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.
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
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
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
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.