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Duration: 1 hour

For more than 60 years, the real story behind Operation Mincemeat has been shrouded in secrecy. Now, Ben Macintyre reveals the extraordinary truth in a documentary based on his bestselling book.

In 1943, British intelligence hatched a daring plan. As the Allies prepared to invade Sicily, their purpose was to convince the Germans that Greece was the real target. The plot to fool the Fuhrer was the brainchild of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.

British agents procured the body of a tramp and reinvented his entire identity. He was given a new name, an officer rank and a briefcase containing plans for a fake invasion of Greece. The body was floated off the Spanish coast where Nazi spies would find it.

The deception was an astonishing success. Hitler fell for it totally, ordering his armies to Greece to await an invasion that never happened. Meanwhile, the Allies landed in Sicily with minimal resistance. The island fell in a month. The war turned in the Allies' favour.

Together with original witnesses, Macintyre recreates the remarkable story of how one brilliant team, and one dead tramp, pulled off a deception which changed the course of history.

Last on

Tue 15 Apr 2014 22:50 BBC Four

  • Ben Macintyre at St Pancras Coroner’s Court, London

    Ben Macintyre at St Pancras Coroner’s Court, London

    The Coroner of St. Pancras, Sir Bentley Purchase, was in on the plot and on the lookout for a suitable corpse. He found one on 28 January 1943. The death certificate reads: Glyndwr Michael. Age 34. Male. Lunatic. Cause of death: Phosphorus poisoning taken orally. Verdict: Suicide.

  • Ben Macintyre with the canister and the type of vessel used to transport the body.

    Ben Macintyre with the canister and the type of vessel used to transport the body.

    The body was packed in dry ice and loaded into a specially made canister marked ‘Optical Instruments’. The canister was then hoisted aboard submarine HMS Seraph and stowed in a torpedo rack for the voyage to Spain. Only the captain, Bill Jewell, knew the secret of their grisly cargo.

  • The body on the beach

    The body on the beach

    A local fisherman, Antonio Rey Maria, was out fishing for sardines when he came across the body and briefcase floating in the sea. He brought the body ashore to a local beach. The Spanish Naval Authorities in Huelva were immediately alerted and soon after, word got to the German spy Adolf Clauss, who was operating in the area.

  • Ben Macintyre at the grave of Glyndwr Michael, who became the fake Major William Martin

    Ben Macintyre at the grave of Glyndwr Michael, who became the fake Major William Martin

    The local pathologist gave the cause of death as ‘drowning’. The body was hastily buried at Huelva Cemetery with full military honours. The rapidly advancing decomposition of the body was given as a reason for the quick burial. The other reason was that the British didn’t want the Germans, whose curiosity had already been aroused, to order a second postmortem and possibly discover the true cause of death.

  • Ben Macintyre at Bletchley Park with the briefcase

    Ben Macintyre at Bletchley Park with the briefcase

    Bletchley Park, the centre of British code-breaking during the Second World War, was monitoring communications between Spain and Berlin. The entire operation was almost scuppered by the Spanish Navy. British Intelligence had expected Franco’s Fascist government to quickly hand the contents of the briefcase over to the Germans, but they refused and instead sent them to Naval Headquarters in Madrid for safekeeping. Eventually, a spy within the Spanish Naval Attaché’s office handed the fake letters over to the German Embassy, giving them one hour to photograph them.

Broadcasts

"If the story sounds a little James Bond to you, that is no accident."

Ben Macintyre

"It was partly inspired by Ian Fleming, then a young officer in naval intelligence."

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