Friday 9 February 2024

A Second Help[ing Of Mincemeat

Make a cup of tea, and grab a mince pie or slice of Belgian cake...for I have fallen down a rabbit hole full of sailors, spooks and secrets. I've unearthed more info about "the man who never was" and those who created him.
[1] in 1938, Admiral Godfrey issued a now famous memorandum, later named "The Trout Memo" The memo reads, in part: "The Trout Fisher casts patiently all day. He frequently changes his venue and his lures. If he has frightened a fish he may 'give the water a rest for half-an-hour,' but his main endeavour, viz. to attract fish by something he sends out from his boat, is incessant." The memo lists 54 ways that the enemy, like trout, may be fooled or lured. #28 was the suggestion that misleading documents might be planted on a body to fool the Germans. This inspired the idea of Operation Mincemeat
[2] The memo was actually prepared by his secretary - at the time a young 30 year old chap who later went to work with Montagu and Cholmondley on OM. His nickname for Godfrey was "M" [because she terrifies me as much as my Mother"] and he worked closely with "Q" department which produced all those hidden compasses, maps concealed in silk linings etc for the use of spies and escaping POWS. And this debonair chap was none other than Ian Fleming! This was a decade before he began writing the Bond novels - but you can see where much of his inspiration came from. Macintyre does give lots of credit to IF in the book - and there are random remarks in the film just in case you didn't make the connection!
[3] Ewen Montagu took the body of Glyndwr Michaels from the crowded St Pancras Mortuary, to the smaller, quieter mortuary in Hackney[built in 1890 in the Rectory Garden, next to the parish church] Ewen M was a significant member of the Jewish community in London, and after the was became a judge. Martin Sugarman of the Jewish Ex Serviceman's Association, felt that Montagu's part in the helping Britain win the war ought to be recognised. So two years ago a plaque was unveiled 

[4] There is also a Special Forces Memorial Grove as part of the National Arboretum now, where OM is remembered with a plaque. The Hackney Memorial acknowledges 'a corpse' but the Staffordshire one names Glyndwr Michaels. Now here's the thing - it was 1996 when historian Roger Morgan discovered Glyndwr's name, unredacted in some declassified reports. 

[5] But there are those who say "the man who never was never was a Welsh tramp". The plot thickens. Everything relates to another incident in April 1943 - the unexplained explosion and sinking of HMS Dasher on the River Clyde,  close to the town of Ardrossan. There are those who believe that the corpse transported to Spain on HMS Seraph was in fact one of the fatalities from Dasher. 
It is all meticulously detailed by a married couple from Ardrossan, John and Noreen Steele in the third book they have written about the disaster.
Personally I am not convinced that the corpse was in fact a seaman named John Melville, and  was not Glyndwr. But I do agree with the local MP for Ardrossan, Patricia Gibson, who raised the subject of HMS Dasher in Parliament last year on the 80th anniversary of its sinking. I have carefully read the transcript in Hansard[this was a deep, deep rabbit hole I fell into!] 
But I do the the Hon lady was right, in saying that those bereaved by the Dasher Tragedy are entitled, after 80 years, to have some proper answers to their questions. [Read her speech  yourself, if you want to!]
But for now I am leaving WW2 secrets and moving on to more pressing matters - like getting Rosie's bedroom ready for her arrival shortly, and finishing Holiday Club plans, and working on my Cross-stitch Collaboration!

Finally,  a HUGE thank you to Will in NZ for alerting me to the books of Reginald Victor Jones, another WW2 science boffin. Norfolk libraries do not stock any of his works - but I now have his biography on reserve!


  1. You appear to have penetrated further to the warren rather than just the rabbit hole! What an intriguing post! Kx

  2. Learning is a lifelong process and your shared learning has ignited my interest too. Catriona

  3. In A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton Walsh, the idea of the corpse used to deliver misinformation to the enemy is taken further when his I.D. is used by a German spy in England. A good read.

    1. I must check that one. I usually enjoy JPWs books

  4. A fascinating post, and welcome to my world or 'sailors, spooks and secrets' and only being told what you absolutely HAVE to be told before suddenly it appears in the public domain and everyone knows.

  5. What an interesting post and I agree that it's time for the truth to be known about who that unknown man was.
    "The only cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosite!"
    - Ellen Farr


  6. Thanks to you we watched Operation Mincemeat (we have Prime) and really enjoyed and very different to the original and probably closer to true life. Enjoy Rosie on her half-term break. We have our granddaughter the following week as her hols start on the 19th. Xx

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Rosies half term is a week earlier than Norfolk, so she will miss holiday club

  7. How could anyone can ever be bored with so many fascinating stories to look into! Thank you for sharing all of this intriguing piece of history.


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