One of the British seamen held hostage in Iran has told how they used Morse code to stay in touch with one another while imprisoned.
Able Seaman Simon Massey revealed they developed a system of ‘knocking in and knocking out’ during their first week of solitary confinement.
He said: “It was like keeping a mental register – checking off the voices of comrades whenever one of them asked for a toilet break or a cigarette.
“Leading Seaman Chris Coe was next door to my cell. We would just sit there tapping out code. We’d check up on each other, say goodnight, and if we went out of the cell, we would give a little knock when we got back to let each other know we were OK.
“Just knocking with knuckles. Little things like that got us through.”
The use of Morse code by prisoners was made famous in the 1962 classic film Birdman Of Alcatraz. It was also used by American PoWs in Vietnam.
The 14 men and one woman sailor were seized by Iranian warships on March 23. It took 13 days to secure their release.
For the first week none of them saw Leading Seaman Faye Turney, 26, who was kept segregated at their Tehran prison from the second day.
It was only after eight days, as AB Massey was summoned to make his TV ‘confession’, that he found himself seated alongside her and Chris Coe, 31. He added: “Seeing those two members of the team – that was a big relief for me. But the day after, in my cell, I just broke down. It was such a hard time – all kinds of emotions were flying through.
“All us lads could hear one another but Faye was the only one none of us had heard from. We had no idea what they’d done to her and whether they were beating her.”
For the first week the hostages spent all but half an hour of every day in solitary.
Then there were the sudden and intense interrogations. AB Massey was questioned, alone, for 45 minutes. “I was made to wear sunglasses with cotton wool on the inside of the lenses, while an interrogator questioned me under a bright light.”
The most frightening incident came when they arrived at the prison and were lined up to face a wall. AB Massey said: “We believe this was done purely as a mental scare. But I thought I was going to die and that I wouldn’t see my family again.”