ENIGMA 2000 Newsletter - Issue 5

July 2001
Articles, newsreports and Items of interest : e2k_news@hotmail.com

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Geoffrey Prime, Radio Operator, Linguist, Spy ! | Book review : The big breach | News Items
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Enigma 2000 article

Geoffrey Prime, Radio Operator, Linguist, Spy!

On sitting his O levels Geoffrey Prime left St Joseph's Catholic College, Stoke-on-Trent, with qualifications for English, Spanish, Latin, Geography and History. He immediately started work at a factory as a junior wages clerk. Two years later, in 1956, when Prime reached the age of 18 he was conscripted, as a National Serviceman, into the RAF. He wished to become a member of Flight Crew but due to colour blindness he became Aircraftman 11 (Stores)GA Prime.

Prime, the recruit, had a talent for languages and the Special Personnel Selection Officer (SPSO) soon noticed Prime's flair. With the Cold War at its zenith and the pressing need for Russian Linguists the SPSO forwarded Prime's name to the relevant office. Prime was sent from Alton to the special services college, RAF Crail, in Scotland to begin the Russian Language course. The fact that Prime was required to sign up for regular service was of no consequence to him, he was going to gain professional qualifications. He signed for 9 years service.

Sitting a progress test twice Prime advanced to Aircraftman 1 and then to acting sergeant. He then moved to London University on an advanced Russian Language course. He was just 19. However his prowess in languages did not serve him well at University and he left after 3 months.

His rank and privileges were taken from him and he returned to the mundane stores life. He was lucky to secure a posting to Kenya. At the age of 21 Prime was promoted to corporal. He filled his personal time by learning Swahili, becoming fluent, and speaking with the native labour used at his posting.

He returned to Britain in April 1962 and worked for the Air Ministry, in a Surrey Office. Prime was more mature and applied for training in languages again. During his time prior to and during his Kenya posting Prime had become interested in all things Russian.

Spending a year at the Joint Technical Services' Language School, Tangmere, Surrey Prime left with an O Level in Russian in May 1964 and was posted to RAF Gatow, Berlin. He was employed as a voice wireless operator in signal intelligence monitoring Russian voice transmissions. Prime carried out his function well and was promoted to sergeant in May 1968.

Berlin was surrounded by East Germany and accessible by sealed train. It was during one of these trips that Prime made contact with the Russians by throwing out a message at a checkpoint, at the boots of a sentry, as the train moved slowly past him. That was in January 1968.

Having volunteered his services to the USSR the relevant agency arranged to meet Prime at the Friedrichstrasse subway station. Prime visited a flat in Potsdam, where he was trained in spycraft and indoctrinated by the Soviet Intelligence services. He was given a Minox camera which he later used to photograph sensitive documents. The two Soviet Intelligence officers that he met there used the names 'Igor' and 'Valya' and instructed Prime in the advanced techniques of using invisible inks, one-time pads and microdots. He was also given £400 which he carried away along with the rest of the espionage paraphernalia in a briefcase with a cleverly concealed false bottom. His codename was 'Rowlands'.

Prime left the RAF after 12 years with rank and qualifications. Prior to leaving he attended a two-month resettlement course at RAF Innesworth, Gloucestershire where he was interviewed for a post as a Linguistic Specialist Grade IV with GCHQ.

On demobilisation in he was offered the post, starting work on 9th September 1968 providing a transcription service from Russian broadcast intercepts. He passed a language examination on 30th June 1968 which established him as a civil servant and transcriber. This post was at the London Processing Group in St Dunstans Hill, a London outstation of GCHQ, where he learned much about the secret methods and operations of the signal intelligence organisation. In March 1976 he moved to the Cheltenham site.

Prime was able to inform his Russian handlers exactly what GCHQ were monitoring, what electronic eavesdropping methods were being employed against any particular Soviet site. The Russians were impressed with the information that Prime gave them and in October 1969 they sent Prime an 'allo message, which he received on a short wave receiver, in a form used for the one-time pad.

He was instructed to seek out a dead letter box in Esher, Surrey, whereupon he found £400 cash and a letter of congratulations.

Prime met a woman, Helena Organ through a marriage bureau in March 1969 and they were married on 9th August 1969. The union was not a successful one sexually due to Prime's desire for young girls.

Prime continued with his double life, visiting Vienna, Dublin and Rome to meet his controllers and pick up supplies of one-time pads, secret writing articles and payment for his work.

Prime visited Cyprus in 1972 to meet his controllers again. Unfortunately on his return to the UK Prime lost his one-time pads and wrote to his controllers in East Germany informing them of the unfortunate mishap. An 'allo message confirmed receipt but allowed Prime to become a sleeper.

Helena Prime found a large sum of money in their home in April 1973.

A school of thought exists that suggests that Prime came clean with his wife as to how he accrued such a large amount of money. She in turn confided with a close friend, a Mrs Barshby.

Mrs Barshby was one of Prime's referees and at that time a PV check became due. The security officer who visited Mrs Barshby asked her questions of such a personal nature that she took an instant dislike to him and never revealed anything about Helena Prime's suspicions.

Prime and Mrs Prime agreed to a divorce in 1974.

Prime received a briefcase from the KGB in December 1974. It had a false bottom, which when removed revealed spying equipment as well as £400. There was also a letter that invited Prime to Vienna in 1975.

Prime moved from London to GCHQ Cheltenham where he became a Higher Linguist in 'J' Division and was given Byeman clearance to work on Rhyolite material from a satellite. He was also told about the Argus and Pyramider satellites.

In the summer of 1975 the entire system was compromised by Prime for just £800. He was also promoted in 1976 to the position of section head and given additional duties of Personal Security Supervisor.

