This Article was written by Zanelle Awinyo, Year 9
It’s not often that you see a grave with a correction on it. But then again it’s not often that you hear a story as strange of this one. The story of a man who never was.
In 1943, during the Second World War, the body of Major William Martin, of the British Royal Marines, was discovered floating off the coast of Huelva in Southern Spain.
Chained to him was a briefcase, and inside it; a letter with details about the allied armies’ plans to attack Greece across the Mediterranean Sea. It wasn’t a straight forward “here’s everything we plan to do” kind of letter but instead a friendly letter between allied generals that would give away all the necessary information about the plan.
British intelligence rushed to recover the briefcase before German spies could look through it, but they were too late… Britain might have gotten its documents back but not before a copy of them was on its way back to Germany, who’s commanders then moved huge numbers of troops, tanks and boats to Greece, ready to repel the British attack.
They were probably surprised when Britain then attacked the southern coast of Italy, not Greece and won, with a fraction of the losses they would have initially suffered. When it all comes back down to it, there never was a Major William Martin. In fact, Glyndwr Michael, a welsh man in London during the Second World War was the man who played this fictional character. Homeless, penniless, friendless he died on the street after consuming poison, it may have been from food left out for rats or deliberately out of desperation, we’ll never know.
However according to official records his body was “removed out of England” and that’s true, because while Glyndwr Michael had passed on, his body was dressed in the correct uniform and stacked forged personal documents from the allies. From a receipt for a wedding ring to a fake photo and love letter from a fiancée Glyndwr Michael had everything he needed to fulfill his role as Major William Martin.
Armed with all that, his body was put into a submarine which sailed to the coast of Spain and on a dark night, in April 1943, the boats crew let the body chained to a briefcase drift away with the currents. The plan was in motion, operation mincemeat would guarantee the allies a win. By 1943, the team at Bletchley Park had cracked the Enigma cypher and were listening to German communications, less than a month after Glyndwr’s body was released, the team had intercepted a signal that showed the scheme had worked perfectly.
“Mincemeat swallowed whole”.
The allies took Sicily, used it as a beachhead to get to Italy and German war plans were in tatters. Major Martin by then had been buried with full military honors and given the appropriate gravestone. The truth was still top secret and it wasn’t until decades later that the public knew of Glyndwr’s service; when they did the grave was corrected.
“Glyndwr Michael, served as Major William Martin, Rest In Peace.”