain holding it to the seabed snapped. The divers were left stranded on the outside as the sub floated away. 

Onboard, the captain ordered the crew to flood the ship’s buoyancy tanks. Sinking quickly, the massive ship hit the sea floor with a water-dulled clank and groans of stressed metal. When it came to rest, the divers outside frantically swam to the dive chamber door located midships. After a few anxious minutes, the crew delivered a damage assessment. The vital systems were intact. Every sailor onboard breathed a sigh of relief. 

The sub limped home, but the close call drove home the razor thin margin for error in such a delicate operation. Discovery of an American sub in Soviet waters could easily turn the Cold War hot. The Pentagon needed a better spy submarine, the most advanced ever built, and an extraordinary plan took shape. Work on the special sub would take place at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in the city of Vallejo, 30 miles outside San Francisco. A Navy contractor (AT&T Bell Labs) with engineering offices in Vallejo would spearhead the highly sensitive project, the most expensive undertaking of its kind in the history of naval warfare. All of it would be off the books, top secret, of highest possible importance to national security. 

Time pressures on the contractor were immense, but completing the job on time would mean a financial windfall. Employees started to cut small corners, save time where they could. Instead of using secure couriers to transport printed materials between the company’s engineering office in downtown Vallejo and the Mare Island shipyard a few miles away, engineers occasionally carried the plans themselves in personal vehicles, saving a string of phone calls and time-wasting ID checks. 

It was barely a five minute trip. What could wrong?

In April 1986, a 65-year-old engineer walked out of the engineering office gripping two locked canvas bags full of blueprints. He crossed the street, popped his trunk, and placed the satchels inside. That’s when he felt a whoosh of movement behind him. The next thing he knew he was on the ground. 

The robbery had happened with blinding speed. Dazed, the engineer looked up in time to see a well-built white man running the satchels to an idling blue pickup truck. The thief climbed into the passenger seat and slammed the door. The getaway vehicle, driven by a Black man visible through the truck’s rear window, squealed away. The engineer lying on the pavement would have known in an instant he had just played a role in the largest intelligence disaster in modern memory. 

Certain that the inner workings of the super spy sub, as well as details of the top secret undersea wiretapping operation, had just fallen into the hands of Soviet spies or free agents who would ransom the plans to the highest bidder, the contractor’s security team urgently phoned Navy counter-intelligence and the FBI. Like so much of the Ivy Bells operation, the security breach was unparalleled in special warfare, and the full strength of American law enforcement would be deployed in a mad scramble to get the plans back. It would mean a manhunt of epic proportions, and in the eyes of military planners the stakes were the very fate of the free world. 

Only it wasn’t the Soviets who stole the plans. It was two teens from working-class Vallejo who grabbed the satchels on a lark and unwittingly became the most wanted outlaws of the Cold War

This is a true story.

Scott Carmichael’s radio crackled to life. He was driving a back street in industrial South Francisco on what had been a relatively quiet day. In his thirties, he was beginning to develop a belly and bore the early signs of approaching middle age. He was naturally shy around people, but he was good natured and personable. He was also a preternaturally talented investigator. 

The voice on the radio belonged to his supervisor, and the message was urgent. Scott listened, then spun his car north toward Vallejo, about an hour away, jamming the pedal to the floor. 

Jesus, he thought, taking in the full implications of the missing plans. 

Swerving through traffic en route to Vallejo, Scott knew only too well that the Russian consulate in San Francisco was a mere 30 miles from the contractor’s office. He was the sole Navy investigator on the west coast — the only law enforcement official outside Washington DC, in fact — who’d been briefed on the full scope of Ivy Bells. The FBI, to say nothing of local law enforcement, was completely in the dark. Even his direct supervisors at NIS didn’t know much about the special assignment, which had been handed to him directly from top officials in Washington. He was young for that kind of responsibility, but he’d impressed his superiors by finishing first in the federal law enforcement academy and solving some big cases in his first months on the job. He had been placed in charge of internal security for Ivy Bells, which primarily meant making sure the sailors, contractors, and Navy personnel at Mare Island didn’t leak a solitary word about the military’s closest-guarded secret. 

