What Is Inside The Buried Mountbatten Diaries?


Hitler and all his generals and admirals were fooled by one dead Englishman, planted on them by the British secret service in the most amazing spy coup of the war



In the first part of The Corpse That Hoaxed The Axis, the author, who was with British Intelligence during World War II, told how he and a colleague conceived a daring plan to outwit the Germans and convince them that the attack on the European mainland from Africa in 1943 would occur in Sardinia, and not in Sicily as planned. They secured a corpse and gave it an identity — complete with name and officer’s rank in the Royal Marines, girl friend's letters and pictures, a letter to General Alexander, memorandums from Lord

Mountbatten — everything that would be likely to convince Axis spies that the dead man was an authentic British courier carrying secret documents. The corpse was given the name of “Major Martin’’; the scheme was known as Operation Mincemeat. The plan was to drop the corpse off Spain with a dispatch case full of documents and hoodwink German agents into thinking that the dead man had crashed in an aircraft and been washed ashore. The documents subtly suggested the fake attack on Sardinia.

H1S1B E NOW had to choose the spot on the |K|Kfl Spanish coast where we wished to float the I body ashore and we decided on Huelva, a B small port in the southwest near the Portuguese frontier.

We knew that at Huelva there was an active German agent who was well in with the Spaniards. Also, we did not want a spot too near Gibraltar in case the Spaniards should return the body to us for burial. The appearance there of the body of an officer with a false identity might give rise to talk which would he almost bound to be picked up by the Germans.

I consulted with the Hydrographer of the Navy about the weather and tidal conditions to be expected off Huelva at the end of April. Again we were lucky. Although the tidal stream was not too helpful the prevailing southwesterly wind would he “on shore” and a body in a Mae West would be more affected by the wind than by the tide.

So Huelva became the appointed place. It would, of course, he in accordance with the normal practice of the “neutral” Spaniards to hand over the body to the British vice-consul for burial and at the same time give to him anything found with the body-

No detail was overlooked in convincing the Germans that "Major Martin" was genuine

But we felt reasonably confident that the efficiency of the local German agent would ensure that copies of the papers would reach the Germans. Our confidence in him was not misplaced!

We now had to arrange for the body to reach Huelva and, by good fortune, the submarine Seraph commanded by Lieutenant Jewell was due to sail for Malta at about the right date.

We considered that Jewell could get close enough inshore to ensure that the body would he picked up by the Spaniards even if it did not float ashore.

The body we decided could be carried inside the pressure-hull of the submarine which meant that we would need an airtight container though not a pressure-proof one.

The question now arose -could the body be kept until the date of departure without decomposition being too great?

I again consulted Sir Bernard Spilsbury, Britain’s foremost pathologist. He took the view that if we could exclude as much oxygen as possible from an airtight container, and if the body was really cold when it was put into the container, decomposition would be so slow that if it were picked up soon after being put in the sea the effect would be only the same as that of a few days’ immersion floating in from an aircraft which had crashed some distance off shore.

We agreed that the best way to get rid of the oxygen would be by getting a container, standing it on end, filling it with dry ice so that the air would be excluded by the carbon monoxide, then putting the body carefully in from the top and screwing the

lid down. We ordered a cylindrical case with an asbestos wool lining between two skins of 22-gauge steel.

The time for the departure was drawing near. Final approval was now sought from Prime Minister Churchill through General Sir Hastings Ismay. We had to warn him of two hazards:

•If the Germans saw through our deception, Sicily would be quite definitely pin-pointed as the Allied target.

•All our efforts might be wasted if the wrong Spaniard found the body and did not pass the documents to the Germans.

Churchill, however, gave his consent, making just this comment on our second warning, “I don’t see that it matters—we can always try again.” He directed that General Eisenhower, in supreme command of the invasion of Sicily, should he informed of what was happening.

Now we got to work on the actual operation.

Two of us, with the late Jock Horsfall, the racingmotorist, as co-driver, set off in a Ford van from London to fetch the body of “Major William Martin” from his cold storage.

Before we put him into his six-foot canister we had to dress him in the uniform of a major of the Royal Marines, and here we found difficulty. We had not realized that it is impossible to put a boot on a foot unless you can bend the ankleand Major Martin was frozen stiff. It was a problem, but at last he was fully dressed.

The canister was filled with dry ice—to exclude all air and prevent decomposition—and after it had

evaporated the major was put in, wrapped in a blanket, more dry ice packed round him and the lid was screwed down.

