Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lincolnshire Poacher Off Air

After decades of broadcasting, the Lincolnshire Poacher numbers station (E3 voice) has gone off-air. Numbers stations are used by intelligence agencies to transmit encrypted messages to agents in foreign countries. These shortwave stations send streams of numbers or letters by Morse or voice.

The Lincolnshire Poacher is probably the best know numbers station ever. Nicknamed after the English folk song that is used as introduction signal, each of its transmissions starts with repeating the melody and a call sign group, followed by a message of exactly 200 groups of five numbers, spoken by an electronic English-accented female voice. Every single day, each hour, from 1200 to 2200 UTC on different frequencies. With its transmissions in voice and on such a regular basis, it was easy to capture with a small shortwave radio. The station apparently transmits from the RAF Akrotiri basis in Cyprus and is believed to be operated by the British Secret Intelligence Service. The reason for fixed number of 200 groups is probably that they always send numbers to keep the lines active and ready for use when required, and opponents who monitor the station won't notice any difference when message traffic changes or increases.

The station is inactive since the end of June 2008 and whether the station will reappear is unknown. It's Asian twin station, the Cherry Ripe has also gone off-air. I encourage the readers to help tracking the station and hopefully find out when and on which frequencies it comes back. Although a decrease of active stations is noticed since the end of the Cold War, intelligence work is far from decreasing in the current global situation, and numbers stations are still active and useful in some circumstances. The Lincolnshire Poacher is a true monument of Cold War spy stations and let's hope this mysterious station will get active again.

On my website you can find more information about these mysterious numbers stations, listen to some recordings and visit additional links. On Simon Masons Shortwave Espionage page you can download the 2005 BBC radio program 'Tracking the Lincolnshire Poacher' about numbers stations.

For those who want to help tracking the Lincolnshire Poacher, it was received very clear across Europe and the Middle-East. Its last known broadcast schedule was each day from 1200 to 2200 UTC on the following shortwave frequencies in Khz: 5422 - 5746 - 6485 - 6900 - 6959 - 7337 - 7755 - 8464 - 9251 - 10426 - 11545 - 12603 - 13375 - 14487 - 15682 - 16084

Update: it's reported that the Cherry Ripe is still in the air. Nothing heard of the LP for now.

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