Now, two satchels of top-secret blueprints and schematics had been stolen. Like everyone else, Scott had to consider the possibility it was a Soviet strike. The Russian consulate in San Francisco was a known gateway for Soviet spies, and Mare Island would have been heavily watched in this phase of the Cold War. It suggested an unmitigated disaster for the nation — to say nothing of his promising young career. 

With no one else to consult, no one on the ground who knew the full details of the ultra-secret program, it was up to Scott, and Scott alone, to get the materials back. 

White-knuckling it up the freeway, he careened down the ramp into Vallejo. 


Prior to becoming a Navy counterintelligence investigator, Scott had walked the beat as a cop in a redneck town in Wisconsin. It was his first real job after military service and college, and he loved it. There were days, responding to a call about a barroom brawl or domestic disturbance out in the sticks, when his nearest backup had been twenty minutes away and the guy a few feet in front of him was 220 pounds of drunken fury. Scott was an introvert by nature, but one of his sergeants, a guy named Ron, taught him that his most effective weapon in situations like those was his ability to talk his way out of trouble. Nine times out of ten, a volatile situation could be defused with some quick thinking, Ron imparted. 

Another sergeant nicknamed “Fergie” added an addendum: When things do feel like they’re going south, throw the first punch with as much force as you can muster and end it before it begins. Scott bundled the two lessons into a maxim, which had served him well since joining the elite Navy Investigative Services (NIS) team: Whatever the problem is, first try a Ron, but always keep a Fergie in reserve.

Scott pulled into the parking lot at the contractor’s office. Flashing his badge, he spoke to a secretary, who informed him that the company’s security team had already called the local FBI office for assistance. That’s bad, Scott realized. The secretary leaned closer and whispered that a young FBI Special Agent was just finishing up an interview with the contractor’s security personnel.

Scott thanked her and hurried over to the security office, where he bumped into the FBI agent strolling out of the security meeting. He was in his early twenties, a greenhorn. Scott introduced himself as an NIS investigator and began asking questions. The contractor’s security team had obviously fed the agent a cover story, which was protocol — even the FBI couldn’t be trusted with details about Ivy Bells. Consequently, the agent had no idea how grave the situation was. 

“Listen,” Scott said, leveling a deadly serious gaze. He figured if the FBI was already involved in tracking this theft, he could at least get some real help out of them. “We’ve got to get this stuff back before it’s dark, tonight.” 

The agent looked puzzled, so Scott outlined the national security clusterfuck they now found themselves in the middle of. The agent squinted back, processing this new information. 

“Well,” he answered at last, “I should really go back and talk to my boss.” 

Scott clenched his teeth. The Vallejo FBI office was a two-agent outpost, and he’d clearly drawn the low card. 

“Okay,” Scott answered, hustling past him on his way to interview the contractor’s security team, “please get back to me.” 

The FBI agent did get back to him promptly, but the news was confounding. On the radio, the supervising agent informed Scott he was already coordinating a city-wide manhunt using local Vallejo police. They wouldn’t be needing his assistance.

Scott stared at his walkie talkie in disbelief. Not only was the FBI cutting him out, but now every badge carrying beat cop in Vallejo would be on the trail of the stolen documents. If the FBI couldn’t be trusted with details about Ivy Bells, imagine the local foot patrol happening across a satchel full of highly classified submarine blueprints. For a man whose primary job was to plug security leaks, this was like being handed a sieve and asked to bail. 

Scott ran out of the office, but he realized he had no leads and no prospects. Somehow, some way, he had to get to those documents before they got to the Russian consulate or were intercepted by local cops. He was about an hour behind the thieves. His only hope was an extraordinary stroke of luck. 


Scott was still a newbie with NIS, which made him an unusual choice to lead internal security on a sensitive operation like Ivy Bells. He’d first joined the Navy after high school, mustering out after his term was up and heading to college before becoming a small-town cop. He only applied for the NIS job after turning 30 and sensing he wasn’t living up to his full potential. He’d been with the agency a few years and was considered a “blue flamer” by his superiors, a young man who seemed destined to rocket to the top. In his first months as a trainee, a time when most new investigators were learning to file paperwork, he’d identified the culprits behind a scheme to pilfer hundreds of thousands of dollars from a major Navy base. His supervisors had already tried and failed to solve the case, and the resulting arrests were a big win for the Bay Area NIS office. It became the match that ignited Scott’s career.


