An English girl’s love letter for the Gestapo

HMS Seraph, the submarine which delivered the correspondence.

HMS Seraph, the submarine which delivered the correspondence.

In a world at war, with millions of people separated from their families and loved ones, the letter was the only possible way for most people to stay in contact. In the context of wartime romance love letters were an essential part of any relationship. So a letter, apparently written on the 18th April 1943, was just very typical of the times:

The Manor House,
Ogboume St George,
Marlborough,
Wiltshire
Telephone Ogbourne St George 242

Sunday, 18th

Dearest Bill

I do think dearest that seeing people like you off at railway stations is one of the poorer forms of sport. A train going out can leave a howling great gap in one’s life and one has to try madly – and quite in vain – to fill it with all the things one used to enjoy a whole five weeks ago.

That lovely golden day we spent together – oh! I know it has been said before, but if only time could sometimes stand still just for a minute – But that line of thought is too pointless. Pull your socks up, Pam, and don’t be a silly little fool.

Your letter made me feel slightly better – but I shall get horribly conceited if you go on saying things like that about me. They’re utterly unlike ME, as I’m afraid you’ll soon find out.

Here I am for the weekend in this divine place with Mummy and Jane being too sweet and understanding the whole time, bored beyond words and panting for Monday so that I can get back to the old grindstone again. What an idiotic waste!

Bill darling, do let me know as soon as you get fixed and can make some more plans, and don’t please let them send you off into the blue the horrible way they do nowadays – now that we’ve found each other out of the whole world, I don’t think I could bear it.

All my love,

Pam

This was not actually a private message but a work of fiction. Its intended readership was not Major Bill Martin of the Royal Marines – who was also a fictitious creation – but German agents in Spain. And the man who was about to deliver the letter was already dead. On the 18th April the letter was part of a ‘package’ being loaded onto the submarine HMS Seraph.

An official image of the body that was to deposited in the sea off Spain, holding documents that it was inetended that the Nazis would intercept.

An official image of the body that was to deposited in the sea off Spain, holding documents that it was intended that the Nazis would intercept.

This letter was merely a means of adding credibility to a selection of official correspondence that was accompanying it. They were to be carried on the body of a British officer whose body would be found in the sea off Spain.

The Operational Order for “Mincemeat”:

1. Object

To cause a briefcase containing documents to drift ashore as near as possible to HUELVA in Spain in such circumstances that it will be thought to have been washed ashore from an aircraft which crashed at sea when the case was being taken by an officer from the U.K. to Allied Forces H.Q. in North Africa.

2. Method

A dead body dressed in the battle-dress uniform of a Major, Royal Marines, and wearing a ‘Mae West’, will be taken out in a submarine, together with the briefcase and a rubber dingy.

The body will be packed fully clothed and ready (and wrapped in a blanket to prevent friction) in a tubular airtight container (which will be labelled as ‘Optical Instruments’).

The container is just under 6 feet 6 inches long and just under two feet in diameter and has no excrescences of any kind on the sides. The end which opens has a flush-fitting lid which is held tightly in position by a number of nuts and has fitted on its exterior in clips a box-spanner with a permanent tommy-bar which is chained to the lid.

Both ends are fitted with handles which fold down flat. It will be possible to lift the container by using both handles or even by using the handle in the lid alone, but it would be better not to take the whole weight on the handle at the other end, as the steel of which the container is made is of light gauge to keep the weight as low as possible. The approximate weight when the container is full will be 400 lb.

When the container is closed the body will be packed round with a certain amount of dry ice. The container should therefore be opened on deck, as the dry ice will give off carbon dioxide.

3. Position
The body should be put into the water as close to the shore as prudently possible and as near to HUELVA as possible, preferably to the north-west of the river mouth.

According to the Hydrographic Department, the tides in that area run mainly up and down the coast, and every effort should therefore be made to choose a period with an onshore wind. South-westerly winds are, in fact, the prevailing winds in that area at this time of year.

….

It is in fact most important that the Germans and Spaniards should accept these papers in accordance with Para I. If they should suspect that the papers are a ‘plant’, it might have far-reaching consequences of great magnitude.

(Signed) E.E.S. MONTAGU

Lt.-Cdr., R.N.V.R.
31.3.43.

The identity card for Major Martin that was carried on the body.

The identity card for Major Martin that was carried on the body.

This was just part of an elaborate deception plan to fool the Nazis. It was widely believed that the next objective for the Allies after Tunisia was going to be the island of Sicily. Persuading them otherwise was the objective for Operation Mincemeat.

‘Anyone but a bloody fool would know it was Sicily’

Winston Churchill

But after the documents had been read by the Germans:

‘You can forget about Sicily. We know it’s in Greece’

General Alfred Jodl, Head of the German supreme command operations staff.

There have been a succession of books, films and documentaries about Operation Mincemeat and some dispute continues to this day about the identity of the body actually used.

The officers of HM Submarine SERAPH on her return to Portsmouth after operations in the Mediterranean, 24 December 1943. Lieutenant N L A Jewell, MBE, RN, centre, had been the commanding officer during Operation Mincemeat. He said prayers before the body was delivered into the sea.

The officers of HM Submarine SERAPH on her return to Portsmouth after operations in the Mediterranean, 24 December 1943.
Lieutenant N L A Jewell, MBE, RN, centre, had been the commanding officer during Operation Mincemeat. He said prayers before the body was delivered into the sea.

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