Operation Mincemeat
Ben Macintyre




Operation Mincemeat was the most successful wartime deception ever attempted, and certainly the strangest. It hoodwinked the Nazi espionage chiefs, sent German troops hurtling in the wrong direction, and saved thousands of lives by deploying a secret agent who was different, in one crucial respect, from any spy before or since: he was dead. His mission: to convince the Germans that instead of attacking Sicily, the Allied armies planned to invade Greece. Using fraud, imagination and seduction, Churchill's team of spies spun a web of deceit so elaborate and so convincing that they began to believe it themselves. The deception started in a windowless basement beneath Whitehall. It travelled from London to Scotland to Spain to Germany.

"Macintyre tells a 'rollicking' story with 'infectious glee." The Week

"With its fun, flair and sense of adventure, this book succeeds in making a complex wartime operation read like veritable spy fiction." Andrew Lycett, The Telegraph
Binitha, from Wren Academy Barnet

This book is about how M16 changed the course of World War II. A fisherman notices a body floating in the sea, off the coast of Spain. When the body is brought ashore, it is identified as a British soldier, Major William Martin. But he never existed, the body was actually a Welshman, and every single piece of document was fake. Operation Mincemeat was planned by Churchill’s spies, a huge lie that travelled from a Whitehall basement all the way to Hitler’s desk.

 

This book teaches you a lot about history, it describes the depths of the story. I thought this book was a little confusing at times, and sometimes a little boring, but I think that people who would like this would be people who like to learn about the world’s past.

Bryan, from Wren Academy Barnet

Operation Mincemeat is a book about warfare (surrounding those lines). This being another world war mission written by Ben Macintyre it does not disappoint any audience who are “the war type” people.

 

Personally I did not enjoy this book because I don’t tend to enjoy war books. I thought I did not like it much as the story is told in a more confusing way which many might not understand unless you have good knowledge of war. I also thought the book had many things going on which I personally did not get - [ie] the graphic detail.

 

Although Ben Macintyre does describe characters in a better way, I believe I managed to get better detail on the characters. Rating:***

Caleb, from Wren Academy Barnet

This book is about World War II. This story is about what happened to a man and also says how they would report deaths to the embassy back in the UK from the ships. It is set on a Navy ship. They normally report the deaths of the army soldiers by sending a Telegram but this time it is different. Something suspicious seems to be happening at the other end of the telegram line. This is when they decide to report it to MI6, but are they too late?

This is a great book which grabs the reader’s attention and when I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I recommend this book to people who like good challenging reads and enjoy a good mystery story.

Christopher, from University College School London

The way Ben Macintyre presents WW2 secrets and propaganda is exquisite. Macintyre uses many different techniques from cliff hangers to lots of conjecture. Operation Mincemeat is in no way fit to be a bedtime story, it involves considerable amounts of brainwork. The way Macintyre writes is such a fresh way of writing about such matters. It also really educates the reader into the way British Intelligence really won WW2.

 

I would really recommend this book for readers who like mind-boggling books and mystery! I didn’t rate this book 5 star because it can be slightly slow-paced in places.

Cyara, from Copthall School, Barnet

Set in the climax of World War II, the novel tells the previously untold story of a great war plan, leading up to d-day. The book is written in the style of a newspaper journalist, which in one sense can make the book seem even more informative, yet in another sense can make it drag on a little, thus discouraging the reader, and the critics.

 

While it has an incredibly interesting storyline, the prose itself was very slow-paced, which made some parts of the book lose its appeal. However, on the whole, it is a quite out-of-the ordinary novel, in a style of writing not often seen amongst history books, and it is an interesting read for all those fascinated by the stories that make up World War II. 