Soon after that case, Scott was sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia, where most federal law enforcement agencies train their recruits. After a notoriously challenging three-month curriculum, Scott graduated first in his class, which included hundreds of investigators from Customs, Treasury, IRS, and other agencies. The top ranking surprised him — he’d been a so-so student in high school and college — and he attributed his success to a deep-seated fear of failing at something he realized he genuinely cared about. 

Scott’s orders on Ivy Bells were simple: Make sure there are no leaks. It was a staggeringly important job: The lives of the submarine crew and, in large part, the outcome of the Cold War rested on the secrecy of the operation. Still, it hadn’t exactly been a challenging assignment prior to the theft of the documents. Submariners are a famously tight-lipped clique, and the crew assigned to conduct the undersea wiretapping was the best of the best. Scott had gone so far as to enlist attractive women to fawn all over crew members on shore leave in order to surreptitiously test their resilience. To a man, they remained admirably stalwart. 

Even if someone involved in Ivy Bells decided to talk, there was a failsafe. Due to the extraordinary sensitivity of the operation, even most people directly involved didn’t know its true nature. All but a few officers, divers, and technicians aboard the submarine believed the real mission was one of a handful of cover stories. One was that the sub was meant to clandestinely recover debris from a Soviet supersonic missile that had blown up during testing. The Navy went to such pains to conceal the Ivy Bells operation that the cover story was actually carried out alongside the wiretapping. More than two million tiny fragments from a spent missile had been recovered by Navy divers, enough that the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory had been able to reverse engineer its own copy. The undersea wiretapping was happening right under the noses of the sub’s crew. Needless to say, the theft of top secret plans put all that careful work into jeopardy. In fact, the whole multi-billion-dollar intelligence gathering operation hinged on Scott finding the men who’d grabbed those satchels. And now he had the local cops to worry about. 

Canvassing Vallejo in his car, as well as Navy communications, Scott’s walkie talkie squelched loudly. It was tuned to a local police channel, and there was suddenly a whole lot of activity. 


Scott listened to the chatter over the radio. A local cop had stopped a blue pickup driven by a 17-year-old Black male with a white passenger of the same age. The truck matched the description of the getaway vehicle. Scott frantically pulled out a city map. Vallejo, a diverse, economically depressed town, was laid out in a loose grid, and he located the intersection with his finger. Then he sped off, map pressed against the steering wheel. 

When he arrived, he found a chaotic scene. The blue pickup was stopped, doors open, in the middle of the street, which was now cordoned off. The driver was standing nearby with a lone detective. A hundred yards away, every cop and detective in Vallejo, uniformed and plainclothes, along with the two FBI agents, stood in a menacing huddle around the white kid whom, whom the engineer had identified as the person that stole the plans. It was clear that everyone carrying a badge believed this was the kind of case that could make a career. It looked like a scrum of vultures. 

Scott walked up to the lone detective babysitting the driver and flashed his NIS credentials. The detective, clearly eager to get in on the action down the street, nudged his suspect toward Scott. “Here, watch this kid,” he said, then jogged off. 

Scott looked at the young driver, then at the ongoing interrogation down the street. Having worked as a cop, he had a good read on what was happening. These were two kids who had done something very stupid, but they weren’t spies or hardened criminals. Scott figured they’d been at it with the white kid for fifteen minutes or so. He was also sure the kid hadn’t confessed yet. If he had, they’d have piled him into a cruiser by now and rushed him downtown for booking. The kid in the center of the interrogation was probably scared witless, Scott guessed. He should have been. He was the one who committed what any prosecutor would portray as a strong-arm robbery. He’d likely taken a look at several government documents stamped SECRET, to boot. He was facing serious jail time, and he wasn’t saying a word.


