The Man That Never Was
by Alison MacRae
Celtic Guide magazine
Reading about this military mission I had thought I had stumbled upon a James Bond movie script. Looking into it further there actually was a movie made on this mission called "The Man That Never Was," by Ewen Montagu. He was a British judge and writer, and, during the war, a Naval intelligence officer. He was one of the original masterminds of this mission.
The other mastermind was Charles Cholmondeley. He was a flight commander in the Royal Air Force (RAF); then was in intelligence in charge of double agents. It was Charles Cholmondeley that had come up with this plan and they assigned Ewen Montagu to work with him to improve the plan.
Both men were working for the Military Intelligence section which was known as MI5.
They had originally read the memo that Rear Admiral John Godfrey, the Director of the Naval Intelligence division, wrote in 1939. It was named "The Trout Memo" and it was about how to set a trap for the enemy, that the Admiral had thought of, From this memo was created the mission "Mincemeat," in 1943.
An interesting fact during the Second World War – a certain Lieutenant Commander, also in charge of Intelligence, named Ian Fleming, was later known as the creator of the James Bond books that were made into very successful movies.
Now if you are wondering what the mission Mincemeat was all about, read the shorter version that I have written.
Glyndwr Michael was a homeless Welsh man of unsound mind. His father, who was a coal miner, committed suicide, and his mother also died young. Michael, homeless, friendless, depressed, with no money, drifted to London. He was found in an abandoned warehouse in Kings Cross seriously ill from ingesting rat poison. The rat poison he ingested was a paste smeared on bread crumbs to attract rats. He died two days later. Rat poison was a terrible way to die and we will never know why this happened.
This was the man whose corpse was to be used for this mission.
As Glyndwr had no family, he was the ideal choice for this mission. Glyndwr was not to be buried in London nor his hometown in South Wales. The Coroner indicated his body was to be removed from England for burial with no explanation. The Coroner was never questioned about his decision as there was no one to claim the body.
Interestingly, Glyndwr Micheal was to be found dead not once, but twice. This was what helped change the course of the Second World War in Sicily.
Glyndwr's body was put on ice for three months. This was how long it would take for this top secret mission to be set up.
Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley drove the corpse to Scotland to be put in a submarine that was going to Southern Spain. The HMS Seraph was the name of the submarine that the body was loaded onto, to be let out to sea by using the torpedo chutes.
This was an elaborate plot to fool the Nazis.
Glyndwr was painstakingly transformed into the fictitious Major William Martin, the new identity he was given. During the months that he was put on ice, the plotters were creating a plausible background for him. They had to be careful in case enquiries were made about their fictitious Major.
Into his Naval uniform went an identity card, ticket stubs and mementos, plus a photo of a fictitious fiancé, along with lots of receipts.
The team had tested different inks to write these up so that everything would look like it actually belonged to him, and the inks would still be readable after being in the salt water.
Chained to his wrist was a briefcase containing a letter marked "personal and most secret."
This letter was about the Allied forces plans to invade Greece. The real plot was to invade Sicily.
Intelligence had also marked these receipts so that when they received them back they would know if they had been touched and examined, otherwise their mission might not work.
When the body with the new identity of Major William Martin was found floating in the sea by a local Spanish fisherman, his corpse was assumed to be a British military courier who had perished in a plane crash.Due to the heat and stench of decomposing the Spanish authorities did a quick burial of Major Martin i.e. Glyndwr Michael.
This was also something that British Intelligence was counting on. That way no examinations would be carried out on the body which might have uncovered problems for them. The Spanish authorities put all the victims paperwork and belongings under lock and key.
The Spanish Government had shown the documents to the Abwehr, which was the German military intelligence, despite the fact that the Treaty of Versailles prohibited the Germans altogether from establishing an intelligence organization of their own.
The team specifically targeted the Spanish port of Huelva, in Southern Spain since Spain was a neutral country but was riddled with Nazi spies.
The corpse was used as bait for the false lead of the Allied forces invading Greece. The hope was that the false documents carried by the corpse would be convincing enough to be passed up the chain of command to Hitler himself.
The Germans fell for it hook line and sinker.
TOP PHOTO: Cholmondeley and Montagu.
CENTER PHOTO: The grave of Glyndwr Michael buried with military honours in a Spanish cemetery under the name William Martin R.M. (Royal Marines).
BOTTOM PHOTO: Phony identity card for William Martin.
All credit for the photos to Wikipedia.
It was also insight gained from the Enigma Cipher which allowed Montagu and Cholmondeley and their team to track the progress of their plan.
This was such a brilliant mission that the Germans took their forces out of Sicily and placed them in Greece, which helped the British get a foothold in Europe.
The planting of fake documents to be found by the enemy was not a new idea.
The mission known as the Haversack Ruse had been practised by the British and others in the First and Second World Wars.
Also, in 1942, before the Battle of Alam el Hayn, Egypt. a corpse was placed in a blown-up scout car in a minefield facing the German 90th light division. The corpse had on him a map showing the locations of British minefields. Germans using the map and their tanks were routed to areas of soft sand where the tanks were bogged down.
It was a proven fact that missions like these were successful and that is why the British continued to use them during the war years.
This was how the homeless Welsh man known as Glyndwr Michael came to be buried with military honours in a Spanish cemetery bearing the name William Martin R.M. (Royal Marines).