Exactly what sort of man was this wartime 'deception specialist' The Hon. Ewen Montagu?
His R.N.V.R. career appears to have been exemplary, and after WW II he went back to the bar as a KC, later becoming a Judge.
He had qualified before the Second World War, and had therefore gained considerable experience of what is 'right & wrong' well before he embarked on the 'body-snatching' episode. So it is hardly surprising that, under pressure from MI5 to now reveal publicly that which he had been at pains to keep secret for a decade or more, he should have made what now looks to be a rather 'nervous', and 'backside-covering', passing remark about 'doing a Burke & Hare' in the early pages of his famous book
"The Man Who Never Was".
But his true character was very well summed up by Winston G. Ramsey, the Editor of the WW II magazine "After The Battle", which had taken a keen interest in trying to identify the body used by Montagu and MI5's, Charles Cholmondeley.
In issue #54, which was published in May 1988, his bold introduction to the ongoing research of Roger Morgan has been quoted in full below not only because it gives a clear insight onto the real character of Ewen Montagu, but because it also speaks volumes about the attempts by 'officialdom' to cover-up the fact that not one member of the family of Glyndwr Michael had been consulted before Ewen Montagu and MI5's Charles Cholmondeley used it:
"Our research behind Operation 'Mincemeat', more popularly known as
"The Man Who Never Was", first began in 1976 but The Hon. Ewen E. S. Montagu, CBE, QC, DL, soon made it very clear that he claimed carte blanche copyright, stating that "there is no other source other than my book from which the story of the operation can be obtained with any degree of accuracy."
"In addition, he reserved to himself the right to 'pass' anything written on the subject, a condition which any Editor - including this one - would find it difficult to accede even though it was of dubious legality. Faced with the absence of any official records, we therefore decided to hold the story until a more opportune time. In the interim, Roger Morgan, our present author, had begun his own independent investigation of the operation and, after we made contact in 1983, we decided to pool our research.
"The death of Ewen Montagu in 1985 finally left the way clear to go to press without invoking his claim of consorship or incurring the learned judge's displeasure. Roger had spared no effort in his quest to identify the man without a name; before he died Montagu refused to comment, and thus took the secret to his grave."
"Any confirmation from MI5 files will surely never be forthcoming - hence our title: "The man who almost is"."
Due to the painstaking efforts and investigative competence of Roger Morgan, who works as a planning officer with the Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council, and is an amateur historian whose work could never be described as being 'amateur', the truth about Ewen Montagu and 'Operation Mincemeat' began to take shape in the mid to late 1980's.
After the death in 1985 of Montagu, the way was then clear for a genuinely 'independent' review of the whole matter without any interference from the original WW II players in the British Intelligence community.
Even though the identity of the body used by him for the purpose of pulling off the brilliant deception ploy that had been given the strange code-name, 'Operation Mincemeat', was still not known at that time, Roger Morgan's efforts to discover that name were described in issue #54 of the WW II magazine, "After The Battle", which was then published in May 1988.
In this May 1988 article, quite probably the most interesting revelation to emerge from the patient research of Roger Morgan was the fact that the use of a corpse for the purpose of conducting 'strategic deception' ploys against the Germans during WW II was not unique:
"Neither the idea of using a corpse for such a purpose nor the supposed scenario was original however. For in August 1942 'A' Force (deception Middle East) had planted a map on the Germans before the battle of Alam Halfa by using a corpse. He had been placed in a blown-up scout car, for the Germans to find, in a minefield facing the 80th Light Division just south of Quaret el Abd. Clutched in his hand was a map of other, more ficticious, minefields, and Rommel's panzers were therby routed into an area of soft sand and bogged down."
On the same page (4) of the 1988 article Roger Morgan gave another example of an incident that was so bizarrely like the eventual scenario for 'Mincemeat' it makes one wonder if Montagu et al had ever engaged in any 'dry runs':
"Also, in September 1942 a Catalina carrying courier Paymaster-Lieutenant James Hadden Turner of the Royal Navy crashed off Cadiz, and his body was recovered from the beach at Tarifa by the Spanish. In an inner pocket he was carrying a letter from General Mark Clark to the Governor of Gibraltar, which named French agents in North Africa and gave the date of the 'Torch' landings as November 4 (ultimately the 8th). The body was returned by the Admiral of Cadiz with the apparently unopened letter still in his pocket, and a team of technicians was flown out from Britain to determine if the envelope had been opened and the whole operation therefore compromised - it was concluded that it had not."