But the driver? Scott took one look at him and saw how shaken he was. He had a hunch the kid hadn’t really wanted to be involved from the get-go, was just along for the ride. He looked younger than his friend, exposed and frightened. The Vallejo detective had handed Scott the one person who might, with coaxing, lead him to the stolen documents. Bad police work, to be sure, but good luck for Scott.


Putting on his good cop face, Scott turned to the kid and invoked his old sergeant Ron. 

“Look, both you and I know what you got,” Scott said. “And you do not want it. You do not want that stuff. It’s classified government information. You could be in big trouble for taking it. But I’m going to give you a way out of this so that everybody will be happy and you can just walk away, free as a bird. Here it is. You tell me where my bags are, give them back to me, all of it, and when you do that, we are going to pretend that this entire affair never happened. It simply never happened, and we’re going to forget about it. You will not be arrested. You will not go to jail. You won’t go to court. We’ll just walk away from this thing friends. You go one way, I’ll go the other, and you’ll never see or hear from me again. That’s the deal.” 

The kid was processing this, deciding whether to trust this unlikely ally. That’s when Scott invoked a Fergie and brought down the hammer. 

“But, on the other hand, if you don’t give that bag back to me, I can tell you that I am going to find the damned thing anyway. And when I do, you’re going to go to the deepest and darkest jail cell the United States government can find. You will never again see the light of day, and I will never, ever let you out of there. You’ll just rot in that jail cell forever. It’s that simple.” 

Right after the speech, the detective who’d handed the kid over returned. Everyone was heading downtown. Scott led the kid to the detective’s car. 

“Just remember what I said.” 

Rushing to his car, Scott got in line behind what looked like a funeral procession of police vehicles. At the station, it took the front desk a few minutes to verify his credentials. The place was a zoo, suddenly buzzing with every on-duty officer in the city. When he got through, he saw that the chaotic scene from the street had reassembled itself inside the police station. Every cop in the city had squeezed into an interrogation room. The room was so packed people were spilling out the doorway into the hall. Scott saw the kid seated in a room nearby, once again with a single detective babysitting him. The second Scott stuck his head in, the detective leapt up from his chair and asked Scott to watch the driver. 

“Another detective will be by in a minute,” the guy called, already halfway down the hall. 

The kid looked up at Scott. 

“What should I do?” he asked. 

Before Scott could answer, the other detective lumbered in holding a small spiral notepad and an attitude of general indifference. 

Scott turned to the kid. 

“Okay,” he said, “This is it. Where’s my bag?” 

“Back home. Stuffed between the washer and the dryer.” 

Scott practically leapt across the table and got the kid to his feet. He pulled him by the arm and led him out of the room. The stunned detective had no idea what was happening. 

“Tell your friends I’m going to get my stuff,” Scott called.


Scott put the kid in his passenger seat and they drove to a suburban house not far from the contractor’s facility. It was like all the other small tract homes in the neighborhood, a little run, having seen better days. He might have noticed a car in the driveway, beat up from driving to and from double shifts at Mare Island. 

Scott entered the house with the kid. When he walked out he had the blueprints. He tucked the materials under his arm. He got in his car and the kid watched him drive away without making trouble, as promised. 

Scott drove directly to the contractor’s office. The security team inventoried the contents of the satchels. Everything was accounted for. The sun was just starting to go down. He had gotten the materials back before dark. 

On the long drive home, unease began setting in. Scott was troubled by the lack of cooperation with the FBI, but that was easy enough to explain away with ego. More unsettling was how quickly he had chosen to violate investigative procedure, the very thing he’d aced down at FLETC. The kid who gave him back the satchels had not been read his rights, for one. Scott had barreled into his home and taken evidence. He had the kid’s permission, sure, but the kid was also a juvenile. Scott didn’t have authority to promise the kid he wouldn’t be arrested, although with the satchels back safely he could be reasonably sure there wouldn’t be an arrest. There was no physical evidence, for one, and no chance the contractor would be pushing for prosecution. At the very least, Scott knew he had opened himself to disciplinary action for tossing out the rulebook so brazenly. The kid might even want to sue, risking a public hearing that would poke another potential hole in the black program Scott had sworn to protect. 