It was a long journey to Greenock, the port of departure. It was lucky that Lieut. Jewell (now Commander) was in command of the submarine as he had already made a success of other top-secret missions. He had smuggled General Mark Clark in and out of North Africa in 1942 before the Allied landings and had also taken General Giraud by submarine out of occupied France, for which he was awarded the MBE.

At 6 p.m. on April 19, 1943, HMS Seraph sailed from the Holy Loch.

Of the five officers and fifty ratings on board only Jewell knew the secret of his odd piece of cargo. The crew had been told that the metal canister contained a secret weather-reporting device to be floated experimentally off the coast of Spain. It was actually marked “Handle With Care—optical instrumentsfor special FOS shipment.”

For ten days the Seraph sailed, surfacing only at night. She was off Huelva undetected and according to schedule on April 30.

The spot selected for floating the body ashore was sixteen hundred yards off the mouth of the Huelva river. Zero hour was 4.30 in the morning.

When the Seraph surfaced it was dark as pitch. Through the conning tower went the five officers and the submarine trimmed down until an inch of the calm sea lapped over the casing. The mysterious canister was hauled aloft. Only then, with all ratings below, did Jewell let his officers into the secret.

Quickly and quietly the five set about their task. While three kept watch the other helped Jewell to unlock the bolts of the canister with the spanner attached to the case. Ten minutes they worked before the lid came away. Then the blanketed body was slid gently from its vacuum coffin.

On his knees again, Jewell plucked at knotted tapes and the blanket fell away. ’There followed the final check. Everything was in order. Jewell bent low to inflate the major’s Mae West. Only one thing remained. Four young officers bent bare heads in simple tribute as their commander murmured what prayers he could remember from the burial service.

A gentle push and the unknown warrior was drifting inshore with the tide on his last, momentous journey. Major Martin had gone to the war. With him went the hopes and prayers of millions. For on his safe arrival might well depend the fate of the Allied invasion of Europe.

We had ascertained that a flight of the kind we were simulating would very likely be by Catalina flying boat; also, that it was probable that after a Catalina crash there would be little or no floating wreckage. We decided therefore that Lieut. Jewell should launch, about half a mile from the body, a ruLiber dinghy such as was used in Catalinas, with one aluminum oar only so as to simulate some degree of haste, and that no other wreckage would be needed. The canister that had held Major Martin’s body was sunk in deep water.

Fifteen minutes after surfacing the Seraph was outward bound again for Gibraltar and Algiers. She sent a signal: “Operation Mincemeat com-


When we got Jewell’s full report it revealed that, apart from the risk he took, his job could not have been a very pleasant one. There had been rather more decomposition of the body than Sir Bernard Spilsbury had forecast, perhaps because of oxygen trapped in the uniform and blanket, but 1 did not consider that it would be out of proportion to what would have occurred through immersion from April 28 (the latest probable date of the “crash”) to April 30, when the body would probably be recovered.

We soon learned that this confidence was justified.

It was at Algiers some weeks later that Jewell received a picture postcard from London which bore the cryptic but significant message: “You will be pleased to learn that the major is now very comfortable.”

Early in the morning of April 30, 1943, a Spanish fisherman sighted a body close inshore off the port of Huelva (on the Atlantic coast one hundred and thirty miles northwest of Gibraltar). He hailed a launch, which picked up the body and landed it on the beach at La Bota. The body was handed over to a military patrol, who reported the discovery to the local commandant. A post mortem was carried out and the verdict was “asphyxiation through immersion in the sea.”

The British vice-consul was duly informed of the finding of the body and on May 2, 1943, Major Martin was buried with full military honors in the presence of “high officers” of the Spanish Services.

We had been given the body—but we had not been told about the dispatch case!

Meanwhile the German agent in Huelva did not let us down. He learned from one of his contacts of j the existence of the envelopes in the dispatch case and of the distinction of I the addressees and there can be little

doubt from what happened later that he alerted his superiors.

According to routine the vice-consul reported to the British naval attaché in Madrid the finding of the body and he sent word to London. Then, after a first routine signal, we began to react. On May 4 we sent an “Immediate Most Secret” signal stating that we had learned that Major William Martin, contrary to regulations, was carrying papers some of which were “of great importance and secrecy.” Formal demand was to be made for all documents but great care was to be taken not to betray undue anxiety. The addressees of any letters recovered were to be signaled immediately and the letters sent “untampered with in any way” to the Director of Naval Intelligence, personally.

