Operation Mincemeat - Top Secret Ultra Report

Extracts from a Top Secret - ULTRA report on Operation Mincemeat, aka "The Man Who Never Was".

(Taken from National Archives file: CAB 154/112)



Once the Africa campaign was completed, the problems of Security and Deception, which have already been discussed in connection with TORCH, assumed a new form. The next target was Sicily. For many reasons it was an obvious target and the difficulty of deceiving the enemy was great.

To solve this problem Operation MINCEMEAT was used. It is a small classic of Deception, brilliantly elaborate in detail, completely successful in operation. Fortunately, Special Intelligence enabled us to know that the enemy was deceived by it. The officer who fathomed it was Lieut. Cdr. Montagu upon whose detailed narrative (which contains as an appendix photographs of the corpse and of the principal items of his luggage) the present narrative is based.

Shortly before the launching of TORCH, a Catalina had crashed off Spain. A body had been washed ashore and we know that the papers on the body had reached the Germans. This suggested that the Spanish could be relied on to pass on what they found, and that this un-neutral habit might be turned to account. On 5th November, 1942, Flight-Lieut. Cholmondeley brought up for consideration by the Twenty Committee a plan (called TROJAN HORSE) for planting deceptive documents on the enemy by dropping a corpse from an aircraft. From this beginning Montagu devised Operation MINCEMEAT. Sir Bernard Spilsbury was consulted on the subject of corpses. He advised that if the body of a man who had died from suitable causes were washed ashore in Spain, no one could tell, without elaborate post mortem, that he had not died in an air crash. Spaniards were bad pathologists; as Roman Catholics they had a dislike of post mortems, and thus far Montagu’s way was clear. He went next to a coroner. Mr. Bentley Purchase was amenable and agreed to keep a suitable corpse on a refrigerator until it was required. By 2nd February, 1943, Montagu’s plan was complete in rough outline and the I.S.S.B codeword MINCEMEAT was appropriated to it so that signals might be made concerning it.

On 28th January [1943] there had died at St. Stephen's Hospital, Fulham, a labourer of no fixed abode. His name was Glyndwr Michael and he was 34 years of age. Two days earlier he had taken phosphorous rat-poison, which was unlikely to reveal itself to post-mortem examination, except possibly by faint traces in the liver. Mr. Bentley Purchase dispensed with a post-mortem, notified the registrar that the body was being "removed out of England" for burial, but in fact kept it in St. Pancras Mortuary until 1st April, when it was removed to Hackney and dressed in the underclothes provided. On 3rd April, Montagu and Cholomondeley completed the dressing except for the Mae West, boots and gaiters which the supposed staff-officer was to wear. In this they were assisted by the Coroner and the mortuary keeper. No one else saw the body dressed, and the mortuary keeper did not know for what purpose it was to be used.

The exact form of the document to be planted on the enemy needed careful devising. A low level document – e.g. a letter from a member of the Planning Staff in London to a member of the Planning Staff in Algiers – would not carry enough weight. Montagu was determined that his plan should not be weakened in this way. He drafted a letter to be written by the V.C.I.G.S. to General Alexander, basing it on three main principles:-


(i)   That the planted target should be casually but definitely identified.

(ii)   That two other places should be identified as cover, that one of them should be Sicily itself and the other thrown in so that, if the Germans grasped that the document was a plant, Sicily should not be pin-pointed.

(iii)   That the letter should be “off the record” and of the type that would go be the hand of an officer but not in an official bag; it would have to have personal remarks and evidence of a personal discussion or arrangement which would prevent the message being sent by a signal.

After discussion with Colonel Bevan, the Controlling Officer of Deception, and with Colonel Dudley Clarke who was in charge of Deception for HUSKY (the Sicily operation), Montagu’s rough draft was submitted to V.C.I.G.S. Re-drafting followed, and V.C.I.G.S. produced a version of his own which, after revision by Chiefs of Staff, was passed by them in the following form:

War Office,
London, S.W.1
23rd April, 1943


My dear Alex,

I am taking advantage of sending you a personal letter by hand of one of Mountbatten’s officers, to give you the inside history of our recent exchange of cables about Mediterranean operations and their attendant cover plans. You may have felt our decisions were somewhat arbitrary, but I can assure you in fact that the C.O.S. Committee gave the most careful consideration both to your recommendation and also to Jumbo’s.

We have had recent information that the Bosche have been reinforcing and strengthening their defences in Greece and Crete and C.I.G.S. felt that our forces for the assault were insufficient. It was agreed by the Chiefs of Staff that the 5th Division should be reinforced by one Brigade Group for the assault on the beach south of CAPE ARAXOS and that similar reinforcements should be made for the 56th Division at KALAMATA. We are earmarking the necessary forces and shipping.

Jumbo Wilson had proposed to select SICILY as cover target for “HUSKY”, but we have already chosen it as cover for operations “BRIMSTONE”. The C.O.S. Committee went into the whole question exhaustively again and came to the conclusion that in view of the preparations in Algeria, the amphibious training which will be taking place on the Tunisian coast and the heavy air bombardment which will be put down to neutralise the Sicilian airfields, we should stick to our plan of making it cover for “BRIMSTONE” – indeed we stand a very good chance of making him think we will go for Sicily – it is an obvious objective and one about which he must be nervous. On the other hand they felt there wasn’t much hope of persuading the Bosche that the extensive preparations in the Eastern Mediterranean were also directed at Sicily. For this reason they have told Wilson his cover plan should be something nearer the spot, e.g. the Dodecanese. Since our relations with Turkey are now so obviously closer the Italians must be pretty apprehensive about these islands.