The thoughts festered overnight, and in the morning he decided to drive to work early and tell his NIS supervisor the whole story before someone else had a chance to, come what may. Scott waited in the parking lot next to the NIS office on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, where he intercepted his supervisor, Bill, coming into work. Scott barreled through the story without taking a breath. He told Bill how he’d divulged sensitive information about Ivy Bells to the FBI, how he’d knowingly interfered with a local police investigation, how he’d recovered the documents without a warrant and then made an executive decision to get rid of the evidence by giving everything back to the contractor. 

Scott affirmed that he felt confident he had done the right thing at every step, but he also recognized that he had stepped far out of bounds. When he finished, his conscience clear, he awaited the summary ruling from his supervisor that could spell the end of his career. 

But it turned out Bill already had a pretty good idea what Scott had been up to in Vallejo, even if he wasn’t privy to the full scope of Ivy Bells. The previous evening, he had received a call from the Director of Counterintelligence for NIS (CAPT Victor Palmucci, USN(Red.)), the head honcho back in Washington DC.

NIS CI Director Victor Palmucci 

The Director had final word on all counterintelligence activities conducted by the agency, so Bill smiled as he repeated what the man had told him over the phone the night before. 

“It’s about time one of our agents did something right.” 

Scott was still a blue flamer, after all, and his counterintelligence career was only just beginning. Though he didn’t know it yet, the former Navy communications officer turned small-town cop turned government investigator was well on his way to becoming the most successful spy hunter in American history.

He had just stopped his first international incident — It wouldn’t be his last."


Sunday, September 25, 2022

W. Britains Ltd. potential recreation of the Coronation of King Charles III

 Given the consolidation (implosion) of Great Britain’s Armed Forces, and the succession of multiple owner’s of W. Britains Ltd., it is highly improbable that unlike in 1953 (Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation), there will be a comparable recreation of King Charles III’s, ceremonies, by any toy soldier manufacturer, including Britains.

For the fortunate, but rapidly dwindling, number of old Britains toy soldiers (made < 1966) collectors, the author has researched and compiled a list of sets (w/numbers) which would be accurately representative of the participants in the forthcoming historical event. It has already been officially stated that it will occur Saturday, May 6, 2023, and will be shorter, more inclusive, and less expensive than previous coronations. That being the case, a toy soldier replication may be more achievable than thought (if you have the sets). Personally was shocked at how few the number of applicable sets. However, while several are relatively common, quite a few are very rare.


The Life Guards, No. 1

The Royal Horse Guards, No. 2

Royal Marines, marching at the slope, No. 35

Full Band of the Coldstream Guards, marching No. 37

King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, No. 39

Scots Guards, marching at the slope, No. 75

Band of the Life Guards, No. 101

Gurkhas, No.197

General Staff Officers, Review Order, No. 201 

The King’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard, No. 1257

Band of the Royal Marines, No. 1291 (2153, 2115)

The State Coach, No. 1470

Attendant’s to the State Coach, Footmen, outriders and Yeomen of the Guard, No. 1475 (9302)

Coldstream Guards, Marching at the slope, No. 1515

Band of the Royal Air Force, No. 1527 (2116)

Royal Canadian Mounted Police, dismounted, No.1554

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, No. 1555

Drum and Pipe Band of the Scots Guards, No. 1722

The Life Guards, mounted and foot sentries, No. 2029

The Sovereign’s Standard of Life Guards (Escort), No. 2067

Royal Marines, at present arms, No. 2071

Royal Air Force, marching at the slope, No. 2073

King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, at the walk, No. 2077

Irish Guards, presenting arms, No. 2078 

The Royal Company of Archers the King’s Body Guard for Scotland, No. 2079

Royal Navy, marching at the slope, No. 2080

The Sovereign’s Escort, Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, No. 2081 (large set)

Coldstream Guards, at attention, No. 2082

Color Party of the Scot Guards, No. 2084

Drum and Pipe Band of the Irish Guards, No. 2096 

Full Band of the Grenadier Guards, No. 2113

The Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, No. 2149


Dependent on how the term “more inclusive” is implemented there may be additional applicable sets.

