Author Topic: The Artists Portfolio: an orphan Cold War backstory in need of models  (Read 996 times)

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Online Rheged

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I’m not sure if this counts as an entry in the Cold War Group event, as encouragement and/or a source of ideas for other members  or even just another one of those orphan backstories that I occasionally produce hoping that it can be converted into styrene by someone with more skill than me. I’d be most grateful if moderators could move it, if necessary, to the appropriate location . 

This story began about 18 months ago, when a former colleague asked for my help in some family history research he had started.  His grandfather had been involved at a fairly senior level in SOE during the Second World War and on the disbanding of the organisation had been appointed to the Joint Services Operational Liaison Administrative Group (JSOLAG). My colleague suggested that it was probably some sinecure appointment. I was asked if I could help to find out anything about this group. I was able to discover that the group still existed, but nothing else at all until I was engaged in research work of my own in the National Archives at Kew.  In a list of documents declassified in January 2015 was a brief mention of  “JSOLAG/1945-65/Artists 50YRS”  As this was the only data I had ever seen concerning JSLOAG, I asked for sight of this document. As ever, those wonderful people at Kew had a large folio waiting on my reading room desk the next morning.  I will admit that I was not expecting to find much of interest, the reference suggested that the group had perhaps been given the task of selecting items form the output of official war artists.  However, I was considerably surprised to find a large folio, containing five red covered files. Each file had printed on the cover the name of an artist and pinned to it a docket noting that the file had been vetted, redacted where necessary and declassified. The notes below summarise the information I gleaned from the files


The  first items in this file covered the operations of two Walrus and one Sea Otter aircraft supposedly part of the Allied Forces Baltic Sea Mine Clearance group. Included were tasking documents covering photographic surveys of the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian coastal areas. Most of the post-flight debriefings had been removed from the file, but some  clear oblique photos of Soviet military bases are included. One debriefing summary dated 15th June 1947 mentions an overflight of Liepaja harbour (Latvia) by Walrus aircraft T4338, listing the eleven light patrol craft visible.  This report is curious, as T4338  should be a Whitley Mk5 aircraft.

A few file items make reference to the Berlin Airlift.  Documents show accounts settled with Castle Air, Union Skyways, Air Albion and others, but there is next to no paperwork to show the task(s) undertaken apart from an engineer’s report of  “Removal of equipment, wiring etc and plating over a fuselage opening” in a Union Skyways Avro York.
Operations Robin and Jiu Jitsu are noted, with a letter from the US Department of Defense thanking JSLOAG for their assistance as a liaison office .
Most of the still classified “Operation Neighbour” material has been excised from the joint Anglo-Canadian file, apart from a single reference to a photomosaic of “the entire lower 48” now being available:  ” Commonwealth Eyes Only” and a tasking sheet for an RCAF Canberra  to “sweep the Minot area”. Another mysterious, undated reference is to” PR19” material covering much of Alaska and US bases in Japan. It appears to be from an  RAF source, but I have been unable to clarify when and by which aircraft this was obtained.

Following a personal approach by RAF station commander Gatow to his Soviet opposite number in 1958, a temporary local arrangement was made that in addition to Chipmunk flights permitted over Berlin to allow RAF flying personnel to maintain their flying status, occasional multi engine flights would be acceptable. A copy of the local agreement in the Landseer file notes that both the RAF  and Soviet officers were transport pilots.  An elderly Varsity , nicknamed Mrs Tiggywinkle, flew several trips over East Berlin but despite looking like a flying hedgehog with spines and aerials sticking out everywhere little new data was acquired.

This file was on my reading room desk, unopened, when I was interrupted by a man in an RN uniform  who introduced himself as Lt/Cdr Andrew. He apologised profusely for disturbing me, and informed me that some material in the Turner file had been released in error. The entire file was sealed and returned to the archives. “Andrew” offered  me some information which is considered no longer sensitive. He and I agreed the following paragraph as suitable for inclusion in this report.
The Farnborough  airshow is attended by foreign air attaches and politicians, and “Turner” staff circulate amongst them, making friends and hopefully influencing people. It is widely believed , although not officially acknowledged, that the MiG15, 17 and  21 airframes currently in “raspberry ripple” livery at Boscombe Down may have been flown into RAF Germany bases by Warsaw Pact officers who had attended Farnborough
Lt/Cdr Andrew and I  are agreed that no further comment should be made.


First in the file is a chit passing operational control of the Varsity “Mrs Tiggywinkle” from the charge of RAF Gatow to RAF Kai Tak. From 1960 until a hard landing damaged the airframe in 1965, it is on file that Mrs T flew regular “training” sorties along the Chinese coast. During this period, East Asian countries reported unusual interference patterns on local radio and coastal radar. A  Hong Kong Astronomical Society  report for the period, found in the file, attributes the high pitched whistling sound to unseasonal sunspot activity. A  note “Indeed!!”, is pencilled on the report.

A requisition for large numbers of subsurface noisemakers from Admiralty stores dated 1951 is clipped to a photo of an elderly amphibious  Noorduyn Norseman.  Also attached is a translation of a Soviet naval report describing “anomalous sonar signals in the North Baltic Submarine  Test  Zone, which made hydro acoustic trials impossible”. Further investigation reveals that the Swedish  island of Gotland played host to an ex RCMP Norseman on floats in the early 1950’s,  which dropped “test and recording buoys” for fishery research. Much of the fishery research was undertaken at night.


A list of Eastern European names takes up most of this file. Many are annotated “Located and recovered”, a small number noted as “Lost” and the remainder “Gone to Earth, safe”. A further list is copied below:-
Baltic: Norseman, Beaver , Walrus  Ex RAF Crash Boat
Central: Anson, Seibel204 , Soviet built Dakota
Adriatic: Dakota, Auster, Anson, Storch.  Fairmile D boat.

I assume that  the aircraft and vessels were used to collect high value refugees, intelligence officers and defectors within the zones mentioned.

There is also a short set of biographical notes on prominent Soviet and other Warsaw Pact figures, some of these carry pencilled remarks such as “flies in light aircraft; engine failure??” and “drives pre war Mercedes; steering or brake problem??”. I have found Captain Ivan Petrov (Soviet sonar specialist and keen yachtsman) on this list. Against his name the comment “unfortunate capsize??”.  Petrov did indeed die when his dinghy sank in good weather off Leningrad in 1962.

This file had been emptied of almost all of its contents. All that remained were a few press cuttings about the Portland spy  trials, with an attached note from Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence thanking JSOLAG for technical and administrative support

Note to fellow group members

The contents of the files are incomplete, and  so heavily redacted that many operations are still completely secret.  If any other member of the group is able to add to, or modify, this information Please do so.
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Online PR19_Kit

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Re: The Artists Portfolio: an orphan Cold War backstory in need of models
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2016, 01:28:09 pm »
Brilliant, utterly BRILLIANT!  :thumbsup: :bow:
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Online rickshaw

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Re: The Artists Portfolio: an orphan Cold War backstory in need of models
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2016, 04:15:56 pm »
I like how you slipped in "PR19" in there.  Well done, the legend continues!  ;D ;D
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Offline Gondor

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Re: The Artists Portfolio: an orphan Cold War backstory in need of models
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2016, 04:51:05 pm »
Nice. I liked the RCAF Canberra and Mrs Tiggywinkle being quietly slipped into the narrative which reads like a formal report.

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