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Hornbeam Report

Old 4th Jul 2020, 20:52
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Hornbeam Report

As a matter of interest can anyone tell me if the above system or one like it still exisits, and whether the original method of reporting remains (ie via the telephone operator?)

As an offshore sailor it would be nice to know how, if one was ever required.
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Old 4th Jul 2020, 20:57
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Originally Posted by meleagertoo View Post
As a matter of interest can anyone tell me if the above system or one like it still exisits, and whether the original method of reporting remains (ie via the telephone operator?)

As an offshore sailor it would be nice to know how, if one was ever required.
I would have thought that the MCA would be the best place to ask that question.

I still have a Hornbeam card with the Cyrillic alphabet on the reverse but I suspect the phone number is somewhat out of date.

YS😎
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Old 4th Jul 2020, 21:08
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There must be people here who can answer the question without the tortuous business of asking the MCA - they can't even find Beachy Head without a Lat and Long these days.
The last phone number I had was 100.
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Old 5th Jul 2020, 11:02
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...
According to chat on Navy net around 2007, Operation Hornbeam is long gone. HMRC had an Operation Hornbeam to deal with some shady tax dodges ten or more years ago. Never heard of it myself. My one-time looker spent a few days as guest of a Russian fishing boat in the late fifties. I'll ask him, but I suspect the general answer will be that this particular scheme was restricted to the Briitish Merchant Marine and fishing fleet as suggested below.

There's a picture of a ("rare") over 100 page Operation Hornbeam Reporting Guide and description of the operation at this website. https://www.worthpoint.com/worthoped...ping-247191962

I'll try to paste the image ...........



And the accompanying text from WorthPoint......

"This is the cold war spy guide issued to some vessel captains in the British Merchant Navy and fishing fleets. Operation Hornbeam was a secret project aimed at gathering intelligence on the specification and location of enemy (Communist) vessels from countries such as USSR, Vietnam, Romania, Poland, China, Hungry, German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Korea, Cuba, Albania, Bulgaria etc. (how the world has changed!) This is an original copy (numbered 239) of the guide . The document runs to over 100 pages and includes numerous ship profiles, guide to identifying electronic communications equipment, lists of vessels, coloured pages of stack markings and ensigns and of course instructions on what to record and report back.A great and rare piece of historical and military interest and probably the only chance to own one."

HTH - LFH
...
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Old 5th Jul 2020, 17:30
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Is there still a requirement to report diplomatic registered vehicles? I recall that from many years ago as well.
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Old 5th Jul 2020, 21:12
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Now that I know what this is about, I may have a copy lying around somewhere. The front cover looks familiar & my old man was at sea for his sins on ships that very clearly displayed their nationality & although he wasn't deck, he did drive a few times in lieu of "the Old Man" if you get my drift. If I can lay hands on it, it'll give me a couple of hours interesting reading.....
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Old 6th Jul 2020, 22:44
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It was unclassified so not sure where the secret bit came from, phone call went to Pitreavie or Mountbatten if i remember correctly. A good money saving idea, not sure how much good intel was raised though.
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Old 7th Jul 2020, 11:20
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As someone who took many of the reports at Pitreavie I think I can say the value of the information was a bit mixed. Although obviously keeping an eye out for anything of intelligence value, most of the ships were on normal commercial passages. But some took very interesting routes at very interesting times.

In a subsequent appointment where the information was fused with other sources the anomalies became even more apparent. However, while there was a great deal of concern about possible threats both to the UK and the US from carrying people/things into ports at times of crisis, I cannot remember there ever being anything more than int collection being proved.
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Old 2nd Jan 2021, 23:59
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Originally Posted by meleagertoo View Post
As a matter of interest can anyone tell me if the above system or one like it still exisits, and whether the original method of reporting remains (ie via the telephone operator?)

