Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 6
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Man Who Never Was

by Ewen Montagu

published by J. B. Lippincott Company
Philadelphia and New York,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 8

 p89  7  Major Martin Gets Ready for War

We had gone steadily on with our preparations although final approval for the launching of the operation had not yet been obtained.

After considering Sir Archibald Nye's letter, the Chiefs of Staff had given approval in principle; we now pressed for authority to start. There was bound to be a conflict of interest at this stage: the Chiefs of Staff were naturally reluctant to become committed to the Germans receiving the information contained in the letter as our strategy might be changed — if that happened it would not have been for the first time! On the other hand, we simply had to get the letter to Spain by the beginning of May if the operation was to be of any value; we had to give the German Intelligence Service time to get the information, convince themselves of its genuineness by any check‑up that you might want, and then to "appreciate" it and pass the result on to the Operational Staff. The latter would then need time to make their arrangements and to send  p90 their forces to the wrong places — and, if we wanted them not to fortify Sicily, it was no good waiting until those fortifications were complete.

The Chiefs of Staff accepted this necessity and gave their final approval, subject to reference to the Prime Minister, to whom the matter was submitted through General Ismay.

When the Prime Minister was told that there was some risk of pinpointing Sicily, if the operation went wrong, he replied (as I have already recorded), "I don't see that that matters. Anybody but a damn' fool would know it is Sicily." We felt that he ought also to be informed that our efforts might be wasted, as there was always the chance that the body might be recovered by a Spaniard who was not co‑operating with the Germans and the papers might be returned to us intact. The Prime Minister realised that that risk was not great either, and disposed of this point with a grin and a chuckle, saying, "I don't see that that matters either. We can always try again!"

So we had received the all‑clear, subject to General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Eisenhower being informed of the plan. If he had had any objection, or any change of strategy had occurred before the body was actually launched, the operation could have been canceled in the way I had provided in paragraph 8 of the "operation orders" to Lieutenant Jewell.

 p91  Meanwhile we had to undertake the least pleasant part of our work — we had to get the body ready for its mission.

We heartily disliked this task. In spite of the great service which we were confident that the body would render to its country, it went against the grain to disturb its rest; in addition to, there was an odd psychological reaction on each occasion that we saw the body lying stiff and cold. By this time Major Martin had become a completely living person for us; we felt that we knew him just as one knows one's best friend. After all, one has to be very close to a friend to read his love letters and the very personal letters that he gets from his father; we had come to feel that we had known Bill Martin from his early childhood and were taking a genuine and personal interest in the progress of his courtship and financial troubles. I had thought that I might say that we, we had created him, knew him as a father knows his son — but that would have been inaccurate. We knew him far better than most fathers know their sons; so as to create him we had had to make ourselves know his every thought and his probable reaction to any event that might occur in his life.

So we never relished the prospect of a visit to the place where the corpse was in cold storage — and George and I had to pay no less than three visits to him. First we had to disturb him to try to get a suitable photograph, and we took that opportunity to check his measurements,  p92 and especially the size that he took in boots. Then we thought it wise to pay a second visit and dress him so that he was fully ready for his journey in case there was any hitch which could not be rectified in haste. And it was a good thing that we did, for we had forgotten one point.

I have used the expression "lying stiff and cold." We had realizedº that it would be difficult to dress a body fully, from the underwear up, when it was in such a condition; we had checked on the situation when we took the photographs and found that, although difficult, it was possible. But we had forgotten the boots!

To appreciate what we were up against, it would be necessary for you to try to put a pair of boots on your feet, keeping your ankle and foot absolutely rigid, and with the latter at right angles to the leg — the operation is utterly impossible.

This was a bad check: we knew that to freeze and then to thaw a body, and then to freeze it again is a sure way to hasten the process of decomposition when eventually the body is allowed finally to thaw out. If we had to do this we might well vitiate the whole basis of Sir Bernard Spilsbury's calculations. What were we to do?

Suddenly we thought of the solution. We got an electric fire and thawed the feet and ankles only; then hurriedly, yet carefully, we dressed the body completely, and finally, with sincere mental apologies for  p93 what we were doing to it, replaced it in the cold storage.

