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Sunday, 09 May 2010

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I've read a lot about the Macintyre book lately and wonder, not having read it, how much it overlaps with the Nicholas Rankin book, which I have - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Churchills-Wizards-British-Deception-1914-1945/dp/0571221963/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273586554&sr=1-1 - and which I recommend. Full of interesting skullduggery and an account of Operation Mincemeat to boot.

Sounds like a fascinating book, 'H'. I should point out that although MacIntyre's book has been highly praised one writer doubts an essential part of his story - the identity of the body used in the deception:

"However, it is worth noting a comment in the thread by a James Glover who claims that the emaciated body of a tramp would never have passed muster as a Royal Marine and that the real body was that of "a drowned sailor, John Melville - one of 379 men who died when HMS Dasher was sunk - was used. The Royal Navy commemorated Melville's role in the deception with a service on board the current HMS Dasher in 2004"."

http://duffandnonsense.typepad.com/duff_nonsense/2010/01/truth-will-come-to-light-.html#tp

Rankin says (p536 of the paperback), for what it's worth:
"Their first job was finding a dead body. They went to see the pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury for advice, and the coroner Bentley Purchase [they don't name'em like that any more] pointed them in the direction of the body of a 34-year-old man, 'a bit of a ne'er-do-well' who had did in January 1943 'from pneumonia after exposure'. The corpse was kept on ice, and Montagu claimed that a relative gave permission for his body to be used on condition that his true identity never be divulged. In return, the family were promised that he would later get a proper burial, though under a false name. Sir Bernard assured them that no pathologist in Spain would be able to detect that the man's pleural effluvia did not come from drowning in an aircraft lost at sea." Rankin goes on to note the name Glyndwr Michael, which is on the William Martin tombstone, having been added much later.
I guess "a bit of a ne'er-do-well" might have the physique of a RM and is not quite the same as a tramp. No-one probably looks that fit after a couple of months on ice followed by a swim, although I claim no expertise.
I have also heard the drowned sailor explanation (on TV?) and guess it's at least as plausible as the "official" explanation, though quite what interest anyone has in concealing the truth at this remove in time is anyone's guess.

"It's a mystery!"

My favourite expression from Stoppard's script for Shakespeare in Love.

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