Did you know…Glyndwyr Michael (4 January 1909 – 24 January 1943)?

Tales of WW2…

How a homeless vagrant corpse contributed to the British war effort

Glyndwr Michael

In 1939, British intelligence wrote a memo popularly known as “the Trout memo”, about how to deceive the enemy. It said in part: “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 goes on to describe numerous ways that the enemy, like trout, may be fooled or lured in.

A operation was created based on this idea, Operation Mincemeat.

Michael was a poverty stricken homeless vagrant who died from eating rat poison. British intelligence created the fictitious Major William Martin, dressed Michael’s corpse in a Royal Marines uniform, and attached a black attache case to his wrist. They planted false personal identity papers on the body, along with correspondence in the attache case between two British generals, discussing invasion plans.

The plans mentioned invading Greece and Sardina, rather than the true target, Sicily. The body was loaded into a submarine, and set adrift near the southern coast of Spain.

The German Abwehr received the intelligence from friendly Spanish authorities, and diverted extra troops to defend Greece and Sardinia. Sicily received no reinforcements.

British authorities began their frantic attempts to recover the case, counting on the fact that their efforts would convince the Nazis of the documents’ validity. As a result of the false intelligence carried by “William Martin,” the Nazis were caught unawares when 160,000 Allied troops invaded Sicily on July 10, 1943.

The operation was a success.