Radio Still Medium of Choice for Many Spies Reply


In 1975 whilst the Cold War was still being fought, short wave listeners were treated nightly to whatever stations they chose to listen to from wherever, propagation permitting. These broadcast stations carried a catholic mix of information, political views and insights, propaganda, religious ideology (usually with a political point) and music and other cultural statements of the government of the day. Broadcast stations with good signals were the BBC World Service, Voice of America, and Radio Moscow. But not all was as it seemed. Radio Moscow used very high powers so that those furthest from their transmitters still received signals at good strength whilst the propagation conditions the frequencies were selected for the most efficient transfer of radio programs. One could sit in one’s armchair with no more than a telescopic antenna raised from the radio set and hear news from a foreign station and quickly retuning, could hear the same news but with a totally different bent. Even the music was not what it seemed, especially for two particular British spies, one being Frank Clifton Bossard, an officer with Britain’s Ministry of Defence Missile Guidance Branch, the other John Symonds, an ex-Detective Sergeant wanted in connection with Operation COUNTRYMAN.  Bossard was strapped for cash and approached the KGB, whilst finding himself overseas with no funds Symonds found himself working for the KGB as a ‘Romeo Spy’ seducing wives of diplomats for information. Interestingly MI5 denied that Symonds acted as he did and suggested such actions were a figment of John Symonds’ imagination.

The proof came with the publication of the Mitrokhin Archive that gave an excellent account of Mr. Symonds’ activities and whereabouts. Both Bossard and Symonds received their instructions by radio; they simply listened to Radio Moscow at a certain day and time and waited for certain pieces of music to be played to give instruction as to which dead letter box contained a message for them and needed to be cleared. Whether the Voice of America did such acts is unknown, but probable. The BBC broadcast like coded messages to the French Resistance and others during World War II, an example appearing in the blockbuster film, The Longest Day. The BBC also used mention of a concocted news piece on local radio to ensure some compliance of those who had illegally entered the Iranian Embassy but signed their own death warrants when they executed a hostage in 1980.

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