"Most Secret War"
R. V. Jones
The Gravestone of Glyndwr Michael
After the basic idea of using a dead body on which misleading official documents could be planted, and the odd codename, "Operation Mincemeat", had been approved by various committees and individual military personnel, a plausible method of 'delivery' still needed to be arranged.
Montagu tells us in "The Man Who Never Was" that he asked the permission of the Vice-Chief of Naval Staff (Home) to consult with Admiral Barry, the Flag Officer commanding British submarines, and met soon after with him to discuss the finer details of the operation.
It was Admiral Barry who had first suggested using a submarine, and at a later meeting he decided that it should be "HMS Seraph", whose departure to Malta he arranged to be delayed by two weeks to accommodate Montagu and Cholmondeley. This meant they could have the benefit of a moonless night at the end of April, 1943, which would allow the submarine to get as close to the shore as possible without being detected.
This appears to have delighted Montagu, as "HMS Seraph" was commanded by Lieutenant Norman Jewell, and under his command the crew of his submarine had already gained valuable experience in 'special operations' run along the North African coast.
At Admiral Barry's suggestion, Montagu and Jewell met at the Flag Officer, Submarines Headquarters, where Montagu produced a copy of his tentative 'operational orders':
To cause a briefcase containing documents to drift ashore as near as possible to HUELVA in Spain in such circumstances that it will be thought to have been washed ashore from an aircraft which crashed at sea when the case was being taken by an officer from the U.K. to Allied Forces H.Q. in North Africa.
A dead body dressed in the battle-dress uniform of a Major, Royal Marines, and wearing a 'Mae West', will be taken out in a submarine, together with the briefcase and a rubber dingy.
The body will be packed fully clothed and ready (and wrapped in a blanket to prevent friction) in a tubular airtight container (which will be labelled as 'Optical Instruments').
The container is just under 6 feet 6 inches long and just under two feet in diameter and has no excrescences of any kind on the sides. The end which opens has a flush-fitting lid which is held tightly in position by a number of nuts and has fited on its exterior in clips a box-spanner with a permenant tommy-bar which is chained to the lid.
Both ends are fitted with handles which fold down flat. It will be possible to lift the container by using both handles or even by using the handle in the lid alone, but it would be better not to take the whole weight on the handle at the other end, as the steel of which the container is made is of light guage to keep the weight as low as possible. The approximate weight when the container is full will be 400lb.
When the container is closed the body will be packed round with a certain amount of dry ice. The container should therefore be opened on deck, as the dry ice will give off carbon dioxide.
The body should be put into the water as close to the shore as prudently possible and as near to HUELVA as possible, preferably to the north-west of the river mouth.
According to the Hydrographic Department, the tides in that area run mainly up and down the coast, and every effort should therefore be made to choose a period with an onshore wind. South-westerly winds are, in fact, the prevailing winds in that area at this time of year.
The latest information about the tidal streams in that area, as obtained from the Superindentant of Tides, is attached.
4. Delivery of the Package
The package will be brought up to the port of departure by road on whatever day is desired, preferably as close to the sailing day as possible. The briefcase will be handed over at the same time to the Captain of the submarine. The rubber dingy will also be a separate parcel.
5. Disposal of the Body
When the body is removed from the container all that will be necessary will be to fasten the chain attached to the briefcase through the belt of the trenchcoat, which will be the outer garment on the body. The chain is of the type worn under the coat, round the chest and out through the sleeve. At the end is a 'dog-lead' type of clip for attaching to the handle of the briefcase and a simlar clip for forming the the loop round the chest. It is this loop that should be made throught the belt of the trenchcoat as if the officer had slipped the chain off for comfort in the aircraft, but has nevertheless kept it attached to him so that the bag should not either be forgotten or slide away from him in aircraft.
The body should then be deposited in the water, as should also be the rubber dingy. As this should drift at a different speed from the body, the exact position at which it is released is unimportant, but it should be near the body, but not too near if that is possible.
6. Those in the Know in Gibraltar
Steps have been taken to inform F.O.I.C.1 Gibraltar and his S.O.(I).2. No one else there will be in the picture.
If the operation is successfully carried out, a signal should be made 'MINCEMEAT completed'. If that is made from Gibraltar the S.O.(I). should be asked to send it addressed to D.N.I.3 (PERSONAL). If it can be made earlier it should be made in accordance with order from F.O.S.4.