We followed that with another signal on the 7th stating that the letters may have been in a black dispatch case and that the attaché was to enquire discreetly if one had been found.

The attaché replied on the 8th that there certainly had been a dispatch case but that it had been taken into official custody and that he had been promised that when it reached Madrid (always a slow business) it would be handed over to him.

This was not done until May 13 when the Chief of the Spanish Naval Staff handed over the case to our attaché “on the express instructions of the Minister of Marine,” and unctuously informed him that everything was safely there.

That everything was there was true —but “safely” was another matter!

I will jump now for a moment to the time after the war when we were examining captured German naval archives.

Pam Sent a Wreath

The British officer in charge of the examination one day rang the Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence with horror in his voice. Something had happened, he said, that the DNI would probably like to handle himself. A very senior army officer had sent some highly secret letters apparently by an irregular route and they had fallen into German hands.

Sure enough, they were the documents of Operation Mincemeat! There, in the German files, were copies of the letters, with translations, and also Intelligence reports, “appreciations,” out messages and so on.

We were right. All the letters had been extracted from their envelopes by the Spaniards, photographed, and copies given to the Germans. And they had swallowed the whole thing!

But let me complete Major Martin’s story. He had played his part well and he was entitled to the only thanks we could give him. We instructed the British naval attaché to have a wreath from the family and from Major Martin’s sweetheart put on his grave. We then asked for a tombstone to be placed over the grave as soon as possible. It’s still there (see page 24).

Finally I wrote to the attaché asking, on behalf of the bereaved family, for photographs of the grave and these were duly taken and sent to England.

Meanwhile, we took one further precaution.

The usual time allowed between a death and the insertion of a name in the lists of naval casualties would have elapsed before the attack on Sicily was safely launched—and The Times reached Lisbon by air soon after publication. So we had to insert Major Martin’s name in the casualty list which appeared in The ’Times of June 4, 1943.

It had already been publicly announced that Rear-Admiral Philip Mack, DSO, and others had been lost when a naval aircraft crashed into the sea. By pure chance Major Martin’s name was published in the same casualty list. If the Germans had been looking out for his name, what was more likely than that it was the same aircraft crash.

But this insertion caused some complication. Enquiries promptly came from the sections dealing with naval wills, that dealing with statistics of casualties, and others, like them, enquiring why they had not heard of Major Martin.

They had to be informed in great secrecy that they need not worry about Major Martin or record him or his death. He was a special agent who had been sent on an important mission after having been given (with the First Sea Lord’s authority) the cover of naval rank as an officer in the Royal Marines.

When we got the letters back from Spain examination made it clear that the contents had been extracted.

From that moment we knew that we were halfway home. Co-operation between the Spaniards and the Germans was such that we had no doubt that Berlin would have got copies the question still remained as to whether the German command had swallowed them.

Although the landing on Sicily and what was found there gave a pretty good answer to that last question, we did not learn the extent of our success until after the war. Proof positive was found in captured enemy documents.

First, there was a file especially prepared for Admiral Karl Doenitz, on the main document of which we found Admiral Doenitz’ personal “squiggle.” These documents were marked to be circulated personally and not to go through any registry. They consisted of copies of the Martin letters and two “appreciations,” the final one of which ended: “Maintenance of complete

secrecy over this discovery and the utmost limitation of circulation of this information is essential.”

The German Intelligence “appreciated” that the risk of the documents being planted was slight. The main risk was whether we knew that the documents had been “captured” or only lost at sea—that question was being followed up—and it had to be

considered whether we (the British) still had time either to change or to speed up our plans. That also was thought to be unlikely.

The date of the operation was however not considered to be imminent, both because the captured letters revealed that there was still time to alter some of the minor arrangements for the operations and because some of the troops named as involved were known (to the Germans) to have recently been in action and would have to be rested before the operation.

They also deduced that the invasion of Greece would take place simultaneously with that in the west as we had decided that it was impossible to use Sicily as the “cover target” for both.

What they had learned about Greece was considered of vital importance as they had had much less data about Allied preparations in the eastern Mediterranean than they had had from the western end.

This file was followed by another Intelligence report on the checkup that was made in Spain. The points were stated to have been “cleared up in a conversation of May 10, 1943, with the official concerned, with whom we have been in contact for many years.”

This official explained that the brief case had been “clutched in the hand of the corpse” (how right we had been to take the risk of using the chain to prevent loss of the bag). The report goes on to describe in detail the contents of the bag.