As an offshore sailor it would be nice to know how, if one was ever required.
I was recruited into the Hornbeam system as I was in the M.N. and travelled the World on a Tramp Ship, this meant that I was able to Visit Ports of the Eastern Bloc and Russia where of course Grey Funnel Vessels were not allowed to visit at that time, I also still have my card and ‘Spotters’ guide book (how much did the other one go for?) both the card and ‘Spotters’ guide are now out of date of course. The Pit no longer exists and of course the Eastern Bloc Merchant and Fishing Fleet no longer belong to the Soviet Navy “apparently” but I believe they are run by Putins friends. Is there still an Intelligence Collecting System still in place? I would have thought so but mainly done by Satellites rather than the Shackletons of No 8 Sq in the NATO area as it was when I was floating around the World and giving information.As to the value of the information collected by Hornbeam members? You would have to be in the know with the the bigger picture to evaluate that but I am sure it must have been of some use because as Civilians we could go where members of the Armed Forces could not.
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Old 3rd Jan 2021, 06:31
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Originally Posted by 1771 DELETE View Post
It was unclassified so not sure where the secret bit came from....
I suspect it came from the seller in that online auction wanting to create some excitement about the item he was trying to sell ...
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Old 3rd Jan 2021, 14:32
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Sorry for my delay in answering, having technical problems with my server.

In regards to Hornbeam Reporting system you were expected to keep quiet about what you were doing and not make it common knowledge that was the secret. I appreciate that others thought we were amateurs playing at Secret Squirrels but that was not the case. We felt that we were doing our bit against the Soviet menace whose whole fleet including Trawlers and Merchant vessels were being used for spying.

There was no google or spy satellites it was a matter of observation by Mark one eyeball and camera looking in particular at the antenna fit on seemingly innocent vessels before domes were fitted. Hornbeam was not without risk especially when visiting a Soviet controlled Portland sneekily trying to take a photograph when there was a Guard at the bottom of the Gangway who threatened to shoot a Young first tripper when he picked up a pair of binoculars to have a look round

Last edited by tramontana; 4th Jan 2021 at 10:02.
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Old 4th Jan 2021, 22:16
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Some reporters were shores based where they had good access and interest. I recall one target vessel that went into Boston or Kings Lynn, it also featured in the Intelligence Review moored astern of Ark Royal in Portsmouth. It had been observed in The Wash on the line of the microwave link from Lincolnshire to Norfolk.

From memory we had one WPC port visit in Boston every 3 days in winter and usually every day in summer.
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Old 5th Jan 2021, 15:39
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Off the coast of N.Yorkshire we had our own pet Soviet vessels looking like floating Porcupines fishing (in more ways than one) in alignment with the ‘Golf Balls’ ashore, then a huge Soviet Research Vessel turned up apparently to check on any radiation from the cooling water outflow from the Nuclear Power Station just up the coast, she declared an emergency and promptly followed an RN Warship into the Tees (you may be aware that every ship has a different propulsion sound) probably recording the Warship. In regards to using in today’s world our Merchant/Fishing Fleet to do a bit of watching unfortunately we have very little of either fleet left.
The Pit did arrange for me to do a trip up to the North Cape on a Long Liner out of Aberdeen, God it was rough, after the Coal Mines fishing must be the second most hazardous occupation.
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Old 5th Jan 2021, 18:44
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In a previous incarnation I used to submit Hornbeam reports. I recall one encounter with a Russian "survey" ship which we found loitering on the Greenwich meridian 12 miles and one cable off the Sussex coast. As we steamed past we called in the vessel's name not thinking we'd ever hear anything back. But Northwood came back asking for photo's of a certain aspect of the vessel, turning about we headed towards the target and so began a danse macabre. We twisted and turned with Ivan but he would not let us get a good view of his sensitive parts. This went on for maybe 30 or 40 minutes before he broke the dance and steamed away south following the meridian into the Channel.
The Wash was another Hornbeam rich environment with coasters waiting for the tide and a pilot to take them up to Wisbech, Boston and Kings L. From the anchorage it was possible to watch the activity above the ranges at Donna Nook and Holbeach, perhaps they found it interesting? I guess they can't all be fans of Gothic church architecture?
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Old 6th Jan 2021, 07:55
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I guess they can't all be fans of Gothic church architecture?
I understand that 'they' are quite interested in cathedral spires ... did you know that Salisbury's spire is 123m high?
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Old 6th Jan 2021, 11:14
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Angry