I imagine you will agree with these arguments. I know you will have your hands more than full at the moment, and you haven’t much chance of discussing future operations with Eisenhower. But if by any chance you do want to support Wilson’s proposal, I hope you will let us know soon, because we can’t delay much longer.

I am very sorry we weren’t able to meet your wishes about the new commander of the Guards Brigade. Your own nominee was down with a bad attack of ‘flu and not likely to be really fit for another few weeks. No doubt, however, you know Forster personally; he has done extremely well in command of a brigade at home, and is, I think, the best fellow available.

You must be about as fed up as we are with the whole question of war medals and “Purple Hearts”. We all agree with you that we don’t want to offend our American friends, but there is a good deal more to it than that. If our troops who happen to be serving in one particular theatre are to get extra decorations merely because Americans happen to be serving there too, we will be faced with a good deal of discontent among those troops fighting elsewhere perhaps just as bitterly, or more so. My own feeling is that we should thank the Americans for their kind offer but say firmly that it would cause too many anomalies and we are sorry we can’t accept. But it is on the agenda for the next Military Members meeting and I hope you will have a decision very soon.

Best of luck,
Yours ever,

This, then was the crucial document, the passing of which to the enemy in such circumstances that they would implicitly accept it as genuine formed the purpose of the operation.



The original intention in Operation MINCEMEAT was that the body should be that of an army officer. The reasons for this were:-

(i) An Army Officer could wear battle dress and the extreme difficulty of getting a uniform which really fitted the body would be avoided.

(ii) Army Officers have their identity cards removed when going abroad and other Services do not; this would obviate the difficulty of obtaining a photograph (none which looked alive could be taken of the corpse).

(iii) It was suitable that an Army Officer should be taking a document of the kind required.

After consultation with the Director of Military Intelligence it was discovered that there would be considerable difficulties if the body were to be that of an Army Officer. For instance the Military Attaché, Madrid, would have to be added to those in the picture and it would be difficult to stop any signal reporting the finding of the body being distributed in the War Office.

It was therefore decided that the “officer” should be a Major in the Royal Marines on CCO’s Staff [Chief of Combined Operations]. This involved obtaining a photograph for his identity card but he could still wear battle dress and his carrying the documents could be reasonably explained in a plausible document.

Another disadvantage of the “officer” being a Marine was that, the Royal Marines being small in numbers, any leakage of the fact that an officer named “so and so” had been killed would cause much more comment and enquiries than would a similar report about the loss of a non-existent Army Officer. This had to be accepted and arrangements were made to tighten up security on this point wherever possible, although difficulties remained such as those that would be caused if the body were to be sent by the Spaniards to Gibraltar for burial; all possible precautions were taken on this type of point as well.

A battle-dress uniform and gaiters were obtained from Lt. Col. Mountain of Home Forces and Flight Lieutenant Cholmondeley also obtained the necessary boots, underwear, etc. from various sources. As Flight Lieut. Cholmondeley was almost the same build as the body a chit was obtained from Col. Neville, R.M. of C.C.O. addressed to Messrs. Gieves, asking them to fit the battle-dress to him (and to sew on “Royal Marine” flashes and the Combined Operations badge flashes) as he would require it for special duty. This was duly done and the badges of rank etc. were also put on. A trench coat was obtained and fitted with badges of rank, etc.



On 12th March [1943] Lieut.Cdr. Montagu gave to the Director of Plans, Admiralty, a brief requesting him to obtain a decision as to the method of transporting the body. This suggested that the body might be transported by submarine, flying boat, surface craft or land plane, in that order of preference – the submarine being stressed as clearly the best. The Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Home) decided that a submarine should be used if arrangements could be made.

On his instructions Lieut.Cdr. Montagu called on the Admiral (Submarines) who approved the idea. After consulting with his Staff it was decided:-

(i) that the container would have to be carried inside the pressure hull, involving an air-tight but not pressure proof container.

(ii) that HM s/m SERAPH (P.219) (Lieut. Jewell, MBE, RN) was sailing for Gibraltar at a suitable time and Lt. Jewell had had experience of special operations.

(iii) that the submarine could probably bring the body close enough inshore to obviate the need to use a rubber dinghy to transport it. The proposed use of a flare was therefore dropped.

Another meeting was held with Captain Raw, CBE, RN Chief Staff Officer to Admiral Submarines at which Lieut. Jewell was present. He was given a brief by Lieut. Cdr. Montagu which was approved by Captain Raw.

It was decided by Captain Raw to postpone the date of sailing of the submarine for approximately a week to the 19th April, using this period for normal final training of the crew. This would enable the operation to be carried out with a waning moon in a reasonably dark period (approximately 28th – 29th April).



On Saturday 17th April, at 1800, Lieut. Cdr. Montagu, Flt. Lt. Cholmondeley and [NAME REDACTED] of MI5, with a suitable lorry met Mr. Bentley Purchase at the Hackney Mortuary. The body was removed from the extra-cold refrigerator where it had been kept and the pockets were duly filled, his boots, gaiters and the “Mae West” were put on, and the black brief case was attached to him.

…The body was then photographed for purposes of record, next it was wrapped in an army blanket to protect it in transit, lightly tied with tape and finally placed in the container.

…The container and rubber dingy were then driven to Greenock in the lorry by the officers mentioned and taken to HMS FORTH, the submarine depot ship, by launch. The following morning (19th April) they were taken on board HM s/m SERAPH (P.219).

No comment was caused in HMS FORTH, or in the submarine, the container being accepted as merely being a more than usually urgent and breakable FOS shipment. Only four officers in HMS FORTH were “in the know” and they only partially.