Lincolnshire Poacher (numbers station)

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"Lincolnshire Poacher"
Broadcast area RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus
Frequency Several shortwave frequencies between 5422 and 16084 kHz
Format Numbers station
Language(s) English
Affiliations Royal Air Force (Speculated)
Owner MI6 (Speculated)
Sister stations Cherry Ripe

The Lincolnshire Poacher was a powerful shortwave numbers station that transmitted from Cyprus from the mid-1970s to June 2008. The station gained its commonly known name as it uses bars from the English folk song "The Lincolnshire Poacher" as an interval signal. The radio station was believed to be operated by the British Secret Intelligence Service and emanated from the island of Cyprus.[1] Amateur direction finding linked it with the Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri, Cyprus, where several curtain antennas had been identified as being its transmitter.[2] It consisted of an electronically synthesised English-accented female voice reading groups of five numbers: e.g. '0-2-5-8-8'. The final number in each group was spoken at a higher pitch. It is likely that the station was used to communicate to undercover agents (spies) operating in other countries, to be decoded using a one-time pad.[3]

An Asian numbers station of identical format is believed to have been broadcast from Australia, and nicknamed "Cherry Ripe". It uses several bars from the English folk song of the same name as its interval signal.[3][4] Cherry Ripe continued to be on-air until December 2009.[5]

History[edit]

The precise date that the Lincolnshire Poacher began broadcasting is unknown; however, it is estimated that the broadcasts started around the early to mid-1970s.[6] While numbers stations have existed since World War I (making them some of the earliest radio transmissions[citation needed]) numbers stations such as Lincolnshire Poacher began appearing during the Cold War, when nations such as the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom needed to send messages discreetly to their operatives in other countries.[7] However, after the Cold War, the number of numbers stations greatly decreased.[7] The Lincolnshire Poacher remained operating after the end of the Cold War, and continued to be broadcast into the next two decades.[3]

Akrotiri, Cyprus, the believed location of the Lincolnshire Poacher's broadcasts and radio antennas.

The Lincolnshire Poacher stopped broadcasting in July 2008. The last recorded transmission of the station was on 29 June 2008.[6] It is believed that the station's sister station, Cherry Ripe, began to send broadcasts that used to be intended to be sent over the Lincolnshire Poacher station.[6] This is believed to be true because the "Cherry Ripe" station used a very similar call signal, and broadcast its messages in 200 sets of five-number IDs.[6] In 2013 The Daily Dot published an article suggesting the Lincolnshire Poacher had moved from radio to telephone, publishing a phone number registered in Aldershot, and a recording of a call to the number which featured the distinctive interval signal followed by fifteen groups of five number sequences.[8] A follow up article was published a day later which highlighted the sudden removal of the communication system. Instead of hearing two bars of the classic English folk tune, callers were instead relayed a message telling them to use “backup channel romeo x-ray three nine”, followed by “end”. Text messages were received by the reporters stating the telephone number was restricted, asking them not to call it again.[9]

Location[edit]

Although the usage of numbers stations has not been confirmed by any world government, amateur enthusiasts have traced the location of the Lincolnshire Poacher's signal transmission to RAF Akrotiri, a Royal Air Force base located on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.[1] The station is believed to have been operated by the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and maintained by the Royal Air Force members that occupy the base in Cyprus.[6]

Broadcast schedule[edit]

The Lincolnshire Poacher was broadcast several times throughout the day, and was transmitted seven days a week, at various times and on various shortwave frequencies. This schedule was accurate as of January 2006, which is the most recent update to the broadcast schedule. All times are Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), and all radio frequencies in megahertz (MHz).[3]

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
12:00 14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
13:00 14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14:00 10.426
12.603
14.487
12.603
14.487
16.314
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
14.487
15.682
16.084
10.426
11.545
14.487
11.545
14.487
15.682
15:00 11.545
13.375
15.682
7.755
8.464
10.426
11.545
14.487
16.084
11.545
12.603
13.375
11.545
12.603
13.375
11.545
12.603
13.375
11.545
12.603
13.375
16:00 11.545
12.603
13.375
11.545
13.375
15.682
6.485
7.755
10.425
8.464
12.603
14.487
11.545
12.603
13.375
11.545
12.603
13.375
8.464
10.426
11.545
20:00 11.545
 
 
           

References[edit]

  • "Tracking the Lincolnshire Poacher". BBC Radio 4. 23 April 2005. Retrieved 2 May 2010.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "E03 The LincolnShire Poacher". Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  2. ^ "Lincolnshire Poacher". Numbers and Oddities. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
  3. ^ a b c d Simon Mason. "The Lincolnshire Poacher". Retrieved 2008-05-25.
  4. ^ "Profile of Cherry Ripe". Spynumbers. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
  5. ^ Hundred forty-seventh edition of the N&O column / Spooks newsletter
  6. ^ a b c d e Mason, Simon (30 October 2009). "E3 Lincolnshire Poacher". Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  7. ^ a b Pepitone, Juilanne (31 July 2008). "Secrets in the Static". Esquire Magazine.
  8. ^ Cook, James (5 September 2013). "We called a secret MI6 phone number". Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  9. ^ Cook, James (6 September 2013). "Did we take out MI6's secret line?". Retrieved 5 September 2017.

Coordinates: 34°37′05″N 32°56′33″E / 34.61806°N 32.94250°E / 34.61806; 32.94250