Our third visit was on Saturday the 17th April, 1943 at 6 P.M., when we went to fetch Major Martin for the start of his journey. First we put the personal letters and the wallet with his passes and so on into his pockets. Then we added the usual "junk" that a man carries about on him, or unwittingly collects in his pockets. The final list was somewhat impressive:

Identity discs (2) "Major W. Martin, R. M., R/C," attached to braces.

Silver cross on silver chain round neck.

Watch, wrist.

Wallet, containing:

Photograph of fiancée.

Book of stamps (2 used).

2 letters from fiancée.

St. Christopher plaque.

Invitation to Cabaret Club

C. C. O. Pass

Admiralty Identity Card in cellophane container.

Torn‑off top of letter.

1 £5 note — 5th March, 1942, 1942 227C45827.

3 £1 notes X34D527008



1 half-crown.

2 shillings.

2 sixpences.

 p94  4 pennies.

Letter from "Father."

Letter from "Father" to McKenna & Co., solicitors.

Letter from Lloyds Bank.

Bill (receipted) from Naval and Military Club.

Bill (cash) from Gieves Ltd.

Bill for engagement ring.

2 bus tickets.

2 counterfoil stubs of tickets for Prince of Wales' Theatre, 22nd April, 1943.

Box of matches.

Packet of cigarettes.

Bunch of keys.

Pencil stub.

Letter from McKenna & Co., solicitors.

I must digress here to explain the item "2 counterfoil stubs of tickets for Prince of Wales' Theatre, 22nd April, 1943." As I have said, it was on the 17th April that we went to fetch Major Martin, and he was to sail on the 19th; he was due to be launched into the sea off Huelva on about the 29th or 30th April. On the other hand, if he had been travelling by air, as we wanted the Germans to believe, the journey would only have taken a single day. When we considered this difference in time, we decided to work the time-table back the other way: if we deducted from the arrival in Huelva on about the 30th April some five or six days in which the body might have been drifting ashore from an aircraft which had come to grief out at sea (we  p95 had reckoned that the eventual degree of decomposition would probably support an immersion of about that period), that would mean that Major Martin would have left London on about the 24th of April, and for that reason the bill for his room at the Naval and Military Club was dated that day. But here George had another of his brilliant ideas; it suddenly came into his ingenious mind that anyone who sees the stub of a theatre ticket at once assumes that the ticket has been used, but there was no reason why we should not buy theatre tickets valid for any day after the body had in fact left London, and then tear off the stubs and waste the tickets. So we decided that Bill Martin and Pam should have a farewell party before he left; we felt that they would enjoy the Sid Fields show at the Prince of Wales' Theatre, and we bought four tickets for that show (the reason why we bought four will be related later), tore off the stubs of two and put them into Major Martin's pocket. Once again a small detail was to play its part in the deception, and this afterthought "went home" whereas the bill for the room at Club was over­looked by the Spaniards and Germans.

Finally, we added the briefcase containing the important documents, and here we made a slight alteration from our intended arrangements of which I had notified Lieutenant Jewell. We had intended to take the briefcase up to the Clyde separately from the canister and give it into Lieutenant Jewell's care, but when it  p96 came to the point we found that the bag could be inserted into the canister with the body; and we therefore took this course, as it was an obvious safeguard against any forgetfulness during the launching of the body off Huelva. Lieutenant Jewell would have a difficult task, especially if it was rough, and his mind would be fully occupied with that and the safety of his ship; it would have been a pity if Major Martin had floated ashore while his briefcase remained in Lieutenant Jewell's safe.

When we had completed the clothing, filled all the pockets and attached the briefcase, we wrapped the body in a blanket so as to prevent it getting rubbed during its journey. When we had arrived we had stood the canister up on end and filled it with dry ice; when this had melted, we refilled the canister and again waited for the ice to melt. Then we lifted Major Martin and reverently and carefully lowered him into the canister and packed him round with still more dry ice. Finally, we put on the lid and screwed down the nuts. Major Martin was ready to go to war.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 13 Dec 20