Many readers may have enjoyed the recent release of the new Operation Mincemeat movie. My review discusses the theme of the film and its relevance to those interested in the situation in Greece during World War II.

The subject of the film is that of the real Operation Mincemeat, one of the most successful Allied intelligence deception operations of the war. This involved delivering bogus Allied European invasion plans into German hands. This was done by the use of a corpse – that of a homeless man named Glyndwr Martin who had died after consuming rat poison – recreated as the fictional Royal Marine Major William Martin, carrying the plans, which is then thrown into the sea off Spain. by the Allied submarine HMS Seraph. The deception succeeded, in that the Spanish authorities gave copies of the plans to the Germans, who believed them. The film stars many well-known actors including Colin Firth, Matthew MacFadyen, and Kelly MacDonald to name a few.

So far, so good. As a drama, the film works well. Of course, the story is embellished by the highlighting or creation of love interests and a certain levity. It’s no different from an early dramatization of the story in the 1950s, The Man Who Never Was. All is well in love, war – and drama.

That said, the film nevertheless brings to light one of the lesser-known aspects of World War II that had a direct impact on the German occupation of Greece.

Operation Mincemeat was designed to distract the Germans from the planned Allied invasion of Sicily in mid-1943. They did this by creating fake Allied invasion plans for a proposed Allied invasion of German-occupied Greece and Sardinia. The objective was to encourage the Germans to shift military resources from Sicily and Italy to the defense of Greece. Evidence suggests it was a success, with the German army accepting the plans as real and issuing orders accordingly.

Historian Ben McIntyre writes that the Germans took the bogus plans seriously, with evidence of the movement of vital troops and military equipment to Greece. More importantly, in May, the German 1st Panzer Division – some 18,000 men with 83 tanks – was moved from Russia to Greece after being re-equipped, eventually based in Tripolis in the Peloponnese – a deployment in accordance with the false documents of the plan. Crucial German naval forces (including coastal defense vessels) were also held up in the Aegean, and German General Rommel was sent to Salonika to take command of the German defense should the Allies land. On the eve of the landing in Sicily, German General Keitel published an analysis that an Allied invasion of Greece was likely, reinforced from the Middle East. To reinforce German acceptance of the bogus plan, Allied submarines dropped off agents at Zakinthos to leave behind unmistakable evidence of reconnaissance in preparation for a landing, a dummy army – complete with fake tanks and planes – was gathered in the eastern Mediterranean and Greek partisan activity increased on the eve of the invasion of Sicily.

The 51st Highland Division lands in Sicily as part of the Allied invasion force, July 10, 1943. Photo: IWM/Public Domain

The subsequent Allied invasion of Sicily in July was a resounding success, although Italy’s subsequent liberation proved more difficult for the Allies, even after Italy switched sides and joined the Allies. This would eventually be followed by the Allied landings in Normandy and southern France.

The effect of all this effort on Greece, however, would not be good. The German army maintained significant military forces throughout Greece until late 1944, even launching successful counterattacks against Allied incursions into the Dodecanese and other islands following the Italian surrender in 1943 And of course, the German occupying forces, aided by their Greek collaborators, continued to wage a relentless war against the Greek resistance and the civilian population. There is no doubt that the success of Operation Mincemeat supported the continuation and intensification of the German occupation, with its terrible cost in civilian lives and the destruction of Greek infrastructure.

One wonders what would have happened if the deception plan had been real and the Allies had landed in Greece in 1943 instead of Sicily. Like all counterfactuals, we will never know for sure. Would he have succeeded? Would he have inflicted greater destruction on Greece than in 1944, when the Germans actually withdrew? Would that have shortened the whole European war? What implications would an Allied liberation of Greece in 1943 have had for post-war negotiations between East and West? We will never know.

Promotional poster for Operation Mincemeat. Photo: Se Saw Films

But back to the movie. It’s well put together, in the spirit of “daring operations” films, a kind of “feel good” film, with a slight “Ealing” twist (in a nod to those 1950s British light entertainment films made at Ealing Studios). And yet, despite the creative additions – no doubt inserted to liven up the script – the film will no doubt spark interest in the real story behind the drama.

For those interested in learning more about the real Operation Mincemeat, I can recommend the excellent Operation Mincemeat by Ben McIntyre, the previous publication, The Unknown Courier by Ian Colvin, and that of one of the two main organizers of the operation , The Man Who Never by Ewen Montagu. Been. An online version of the latter is available on the University of Chicago website.

The book Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre. Photo: Bloomsbury Books

So sit back and enjoy the movie and maybe a good read too.

Jim Claven is a trained historian, freelance writer and published author who has studied the Hellenic connection to Anzac history in Australia during both World Wars for many years. He can be contacted at: [email protected] Operation Mincemeat is now showing in selected cinemas.