 

Perhaps I ought to have enjoyed it more than I did, considering the whole context and the subject of spies and World War II, but perhaps I went into the whole novel a little too expectantly, hoping to find in its pages a hidden wonder, much like the James Bond books  written by Sir Ian Fleming. I’m sorry  to say that I was disappointed. It’s not to say that the plot was dull, that it lacked reference to the true story, or even that there was no attention to detail. It was rather quite the opposite. At points there seemed to be too much attention to the minute details, so that I almost wanted to shout out for it to stop, and go back to simple sentences. This was rather attached to the fact that there was such reference to the true story that it almost lost all sense of its being a story and not just a writing of the things that had past. Though it is to his credit that the author took so much time researching, I think that he may have thought his research a little too valuable, wanting to use every tiny detail in his novel, which is quite understandable; I daresay that if I had done the amount of research he had, that I would be the same way. However, it is not always necessary to stick to the script. That is to say, such references are not needed in works of great writing, sometimes it is what is believed to have happened that is the most memorable of all scenes. This, I fear, was lacking in the story, and wouldn’t have been so sorely missed if the facts hadn’t been quite so imminent and drilled into the story, boring the reader at times.

 

This, of course, is not meant to discredit the writer or his style of writing, but merely a reader’s thoughts on, what I am sure, many people have enjoyed time and time again.

Daniel, from University College School London

Operation Mincemeat is a great mystery book about the secret allied ploy that helped win the Second World War.


In 1943, from a windowless basement office in London, two brilliant intelligence officers conceived a plan that was both simple and complicated— Operation Mincemeat. The purpose? To deceive the Nazis into thinking that Allied forces were planning to attack southern Europe by way of Greece or Sardinia, rather than Sicily, as the Nazis had assumed.

 

Charles Cholmondeley of MI5 and the British Naval Intelligence officer Ewen Montagu could not have been more different. Cholmondeley was a dreamer seeking adventure. Montagu was an aristocratic, detail-oriented barrister. But together they were the perfect team and created an ingenious plan: Get a corpse, equip it with secret (but false and misleading) papers concerning the invasion, then drop it off the coast of Spain where German spies would, they hoped, take the bait. The idea was approved by British intelligence officials, including Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond). Winston Churchill believed it might ring true to the Axis powers and help bring victory to the Allies.


It was a great book which I enjoyed reading to unravel the mystery. It is highly recommended to non-fiction mystery lovers. It keeps suspense going throughout and has a great storyline, however it seems more like a history book in some ways rather than a mystery story.

Ellie, from East Barnet School

I liked this book; however some of the parts I didn't understand as it is a book aimed for adults.

Operation Mincemeat was an actual operation...It is set in World War II and it is a true spy story that changed the course of World War II.

It is about how a dead man and a bizarre plan fooled the Nazis and assured an Allied victory. Operation Mincemeat was a brilliant scheme!

I would rate this book 3.5/5.

 

 

Emanuel, from University College School London

Having read a range of spy novels over the years, I can safely say that Operation Mincemeat was by far the best. The book is perceptive, riveting and incredibly difficult to put down.


In his new book, Ben Macintyre revisits the world of British espionage in WW2. Macintyre is a wonderful writer as well as a particularly thorough researcher. He demonstrates his extensive knowledge of the operation throughout the book. Macintyre delves deep into the history and background of every individual aspect surrounding the ingenious, wartime operation and no detail is left untouched.


Although the story of Operation Mincemeat had already been told in 1953 (The Man Who Never Was), much had remained unwritten. Macintyre weaves together a number of letters, private documents, photographs, diaries, a selection of newly released material as well as previously unseen material from Spanish and German sources, to tell the full story for the first time. He brings the eccentric cast of Operation Mincemeat to life with vivid, highly detailed characterizations, which give a fascinating insight into the background of every individual who makes an appearance in the book, even those with only passing relevance to the operation and story.


I would recommend this book to everyone as it is a great read, and will leave you wanting to know more. If you enjoyed reading Operation Mincemeat, then I would also recommend reading Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre.

George, from University College School London

Operation Mincemeat was in my opinion the best non-fiction novel I have ever read. I think Macintyre does extremely well to keep us hooked to the book and at the same time inform us of this thrilling story.

 

I love the way Macintyre portrays Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley because he just explains how busy and hard working they are. I also think he did a tremendous job in telling us about their lives without it getting boring or dull. Also the dead body used to deceive the Germans really comes alive as Montagu and Cholmondeley paint together his past.

 

When I saw the blurb of the book I was really excited because it looked like a decent novel. However when I started reading it I really enjoyed it and admired the way the author retold a true story. I also enjoyed the way Macintyre described the place where Montagu and Cholmondeley work as being a cramped space with stale air. 