The letters had been extracted from the envelopes and dried with artificial heat for reproduction purposes and then resoaked in salt water for twentyfour hours to reproduce their original condition. The German agent had held the envelopes in his hand, they were “in good condition” and he could vouch that they did not appear to have been opened.

The report then discussed in some detail Major Martin’s personal papers and mentioned that a “night-club bill dated 27th April” showed that he had “left London on the morning of thq 28th April, the same day that the aircraft came to grief near Huelva.”

This was presumably a muddle over the nature of the Prince of Wales, Theatre and a misreading of the datf on the stubs of the tickets as well as affording some extension of the post mortem finding that the body had been in the water for some days before it was found on the 30th. However, ou: use of the stubs to reinforce Major Martin having had to travel by air was justified.

Finally the German Intelligence Service put out a detailed “appreciation” of our intentions and plans. These it set out in exactly the way that we had hoped.

En addition I was pleased to find that the “appreciation” stated, as confirmation of their deductions, that “a joking reference in the letter points to Sardinia.” So my ponderous joke inserted in a letter signed by Lord Mountbatten about sardines being “on points” had, as I had hoped, appealed to the German sense of humor and had the intended effect.

So far success was complete, but what really mattered was whether the German General Staff had accepted the view of its Intelligence Service.

Fourteen days after the body had been floated ashore in Spain on April 30. 1943, the German Naval Staff War Diary recorded that the German Army Staff had definitely concluded that the documents found on him were genuine.

The Army Staff deduced that the main Allied assault would be on Sardinia (and not Sicily, which was the Allied intention) with a subsidiary landing in Greece. From this deduction came the following troop movements: Pafl’/ër division was moved from France to a town in the Peloponnesos in Greece to cover communications to the two beaches in Greece —Cape Araxos and Kalamata—mentioned in the documents Major Martin carried. This was an enormous operation and the division was out of the war for some time.

The Defenses Were Spread-eagled

The German High Command ordered laying of minefields off the Greek coast; coastal batteries were to be installed; MTB bases, command stations and sea-patrol services prepared. A whole group of MTBs was sent from Sicily to Greece in June.

In the west, Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel himself signed an order from the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces dated June 14 ordering “reinforcement of Sardinia.”

A strong Panzer force with supplies for two months was ordered to Corsica and emphasis was laid on the improvement of defenses on the north coast of Sicily (where we did not land) against “a diversionary attack during the assault on Sardinia.”

Exactly one day before we invaded Sicily the German Admiralty sent to its Commander - in - Chief, Mediterranean, a message giving Admiral Doenitz’ views on Allied intentions: Sardinia and perhaps Corsica were the first targets . . . the assault on Greece was most probable.” A landing on the Italian mainland was considered less likely.

This, then, was our dividend. The Germans had spread-eagled their defenses and, as the war record gives it, the invasion of Sicily was an unqualified success.

In our examination of captured German documents after the war we also found other odd items.

Fhe German Foreign Office was asked by the German Intelligence to warn Turkey that shipping and troops were being moved to Greece.

Even after the Sicily invasion had started the German High Command asked for a special lookout to be kept by agents in the Straits of Gibraltar for convoys which would be going to attack Corsica and Sardinia. Further

documents showed that July 12—two days after the invasion began—a different view began to be taken. Hurried messages went out stopping any MTBs which had not yet sailed from the Italian area for the Aegean from leaving.

It was stated, bitterly, that the sending of MTBs (in early June) to Greece had left a gap in the defenses of Sicily which were now vital to a battle that was “decisive as regards further participation of Italy” in the war.

So we learned that Operation Mince-

meat had succeeded beyond our most sanguine hopes.

One more pleasure was to be vouchsafed to us.

The diary kept by Doenitz of his conferences with Hitler was examined after the war. This diary revealed that Hitler, like everyone else, had originally decided that the target of our next assault was to be Sicily. But Major Martin changed his mind.

Doenitz was sent at the beginning of May to try to co-ordinate operations with Mussolini. While he was away the Mincemeat documents had found

their way to German headquarters.

On Doenitz’ return he reported to Hitler on May 14. He was asked the Duce’s views as to the Allies’ next target.

Hitler must have seen the documents, for Doenitz then records this change of viewr: “The Führer does not agree with the Duce that the most likely invasion point is Sicily. Furthermore, he believes that the discovered Anglo-Saxon order confirms the assumption that the planned attack will be directed mainly against Sardinia and the Peloponnesos.”

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