Following are images of several of the sets listed above;

The State Coach, Set No.1470

A view of the same set in the box

Another view of the same set displayed by the box

The Yeomen of the Guard "Beefeaters", 
Set No. 1257

Band of the Royal Marines, Set No. 1291

The Royal Company of Archers, Set No. 2079

Honorable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms,
Set No. 2149

The Sovereign's Standard (Escort), Set No. 2067

The Life Guards, Set No. 1

The Royal Horse Guards, Set No. 2

Friday, August 26, 2022

Secret Soviet Maps of Seattle circa 1970's

The summer of 1978 I spent in Seattle, WA with my family at Honeywell MSC (Marine Systems Center) in Ballard. In parallel, I maintained my Naval Reserve Intelligence affiliation, attending meetings with Naval Reserve Intelligence Unit 13-1-1, which drilled at NAS Seattle/Sand Point.

My activities at Honeywell involved “black programs” with the CIA under an umbrella of contracts which were known collectively as HARP (Honeywell Advanced Research Project). In addition Honeywell had a significant role in the CIA’s Operation Azorian (aka Project Jennifer).

C. Richard “Dick” Abbey (Honeywell Program Manager) and Hal Clark (Project Engineer), and Hank Van Calcar played significant parts in this program. Others included Pat O'Connell, Curt Rosell, and Larry Armbruster. (The author's apologies for any omissions). See:

As a brief segue, at one of my navy reserve drill weekends I had the unique privilege of meeting CDR Jack "Blackjack" Neuman, USN (Rtd). I don't recall the exact circumstances, but he must have been a fiend of one of the officers in the Seattle unit. Blackjack was a legend. He had retired after 17 years in both diesel and nuclear submarines. He was qualified as both a hard hat and scuba/rebreather diver. He was fluent (speak/read/write) in both German and Russian. Suffices he was an expert on the Soviet Submarine Force. As a hobby he had met, and befriended, most the surviving (at that time) WWII German U-boat commanders. He had been specifically retained under contract as the resident onboard expert by the CIA to direct the identification and evaluation of everything recovered from the K-129. During the course of one of our lunches I related being in Seattle working at Honeywell on a team with Dick Abbey on a HARP project. It suffices that both mutual acquaints and drinks were exchanged.

The following images are two more contemporary photographs of the MSC facilities.

Although I was active in Naval Intelligence at that same point in time I was not aware of a significant project being maintained by The Miliary Topographic Directorate of the General Staff of the Soviet Army. Obviously it was being conducted under joint auspices with the GRU (Гла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние, translated, Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie (Organization of the Main Intelligence Administration) of the then Soviet Union. In addition I had no need-to-know so would not have been read-in to our awareness, if it existed. It included the compilation and maintenance of more than a million detailed maps of cities and places throughout the world. A series of three (detailed/annotated) maps were specifically generated of the entire Seattle area. The date of the surviving edition is 1976. With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, all copies of all the maps were ordered destroyed. Somehow, due to a series of circumstances (see discussion below) at least one set survived, and was acquired by the owners of a bookshop in Riga, Latvia. 


Somehow the Seattle Times newspaper had discovered the existence of the maps, and published an article on 2 June 2018. With acknowledgement and gratitude a complete copy of the article follows. In addition access to the URL affords access to other information;

The Soviets’ secret map of Seattle tells a lot about us 

Originally published June 2, 2018 at 6:00 am Updated June 2, 2018 at 3:40 pm

1 of 3 | Aivars Beldavs, one of the owners of the Jana Seta bookshop in Riga, Latvia, holds a paper copy of the Soviet map of Seattle. The Soviets had Seattle in three different maps, showing North, Central and South Seattle.

During the Cold War years, the Soviets ran a secret, massive program that produced a million maps of cities and places around the world. They were remarkably accurate and contained information not found on local maps — like the “explosive devices” factory in Ballard.

Erik Lacitis

Seattle Times staff reporter

This 1976 map of Seattle is not the kind you would have bought at a gas station.

No, this is a secret map put together by the Military Topographic Directorate of the General Staff of the Soviet Army. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) was fond of terms like “directorate.”

