Named... the man who never was

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Colin1, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    By Ian Johnston
    The Sunday Telegraph 3 January 2010

    It was a turning point in WWII. As the Allies prepared to invade Sicily in 1943, they wanted to dupe the Germans into thinking the attack would be elsewhere. To carry out the deception, a body was dumped in the sea with fake 'secret documents' to be discovered by the Axis forces, which suggested the invasion would be staged in Greece, 500 miles away.

    The trick worked and the diversion of German troops to Greece was credited by historians as a major contribution to the success of the invasion. The episode was later immortalised in a 1956 film, The Man Who Never Was.

    Yet to this day, the identity of the body used in Operation Mincemeat has remained a source of confusion and conspiracy theory. In a forthcoming book however, a historian has claimed to have finally established who it was that 'played' the part of the dead man; a homeless Welshman caled Glyndwr Michael.

    The body, which was given the identity of a Royal Marine called Major William Martin, was dropped into the sea off Spain in 1943. After the tides carried Major Martin's body into the clutches of Nazi agents, Hitler and his High Command became convinced that Greece was the target.

    It was claimed that Mincemeat's chief planner, Lt Cdr Ewen Montagu, was so intent on deceiving the Germans that he stole the body of a crew member from HMS Dasher, an RN aircraft carrier that exploded off the Scottish coast in March 1943.

    In 2003, a documentary based on research by Colin Gibbon, a former police officer, claimed that Major Martin was the Dasher sailor, ABS Tom Martin. Then in 2004, official sanction appeared to be given to another candidate, ABS Martin's crewmate, Coder John Melville. At a memorial service off the coast of Cyprus, on board the current HMS Dasher, a patrol vessel, Lt Cdr Mark Hill named Coder Melville as Major Martin.

    Isobel Mackay, the wartime sailor's daughter, said "I feel very honoured if my father saved 30,000 lives in the invasion". However, Prof Dennis Smyth, of Toronto University, whose book, Operation Mincemeat: Death, Deception and the Mediterranean D-Day is due to be published this year, said he has laid to rest such 'conspiracy theories'.

    During his research, he came across a 'most secret' memo written by Lt Cdr Montagu, which Prof Smyth said proved the body of Mr Michael, who was mentally ill and died after ingesting rat poison, was used. Mr Michael was previously proposed as The Man Who Never Was by an amateur historian in 1996. The memo, found by Prof Smyth, was written after the body had been buried in Spain and addressed fears among senior officers that it would be exhumed for a second post-mortem examination that would confirm Major Martin was a fake.

    In the memo, Lt Cdr Montagu reported a conversation he had with coroner Dr William Bentley Purchase: "Mincemeat (the corpse) took a minimal dose of rat poison containing phosphorus. This dose was not sufficient to kill him outright and its only effect was to so impair the functioning of his liver that he died a little time afterwards. Apart from the smallness of the dose, the next point is that phosphorus is not one of the poisons readily traceable after long periods, such as arsenic, which invades the roots of the hair."

    Prof Smyth said: "What they talk about is whether the traces of the rat poison this person had taken could show up. So the person buried in Spain died from taking rat poison, not drowning. Therefore the corpse is that of Glyndwr Michael.

    Asked about the 2004 ceremony on HMS Dasher, Prof Smyth said "It is very embarrassing... I've been able to establish, I think beyond any reasonable doubt, the identity of the corpse involved".

    However, John Steele, author of The Secrets of HMS Dasher, insisted that Mr Michael would not have passed muster as a Royal Marine because he was an alcoholic and said he remained convinced that it was Coder Melville. "There is no comparison whatsover between the body of an alcoholic tramp and that of a Royal Marine"' he said.

    Mrs Mackay, Coder Melville's daughter, now 70 of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, said she agreed with Mr Steele. "The whole thing finished for me in Cyprus when the Dasher was honoured and the Navy asked me out there" she said.
     
  2. r2800doublewasp

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    Wow very cool and interesting!! Thanks for sharing!
     
  3. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Interesting mate, thanks!

    I read in a book called 'Bodyguard of Lies' (US author, forgotten name...) that a pneumonia victim's body was used, with full permission from his parents. The water in the lungs of said victim was crucial in faking a victim of drowning. I wonder who's right?
     
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