(A similar betrayal was proceeding in the USA along the same lines as Prime's. A known drug addict, Andrew Lee, was paid $60,000. Virtually every technical detail of Rhyolite was passed to the Soviets).

When Prime moved to Cheltenham he took up residence in a house owned by a 33 year old divorcee, Rhona Ratcliffe. On 18th June 1977 they married. Apart from a wife he also gained 3 young children who benefited from the male, fatherly presence around the house.

Perhaps Prime was also affected by his new found responsibility, he was respected by the children and he adequately provided for them.

On 28th September 1977 Prime resigned from GCHQ. After a disastrous attempt at selling quality wines he became a Taxi driver.

Prior to his leaving GCHQ Prime had taken a number of photographs and on 16th May 1980 he handed over 15 reels of film to the KGB in Vienna. He was paid £600 for this.

Sometime later, on 16th November 1981 Prime travelled to East Berlin where his stock of espionage equipment was replenished and he received £4000.

During 1981 Prime had indulged his liking for young girls and had tried his luck with a young gymnast, aged 14, in her own home. This girl was different to the others and made a fight of it. She screamed and made as much noise as she could, struggling against Prime's perverted wishes. Geoffrey Prime was really scared and ran off, to his brown two-tone, Mark IV Ford Cortina that was parked in a small farm access. He drove away unaware that one of the nearby farmhands was something of a car buff. On interview with the police he was able to give a detailed description of the vehicle.

Whilst he was unable to recall the entire index mark of the vehicle he was able to state with certainty that the car was an 'S' reg.

Subsequent investigations through the PNC revealed 426 owners of like Ford Cortinas in the immediate surrounding area, all of whom would need to be interviewed.

Further inquiry revealed that the suspect's car was 'Roman Bronze' narrowing the quantity of registered keepers considerably.

During the commission of the offence Prime had exposed his face to the young girl who gave a good description as well as describing his checked shirt. He also left a part fingermark of high quality on the toilet cistern. The resultant 'identikit' product bore an uncanny resemblance to Prime.

Eventually Geoffrey Prime opened the front door of his home to two detectives from Hereford CID. DS Wilkes and WDC Miriam Rhodes asked Prime about his ownership of the two-tone 'S' reg Cortina parked in the drive outside. The question was asked as a 'closed question' and Prime had no other option except to answer truthfully. DS Wilkes also noticed that Prime was wearing the same style of checked shirt described by the victim of the assault. Prime must have been aware that he was a prominent suspect and became very agitated when DC Wilkes asked Prime for his fingerprints "purely for elimination."

DC Wilkes and WDC Rhodes then made to leave but said to Prime that they would like to return around 6.00pm that night to speak with Mrs Prime. On her informal interview in their home Rhona Prime was unable to substantiate her husband's whereabouts at the time of the offence.

Prime was aware that he was about to be arrested for the serious offence that he had recently committed and took Rhona out to a local beauty spot where he told her the truth about his perverted sexual proclivity and his espionage activities. She decided to stand by her husband.

The next day Prime was arrested for the offence and his car and house were searched. Apart from 2,287 record cards, bearing notes and photographs of little girls, which were bagged and taken away as evidence, a black leather briefcase was seized. This case was later opened by Prime, to reveal the secret compartment, in the presence of Police officers.

On 23rd May 1982 Rhona Prime contacted the Police. She had found a carrier bag containing a quantity of envelopes addressed to places in East Germany, two cellophane like pads bearing columns of 5 figure numbers and some typewritten notes about microdot production.

A team of specialist searchers entered Prime's home. The harvest of evidence was amazing. The first was a list of frequencies and schedules. Prime had even noted down the ident he used to recognise any radio traffic destined for him. A radio followed and then a Grundig reel to reel tape recorder followed by a Top Secret document from GCHQ. As if that was not enough to worry Prime during his interview, the interrogator, Detective Chief Superintendent Cole of West Mercia Police, laid out the envelopes, one-time pads and radio schedule.

Prime offered a weak excuse but realised that he would have to disclose the truth. On 25th June DCS Cole interviewed Prime who countered every question until Mr Cole produced a tape player. It was switched on and the sound of a monotonous drone of a coded number message in German filled the room. Prime offered the reply that it was his hobby, listening to the radio and twiddling the tuning knob.

On 26th June 1982 at 4.30pm Geoffrey Prime made his complete confession.

On Wednesday 10th November 1982 Geoffrey Arthur Prime, then aged 44, pleaded guilty to all charges; seven counts against the Official Secrets Act and three further counts against the Sexual Offences Act.

Displayed in court were a number of exhibits from the spying activities, including the briefcase, radio, tape recorder and one-time pads. For the sexual offences the index of 2,287 record cards were seen.

The trial lasted little more than two hours; for spying Prime received a sentence of 35 years plus a further 3 years for the sexual offences. The total of 38 years meant that Geoffrey Prime would have been 82 on his release in 2020 if he had served the full term.

It is interesting to note that Prime had been given a Minox camera by his controllers. Prime had concealed it in his loft beneath the fibreglass insulation next to the joists adjacent to the chimney and he reasonably asked Mr Cole where it was, given that everything else had been produced. DCS Cole was unable to offer any explanation as to why it had not been found and a second subsequent search revealed nothing. As Prime knew it was secreted in the loft and the Police did not discover it during their searches leaves three unanswered questions. Who removed it, why, and where is it?

This account was written 8 months before the release of Mr Prime. Information on his release can be found in Issue 4, News and Items of Interest column, or for detailed coverage, within copies of the Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent and Daily Mirror, dated 14th March. [Thanks to D of Kent for further information].

Morse stations | Voice stations | Oddities
Geoffrey Prime, Radio Operator, Linguist, Spy ! | Book review : The big breach | News Items
Web sites | Requests | Stop press | Contribution deadlines
Index | E2K NL Home