As we draw closer to Christmas, what better time to discuss the topic of mincemeat?
This isn't the kind of mincemeat you'd want to find in your mince pie though – this stuff was far more gruesome.
On the morning of 30 April 1943, a sardine fisherman happened across a corpse floating off the coast of Hueva, Spain. The body was dressed in the uniform of a British officer and accompanied by a chained briefcase. In the briefcase were papers revealing the identity of the body to be Major William Martin ... except it wasn't.
"If anyone studies this story, some good may result ... they may wonder whether the security services have been stupid--or clever?" - Ewen Montague
Unbeknownst to the Spanish authorities and their Axis contacts, there was actually no such person as Major William Martin. The body, while real, belonged to a Welsh homeless man called Glyndwr Michael.
Attempting to maintain an image of neutrality, the Spanish alerted the British government that the body of one of their officers had been found in Spanish waters. Expecting a response, the British leapt into action and issued a series of messages between the Admiralty stressing that the briefcase be retrieved at all costs.
Upon receiving the returned briefcase, British intelligence noted that the sealed papers inside had been opened. A cryptic message was then transmitted to the prime minister: 'mincemeat swallowed whole'.
In this episode of The Gallimaufry we discuss the outrageous affair that was Operation Mincemeat, and how members of British intelligence took their passion for spy novels to the next level, while undertaking one of the most devious schemes of World War II.
- Andrews, Evan. ‘What Was Operation Mincemeat?’ HISTORY. Accessed 11 November 2021. https://www.history.com/news/what-was-operation-mincemeat.
- Gottlieb, Klaus. ‘The Mincemeat Postmortem: Forensic Aspects of World War II’s Boldest Counterintelligence Operation’. Military Medicine 174, no. 1 (January 2009): 093–099. https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-02-4007.
- Macintyre, Ben. The True Spy Story That Changed the Course of World War II. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC : [distributor] Macmillan Distribution (MDL), 2010.
- ‘Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Tramp Fooled Hitler’. BBC News, 3 December 2010, sec. Magazine. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-11887115.
- ‘The Man Who Never Was • by Ewen Montagu’. Accessed 11 November 2021. https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Great_Britain/_Topics/history/_Texts/MONMAN/home.html.
- Imperial War Museums. ‘The War on Paper: Operation Mincemeat’. Accessed 11 November 2021. https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-war-on-paper-operation-mincemeat.
- historyrevealed.com. ‘What Was Operation Mincemeat?’ Accessed 11 November 2021. https://www.historyrevealed.com/eras/world-war-ii/what-was-operation-mincemeat/.