Originally Posted by FantomZorbin View Post
I understand that 'they' are quite interested in cathedral spires ... did you know that Salisbury's spire is 123m high?
Salisbury certainly has a superb spire and if you are a bit unsteady on your feet for whatever reason! There is a danger of falling back over when you look up at it. The late Premier Ted Heath had a good view from his property across the green.
For me and I think many others has to be the Cathedral (although Medieval) the truly superb Lincoln structure, hopefully 'they' don't use it as another excuse to visit and try to commit an assassination on a Lincoln ex Russia resident.
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Old 6th Jan 2021, 13:14
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Originally Posted by Akrotiri bad boy View Post
In a previous incarnation I used to submit Hornbeam reports. I recall one encounter with a Russian "survey" ship which we found loitering on the Greenwich meridian 12 miles and one cable off the Sussex coast. As we steamed past we called in the vessel's name not thinking we'd ever hear anything back. But Northwood came back asking for photo's of a certain aspect of the vessel, turning about we headed towards the target and so began a danse macabre. We twisted and turned with Ivan but he would not let us get a good view of his sensitive parts. This went on for maybe 30 or 40 minutes before he broke the dance and steamed away south following the meridian into the Channel.
The Wash was another Hornbeam rich environment with coasters waiting for the tide and a pilot to take them up to Wisbech, Boston and Kings L. From the anchorage it was possible to watch the activity above the ranges at Donna Nook and Holbeach, perhaps they found it interesting? I guess they can't all be fans of Gothic church architecture?
>>>From the anchorage it was possible to watch the activity above the ranges at Donna Nook and Holbeach, perhaps they found it interesting? <<<

Hi A.b.b.,
Same thing used to happen at Rosehearty Range on the Moray Forth in the early 60s. "Porcupines" were sit just outside the Prohibited area whilst we were operating with DBs or RPs, apparently listening in to the Range r/t, as well as cameras at the ready. Range frequencies used to be change at irregular intervals.
They were also prime 'targets" for the release of piggiebacks and slow burners if you sufficiently inclined ! Pop 'em about 200yds astern would get them to move on.........
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Old 6th Jan 2021, 15:37
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My own experience of 'OFFSHORE TAPESTRY' included a NATO exercise c.1985 (probably OCEAN SAFARI) which involved an incident when I was flying from Inverness to Orkney in a Loganair Islander. I was sitting up front and discovered that the pilot was an ex-FAA Buccaneer pilot who specialised in 'dentology', i.e. the identification of Warsaw Pact ships from any obvious damage to their hulls and superstructure as they kept changing their pendant numbers. We were south-east of Orkney when we spotted an 'ORANGE' German U-boat at PD (periscope depth) and he called it in to the control tower at Kirkwall. Within an hour, the control tower had contacted the Port HQ and a trio of 'BLUE' German frigates had sailed from their anchorage in Scapa Flow and 'sunk' their enemy countrymen.
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Old 7th Jan 2021, 17:21
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Photographs of the ' porcupine' vessels were important as they were pinned up on the State Board with the vessel's last known position.
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Old 12th Jan 2021, 12:00
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Hornbeam

Attached is a photograph of a Russian ex Soviet Intel vessel I took a few years ago which just happened to be docking at Limassol whilst I was there, over the years she has had numerous updates which has changed her profile somewhat. Cyprus is of of interest to Putin of course bearing in mind the nearby Airfield, Army Camps and Mount Olympus installation.
Remember ———“Authentication is the key when working W/T”


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