Remember, in 1976, we’re still in the Cold War. It’s still the era of the “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” and “From Russia with Love.

Stories in the news recently are reminders of those days. We close their Russian Consulate in Seattle, citing the risk of spying. The Russians retaliate by booting out 60 American diplomats.

This map was part of a massive Cold War effort by the Soviets. Over five decades — beginning with World War II until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 — it produced more than a million detailed maps of cities and places around the world.

That’s the conclusion of John Davies and Alexander Kent, two British map experts. They put together 350 extracts from the maps in a 2017 book, “The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World.

Thousands of hours of manpower would have been spent on the maps.

“They must have been funded to a phenomenal degree,” Davies said in a phone interview from London.

You could call the secret 1976 map “the Soviet of Seattle,” a not-so-joking reference to the “Soviet of Washington” title reflecting this state’s (meaning Seattle’s) lefty politics as distinguished from the rest of the United States.

Besides the Seattle map extract, in the British researchers’ trove are ones of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London and other cities.

The Seattle map marks one spot, No. 29, on the shores of Salmon Bay in Ballard, as “Explosion mechanisms and radio electronic devices.” An accompanying text says there is a factory there that produces “explosive devices for nuclear arms.”


No. 29 is placed where 24th Avenue Northwest dead-ends at the bay, now the location of the Stimson Marina.

What did the Soviets know?

Tom Bayley, president of C.D. Stimson, has a guess.

“The Honeywell marine division pretty much occupied that whole property back in the day,” he says. “Who knows what they were building?”

A May 4, 1983, Seattle Times story about Honeywell Marine Systems Division moving from Ballard to the Mukilteo area says the company is a prime contractor for the U.S. Navy’s lightweight torpedoes, working on homing systems. The work was important enough that the facility had “to maintain security,” the story says.

(Author’s note: At that time Honeywell MSD manufactured the Torpedo, Mk46 Mod0. In addition to delivery from surface ship, aircraft, or helicopter, it was the payload of the CAPTOR (Encapsulated Torpedo) Mk60 mine. The author personally worked on tactical deployment analyses for CAPTOR.)

The author standing by a CAPTOR Mk60 
mine at U.S. Naval Undersea Museum, Keyport, WA

Another view of the CAPTOR Mk60 mine

Then there is the astonishing No. 26 on the Bellevue portion of the map, bounded by Bellevue Way Northeast to the west, Northeast Sixth Street to the north, 108th Avenue Northeast to the east, and Northeast Fourth Street to the south.

It’s abbreviated as “atom,” most likely an adjective, which, depending on the noun it went with, could stand for factory, lab or plant, explains Professor Galya Diment, a native Russian speaker with the University of Washington’s Slavic Languages & Literatures department.

She translated portions of the “spravka,” text accompanying the map. It says No. 26 is a “nuclear factory which produces nuclear fuel.”

Wait a minute.

Right smack in Bellevue?

Not according to city of Bellevue records. Spokeswoman Lenka Wright responds, “Planning and Community Development staff were unable to discover anything in the records available … that suggest these sites by the 1970s were anything but property owned by Puget Western, the real estate arm of Puget Power (now known as Puget Sound Energy)

(After this story was posted, reader Ed McDonald wrote that he used to work in sales for a high-tech company in the 1970s. “If I recall correctly, Exxon Nuclear had operations at Hanford, with offices in Bellevue where your article mentions . . . I called on them in both cities. I think the Soviet map had it nailed.”

A relatively current domestically produced aerial photograph of the exact same area for direct comparison.

(An article in The New York Times from March 14, 1976, states, “Exxon Nuclear, located in Bellevue, Wash., is attempting to become this nation’s first commercial supplier of a complete range of nuclear fuel products and services necessary to operate atomic reactor.”)

Aided by spy satellites, and picnics

Davies says the Soviet mapmakers did make some mistakes — misnamed roads, putting in nonexisting subway sections.

But he says they were also remarkably accurate, as was the case with pretty much everything on the Seattle map.

Davies says he’s been contacted by individuals involved in military operations in Afghanistan. In some cases, the vastly more comprehensive Soviet maps were used by the U.S. in its 2001 invasion.