 

In conclusion I think this is a really good book and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys non-fiction or spy stories. I recommend it to people from 12+ because some of the vocabulary is quite difficult for younger readers.

Hannah, from Wren Academy Barnet

Glaring anxiously at the interesting front cover, I was sceptical to see what the novel entailed.

 

“Great”, I sighed, “another uninspiring thriller”. I was most definitely and absolutely wrong. After a mere four pages of this book I was irrevocably addicted to the extent that I felt a compulsion to read it on the way home (not the most sensible idea). The compellingly ingenious story accompanied with unfailing entertainment could have anyone hooked. The fact that it is a true story heightened my interest so much so that I was researching words and phrases to discover more in-depth knowledge. The emotional and slightly touching side to the story was also very appealing and is a constant reminder of the reality of the text. This novel covers information that one could never meet in a standard run-of-the-mill history lesson; instead, it drops the reader straight into the mortal combat that was the Second World War. Macintyre has created a masterpiece so realistic that it is like watching a 3D movie; you are completely immersed in the action.

 

Apart from its interesting language style and extended vocabulary, what sets this book apart from other novels is how Macintyre cleverly includes factual knowledge in a way that is stimulating, which is very impressive. You don’t even realise you are becoming a Historical Oxford don, it just happens subconsciously. Previously, learning about the war seemed a mind-numbing procedure and miraculously the author has completely changed my view on History – this is an outstanding feat. 

 

After reading this book, one thing is made clear: never judge a book or man by the cover.

Julius, from University College School London

Ben Macintyre wrote Operation Mincemeat, which is a very good book about a British naval intelligence operation in 1943. The book is very interesting and it gives you a wide range of ideas about World War II.


The plot of the book starts when a dead body is found in 1943 just off the coast of Spain. The corpse was the late John Smith and it turns out that he had multiple fake identities. He carried fake information in his pockets and a briefcase claiming that the Allied landing was to take place in Greece, which gets passed on to the Germans, who believe this information. The book proves that the Germans were successfully misled which changed the course of the war and ultimately contributed to the defeat of Hitler.


The book is very good because it is not only written very well, but it teaches you something. I also think that the author has researched everything very well, keeping it precise and factual.


I really enjoyed the book, because it was really gripping and I could imagine myself as one of the officers in the war. I feel that this book had very little wrong with it, but maybe the characters could be more thoroughly explained to give us a better picture of them. I would recommend this book to any reader, of all ages, because it is an easy read and is written in a very mature way.


I rate this book 4 stars.

Max, from University College School London

Ben Macintyre has certainly excelled himself in this thrilling-to-read novel - ‘a real page turner’. Operation Mincemeat is an elaborate and extremely successful book about British naval intelligence trying to conceal from the Germans preparations to invade Sicily in 1943, through a very devious plan. The main character is Lieutenant-Commander Ewen Montagu, one of two principal officers behind the plot to drop a body with fake papers on the coast of south-western Spain.

 

Montagu, a lawyer and part of a Jewish banking family, tells a good story. Early on 30 April 1943, HM Submarine Seraph dropped a badly decomposed body into the sea about 1,600 yards off the Atlantic coast of southern Spain. Picked up by a fisherman, the body was found to carry a locked briefcase. From the litter in the jacket pocket they found many files including love letters from someone called Pam. Carefully taken from their wet envelopes by the Spanish and shown to the German military intelligence in Madrid, the letters revealed that the allied forces were massing in North Africa and were preparing to attack Sardinia and the Peloponnese, with only a diversionary landing in Sicily.

 

This book is about a true story intertwining many devious plots (and the main deviation, Major Martin), all building to convincing the Germans to defend North Africa while really attacking the softer defended Sicily. This is a fantastic book of thrills and deception; I would recommend it to all my friends and rate it 9.5/10. 

