THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS !!!! how a poor soul saved thousands of alied troops in WW2 in a plot that involved James Bond creator Ian Fleming
One April morning in 1943, a sardine fisherman spotted the corpse of a British soldier floating in the sea off the coast of Spain, setting in train a course of events that would change the course of World War Two.
Operation Mincemeat was the most successful wartime deception ever attempted, and certainly the strangest. It hoodwinked Nazi espionage chiefs, sent German troops racing in the wrong direction, and saved thousands of lives by deploying a secret agent who was different, in one crucial respect, from any spy before or since: he was dead. His mission: to convince the Germans that instead of attacking Sicily, the Allied armies would invade Greece.
The brainchild of an eccentric RAF officer and a brilliant Jewish barrister, this great deception involved an extraordinary cast of characters including Ian Fleming, who would go on to write the James Bond stories; a famous forensic pathologist; a beautiful secret service secretary; a submarine captain; three novelists; an irascible admiral who loved fly-fishing; and a dead, Welsh homeless person. Using fraud, imagination and seduction, Winston Churchill’s team of spies spun a web of deceit so elaborate and so convincing that they began to believe it themselves. From a windowless basement beneath Whitehall, the hoax travelled from London to Scotland to Spain to Germany and ended up on Hitler’s desk.
The man who never was in fact was a man whose real name was Glyndwr Michael he was was a homeless man whose body was used in Operation Mincemeat, the successful Second World War deception plan that lured German forces to Greece prior to the Allied invasion of Sicily. The invasion was a success, with Allied losses numbering several thousand fewer than would have been expected had the deception failed
Michael was born in Aberbargoed in Monmouthshire in south Wales. Before leaving the town, he held part-time jobs as a gardener and labourer. His father Thomas, a coal miner, committed suicide when Michael was fifteen years old; his mother later died when he was thirty-one. Michael, homeless, friendless, depressed and with no money, drifted to London where he lived on the streets.
He was found in an abandoned warehouse close to King’s Cross, seriously ill from ingesting rat poison that contained phosphorus. Two days later, he died at age 34 in St. Pancras Hospital. His death may have been suicide
On 30 April, Lt. Norman Jewell, captain of the submarine Seraph, read the 39th Psalm, and Michael’s body was gently pushed into the sea where the tide would bring it ashore off Huelva on the Spanish Atlantic coast.
Attached to Michael’s body was a briefcase containing secret documents that had been fabricated by the British intelligence service. The purpose was to make German intelligence (which was known to have operatives in Huelva) think Michael had been a courier delivering documents to a British general. The documents were crafted to deceive the Germans into thinking that the British were preparing to invade Greece and Sardinia, rather than Sicily, and they succeeded in doing so.
Michael’s body was picked up by a fisherman and he was buried as Major William Martin with full military honours. His grave lies in Huelva’s cemetery of Nuestra Señora, in the San Marco section. The headstone reads:
William Martin, born 29 March 1907, died 24 April 1943, beloved son of John Glyndwyr Martin and the late Antonia Martin of Cardiff, Wales, Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori, R.I.P.
The Latin phrase translates as “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” In 1998, however, the British Government revealed the body’s true identity. To the gravestone was added:
Glyndwr Michael; Served as Major William Martin,
A plaque commemorating Glyndwr Michael is now also on the war memorial in Aberbargoed. It is headed “Y Dyn Na Fu Erioed” (translation – “The Man Who Never Was”).