If the operation has to be cancelled a signal will be made 'Cancel MINCEMEAT'. In that case the body and container should be sunk in deep water. As the container may have buoyancy, it may either have to be weighted or water may have to be allowed to enter. In the latter case care must be taken that the body does not escape. The briefcase should be handed to the S.O.(I) at Gibraltar, with instructions to burn the contents unopened, if there is no possibility of taking that course earlier. The rubber dingy should be handed to the S.O.(I) for disposal.
1. Flag Officer in Charge
2. Staff Officer, Intelligence
3. Director of Naval Intelligence
4. Flag Officer, Submarines (Admiral Barry)
If the operation has to be abandoned, a signal should be made 'MINCEMEAT abandoned' as soon as possible (see Para 7 above).
This is a matter for consideration. Until the operation actually takes place, it is thought that the labelling of the container 'Optical Instruments' will provide sufficent cover. It is suggested that the cover after the operation has been completed should be that it is hoped to trap a very active German agent in this neighbourhood, and it is hoped that sufficient evidence can be obtained by this means to get the Spaniards to eject him. The importance of dealing with this man should be impressed on the crew, together with the fact that any leakage that may ever take place will compromise our power to get the Spaniards to act in such cases; also that they will never learn whether we were successful in this objective, as the whole matter will have to be conducted in secrecy with the Spaniards or we won't be able to get them to act.
It is in fact most important that the Germans and Spaniards should accept these papers in accordance with Para I. If they should suspect that the papers are a 'plant', it might have far-reaching consequences of great magnitude.
(Signed) E.E.S. MONTAGU
In his semi-official version of 'Operation Mincemeat', which was written over a weekend at the behest of MI5 in order to rush out the 'establishment perspective' on the matter before a Fleet Street investigative journalist, Ian Colvin, who had found Major Martin's grave in Spain, could publish his own independent research, Montagu tells us that while his high-level meeting with the commander of the "HMS Seraph", Lieutenant Norman Jewell, was underway, an equally important aspect of the operation was getting similar 'high priority' treatment:
"While all these things were being arranged, we had been busy over the more interesting matters. What document could we provide which could be so impressive that it would make the Germans alter their planning and disposition of forces?"
What made Montagu think that the German High Command would be fooled by the age-old "lost rucksack" ruse? Had not the Nazi reaction to the "Operation Torch" documents found after the Catalina crash been to dismiss them as fakes?
Or could 'ULTRA' - the Enigma code-breaking operation - have been providing the London Controlling Section (LCS), of which Montagu was a member, with quality intelligence that suggested the Nazis might think twice about dismissing the documents they found in Major Martin's briefcase as being similarly 'planted'?
After all, the German Abwehr had been quick to dismiss the documents found on Paymaster-Lieutenant James Hadden Turner's body when it floated ashore from a genuine plane crash in September 1942, only to regret their haste once the invasion of North Africa had taken them by surprise on November 8th 1942 when the Allies invaded - albeit some four days later than originally planned.
Deeming all those documents to have been deliberately 'planted', the Nazis did not take their fortuitous advance warning of the plans for "Operation Torch" seriously when they had them in their hands a full two months before the invasion of North Africa. Could Montagu and Cholmondeley have 'gambled' on the Germans not being willing to risk such costly haste again?
Until the British Security Service, MI5, decide to release more documents into the Public Records Office we will probably never know for sure. The history of warfare is choc-a-bloc full of instances where gambles have paid off as well as of gambles that were disastrous failures. Those in charge of the former become heroes to be celebrated - people such as Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley. Those in charge of the latter are usually rewarded with disciplinary hearings and dishonorable discharges if the gambles become public. But if the gambles remain secret, then those responsible tend to quietly fade into obscurity, or get promoted sideways.
Experienced military and intelligence personnel will sometimes admit, albeit privately, that 'strategic deception' is always a major gamble during times of war. And while "Operation Mincemeat" was conceived and implemented during WWII, some 65 years ago now, it remains a potent weapon in the arsenals of every country. Though nowadays it seems to be deployed more against the citizens of those countries rather than their external enemies - as evidenced by the strategic deception ploy conducted against the British and American peoples by their own governments regarding what those administrations knew at the time to be the non-existent WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) that both the British and American peoples were deceived into believing were in the possession of Saddam Hussein in Iraq .......
A truly sad and tragic 'volte-face', but one that no doubt we are likely to experience ever more often as the world's oil reserves run dry now that 'Peak Oil' has passed, and the remaining reserves are increasingly sold in Euros as OPEC countries abandon the US dollar-denominated crude oil 'markers' that have made the US Dollar the dominant 'Reserve Currency' for most countries since the end of WWII in 1945.
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