World War II British Espionage Figure. “William Martin” was a fictional person whose identity was created in 1943 by British Naval Intelligence during World War II to deceive Nazi Germany in preparation of the Allied invasion of Italy. To that end a corpse of someone who had died of natural causes was sought out and brought to play the part of “William Martin”. The brain child of Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu of Naval Intelligence Division of the British Admiralty, he co-conceived “Operation Mincemeat” with Charles Cholmondeley of MI5. It was a deception in which a body was to be found at sea by Axis forces, carrying fake 'top secret' documents suggesting an invasion would be staged in Greece, 500 miles away from the actual invasion point. A body was acquired, and every effort was made to confirm the false identity of William Martin, dressing the body as a Royal Marine in battledress, placing a photograph from a fictitious fiancée in his pocket, along with two love letters signed 'Pam,' and a receipt for a diamond engagement ring. Additionally, everyday items such as a book of stamps, cigarettes, matches, keys, a receipt for a new shirt, and a confirmation that Martin had been in London, a bill for four nights' lodging at the Navel and Military Club were put in the pockets. The body was slipped into the sea off Huelva, on the southern coast of Spain, via submarine, attached by courier chain to a briefcase holding letters indicating Allied 'plans.' The body of “Major Martin” was found by local fisherman early on April 30, 1943. The apparent British officer was buried in Huelva, his real identity concealed. Modern scholarship suggests three men for the role of William Martin; a Welsh vagrant named Glyndwr Michael who died in January 1943, or one of two Royal Navy sailors; Tom Martin or John Melville, who had been killed aboard “HMS Dasher” which sank on March 27, 1943, after an aviation fuel explosion resulted in the loss of 379 crew. The question of identity is still vigorously debated, with supporters of an Royal Navy candidate contesting the ability of a vagrant to pass for a Royal Marine. The story of the operation was told in Montagu's book “The Man Who Never Was” (1953), and the subsequent 1956 film of the same name.
Bio by: Iola
born 29 March 1907
died 24 April 1943
beloved son of John Glyndwyr Martin and the late Antonia Martin of Cardiff, Wales
Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori
Served as Major William Martin, RM