Hidden Messages, Secret Codes, German Spies … Or Just Resourceful Internees? Part 2

Jul 20, 2017 Leave Comment

Hidden Codes Revealed

During the chaos of WWII, the town of Hay in NSW played host to thousands of internees. These included the civilian refugees placed in the now-infamous Camp Seven, who developed their own ingenious internal currency system now prized by collectors today. But was there more to the story behind these banknotes? In Part 2 of his series, Matthew Thompson explores this premise.

In addition to the ‘Liverpool to Hay’ and ‘barbed wire’ features in the Camp Seven Banknotes, there was another theory on the design of these notes that piqued my interest: the idea that Telscher had hidden secret micro printed messages within the inner border, and possibly in some of the lettering of the notes.

Internment Bank Note Features
Several features of the Hay Internment Bank Notes have sparked much discussion. (Figure 1)

Upon learning of this idea, I immediately put several high quality examples currently held by Downies under the microscope for closer inspection. I was disappointed to discover nothing more than aged ink. However, after several minutes I was sure that I had begun to see some obscure characters that were possibly resembling numbers or letters – although I’m sure that if you spend long enough staring at any arrangement of shapes and colour, your mind will be able to come up with some fantastic theories on what you are viewing!

Magnified Section of Hay Internment Camp Note
Magnified Section of the note from the top right-hand corner (Figure 1, C)
Magnified Section of Hay Internment Camp Note
Magnified section featuring the letter ‘S’ (Figure 1, C)

It has also been suggested that the serial numbers on each note corresponded with an internee’s registration number. I’m unsure as to how this could have been achieved, given the fact that each denomination featured a different range in serial numbers.

The 25 sheep that appear on the reverse of the notes each have names placed within the lining of the wool. One theory suggested each name belonged to a Hut Leader. However, I also learned that each hut typically housed 28 Internees. If Camp 7 was home to 1,008 Internees there would have been approximately 36 huts. This leads me to believe another theory: that the names appearing in the sheep are most likely a combination of friends of Telscher, and other highly regarded internees.

Reverse of Banknote Featuring Sheep
The 25 sheep in the reverse design have names placed within the wool. (Figure 2)

A close up of one of the sheep reveals the name of famous sculptor/artist Erwin ‘Teddy’ Fabian written in the fleece. Fabian resided in Hut 26 along with Telscher. He is also still actively exhibiting his works at age 102!

Teddy Fabian name in Fleece
The name of Ernest ‘Teddy’ Fabian has been inscribed in this sheep’s fleece.

 

I have observed the following serial numbers and suspect that notes were produced within these ranges. However, it’s plausible that an unknown quantity may have been disposed of or destroyed due to printing errors and quality standards not being met.

Sixpence
C 39136 – C 41984
(Potentially 2,848 Notes)

One Shilling
D 20317 – D 22883
(Potentially 2,526 Notes)

Two Shilling
E 39047 – E40699
(Potentially 1,652 Notes)

By September of 1941, these notes came onto the radar of the Australian Government, who deemed them to be in direct contravention of Australian law. The primary justification for the notes’ forcible withdrawal was their potential to be mistaken for genuine circulating currency outside of the camp. An order was made for the withdrawal and cancellation (via rubber stamp) of the notes, as well as the confiscation of the printing plates. It is now clear that several notes were souvenired by both internees and, quite possibly, the Army representatives who were responsible for their disposal. Despite this, these notes are incredibly scarce and are rarely available in higher grades with only a few examples from each denomination having been sighted.

Even if Telscher was ambitious enough to include hidden micro text in his notes, what purpose would it serve? After all, these notes were only ever intended for internal circulation.

However, I haven’t completely dismissed the idea that there may be aspects of these notes that have not been documented – and that’s one of the many reasons I continue to be fascinated by these notes which, despite only being in circulation for less than 6 months in a small community, continue to be sought after by collectors, over 75 years after their withdrawal.

Key Personnel involved:

Geroge A Teltscher – Designer
Richard Stahl – Bank Manager (Signatory on all notes)
Hermann M Robinow – Bank Clerk (Signatory)
W Epstein – Bank Clerk (Signatory)
M. Mendel – Unconfirmed (Possibly another Bank Clerk) (Signatory)
Andreas Eppenstein (Name printed in fleece of sheep on Obverse) – Camp Leader

Eppenstein in fleece of Sheep
Above: ‘Eppenstein’ in the fleece of the sheep. (Figure 1, D)
For more information on Hay Internment Notes, including the examples featured in our Notable Notes Catalogue now online, don’t hesitate to be in touch.

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