For the overall mapping project, Davies says, the Soviet researchers “must have acquired all kinds of documentation — street directories, trade documentation.” They used U.S. Geological Survey maps but then added their own information. For Seattle, water depths for Elliott Bay were not shown on USGS mapping but they were on the Soviet map. Somehow, the Soviets determined the water depths — and they were also different from those on NOAA charts.

By 1962, the Soviets were using imagery from their Zenit spy satellites. The Soviet maps then could place new roads and housing developments that were yet to be included in local maps.

The TV series “The Americans,” about KGB officers posing as an American married couple, raises the possibility that the Soviets had spies getting information for the maps.

Yes, it happened, says Davies.

The online publication Pravda Report quotes a retired Swedish secret-police chief as saying that Soviet agents would tour Sweden to check on such map items as the load capacity of bridges and the distance between trees.

The Soviets arranged “picnics in the places of strategic interest, they would be very friendly and sociable to the local population,” says the story.

Unfortunately for one Soviet spy, his conversation with a local about specific buried cables was overheard by a Swedish spy who happened to be on the beach, too, says the story.

For Seattle, plenty was compiled, by whatever means.

There were 134 “objects of interest” listed, including 52 “factories, industrial plants, commercial premises,” with their products or purpose.

No. 123 was labeled “The Center for Space Exploration” in Kent. It’s Boeing 18-61 Building, used primarily for Department of Defense projects.

No. 51 in Redmond was identified as “the rocket factory and the science research center develop and produce engines for rockets.” That’s Aerojet Rocketdyne, which calls itself “an innovative company delivering solutions that create value for its customers in the aerospace and defense markets.”

The map doesn’t just list objects that would be construed as of military use.

No. 9 is the “People’s National Bank of Washington” in downtown Seattle.

No. 113 is “TV Station KTNT,” now KSTW.

No. 12 is simply “Paper and metal containers.”

No. 7 is the “Main Post Office.”

Then there is No. 79, offices for the Republican Party here. In Soviet parlance, it is “Department of the Central Committee of the Republican Party.” They don’t bother to list the offices for the local Democrats.

Was the purpose for the maps to prepare for a military invasion?

The maps “don’t have bombing targets,” says Davies. “In a nuclear war, what’s the point of mapping everything if you’re going to bomb it?

“The only possible underlying assumption is that they’d need (the maps) when running the city.”

The Soviets believed that capitalism would collapse, he says, and communism would be “the only world order.” The maps would help them manage that conversion.

Maybe, says Jack Barsky, 68, who was born in East Germany and from 1978 to 1988 was an agent in the U.S. for the KGB.

He now lives in the Atlanta area, has been a guest on numerous TV news shows and takes his story around the country.

Barsky says he had never known about the secret maps, although he wishes the KGB had given him some.

“My personal experience is that the KGB knew squat about Chicago in 1978 (where he first landed), or else they would have warned me of a place named the South Side,” he says.

Works of art, found by chance

Davies and his writing partner found the maps by chance.

Davies, a retired IT consultant, was working in Riga, Latvia, the former Soviet republic, in the early 2000s when he stopped by Jana Seta, a bookshop for maps.

One of the men who had started the shop, Avers Zvirbulis, had earlier come across the secret maps.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, a couple of Russian officers were told to destroy more than 6,000 tons of maps stored in Latvia.

But deals were made.

Zvirbulis negotiated to buy 100 tons of the maps, of which only two to three tons survived after kids vandalized and set fire to them, says Davies.

That’s still a lot of maps, and “The Red Atlas” authors printed 350 extracts in a painstakingly designed book.

The maps are in full color with Cyrillic wording and exquisite details — truly works of art.

On the book’s website, Davies says the writers plan to sell prints of the maps soon. For Seattle, there are maps for the northcentral and south end. Each of these maps are accessible by clicking on the respective direction.

“Of course, in a world of smartphones with GPS and driving apps with voices that tell us which roads to take, and which warn us where there is a traffic jam or a speed camera, paper maps may seem an anachronism,” says Davies.

“But their historical significance cannot be denied. And neither can their beauty.”