Michael, from University College School London

The book at first was not one I would take off a library shelf without a strong recommendation. However, the book was quite a surprise to me, and was cleverly written. I did not think there was any reason to write this book, as Ewen Montague published a book on Operation Mincemeat decades ago. At times there was an over-abundance of characters, jerking about from one to the other, from Spain to England to Germany without the trusty chapter break. Throwing in new characters and calling them by their nicknames, referring to them once in every hundred pages. There were words in brackets which were confusing, and at times I had to go back a few pages and remind myself of the plot. On the other hand, when I did understand, the true facts astounded me. The pictures, although placed badly, were very well done.

However, I would recommend this to somebody who enjoys this type of book, and who can understand the brackets. The WeRead scheme is very good and I hope next year there will be a better selection. 6/10

Milo, from University College School London

Operation Mincemeat is the story of how a dead tramp ended up being one of the most important deceit missions ever.

 

Yes, I know it sounds exciting, but it was quite the opposite. The book is slow from the first to last page. The reader is just overloaded with facts until it becomes unbearable. The plot has potential to be a ‘can’t put it down’, but the way Macintyre writes it makes it more of a ‘please can I put it down’.

 

The book is written very factually and bluntly and, although it is non-fiction, should have more of a story to it. However, the setting is described very well, as it represents wartime London very realistically. It also describes the cramped room where Operation Mincemeat was thought up as a tiny, hot and claustrophobic room. The way it is described makes you feel like you are in the room. Unfortunately the dull story soon takes you out.

 

The characters are almost overly described, which can be good or bad. It is good because it gives you a very good idea of the people involved. However it is bad because it doesn’t let your imagination run free.

 

In conclusion, it did not live up to my expectations of a spy book. I would not recommend it to a friend as it was slow and didn’t get anywhere.

Nick, from Wren Academy Barnet

Operation Mincemeat is a book written by Ben Macintyre and published by Bloomsbury. It is a non-fiction book written in a vaguely fictional style about Operation Mincemeat. Operation Mincemeat was one of the most complex wartime operations of all time if not the most complex. Having previous knowledge of this I expected the book to be a thoroughly engrossing read. 

The book opened well, with an interesting story-like account of how a Spanish fisherman finds the body of a washed up British soldier on the beach and takes it to the Spanish authorities. The book then cuts to Great Britain a few months earlier and starts describing the key people who devised the scheme, in far too excessive and regularly irrelevant detail. In fact by the time it had finished describing every precise detail of each person I had forgotten what was actually happening in the main story. 

Operation Mincemeat did have some vaguely interesting and even exciting points where the action was told like a story but these were few and far between.  Operation Mincemeat is a great story but this is not a great telling of it. I personally would only recommend it to the World War Two enthusiast who wants to know everything, down to every last detail. Rating**

Otto, from University College School London

Operation Mincemeat, written by Ben Macintyre, is a compelling true story of a hopeful mission that went on to change the entire activity of World War II. The fast moving novel maps out one complex mission that, when ending successfully, changed the outcome of the most notorious battle in history. The author manages to evolve the tale keeping the reader’s full attention, and this becomes a book hard to put down. Not only did Macintyre keep the book suitable for all ages, but was able to [make it] incredibly accurate.

 

Starting in remote eastern Europe and ending in the hands of the victorious British, we follow an idea that was meant to disguise the future actions of Churchill on Germany. As pages turn you understand the sheer magnitude of this almost impossible idea. The clear way in which the author gives us a ride through months and months of anxiousness is an example of the peak of English writing.

 

I would recommend this book to all ages regardless of like or dislike of war history. It’s fact-filled and adventurous and adds to a collection of Macintyre novels with a high rating and popular discussion.

Rohan, from University College School London

Overall, I think Operation Mincemeat is a very good book. I think that the blend of non-fiction and a bit of fiction works very well. Also seeing that it is a book that was based on World War Two it makes it a lot more interesting and lots more people would read it.

This book is about a sardine fisherman who finds a dead body of a British soldier. Attached to him was a briefcase with lots of important documents inside. His wallet said his name was Major William Martin from the Royal Marines. Inside the briefcase were Top Secret Allied invasion plans. But Major William Martin never existed, the body was that of a welsh tramp. All the documents were actually forged, an extreme lie that changed World War Two.

I think this book would appeal to all ages and you should definitely read it.

Samuel, from University College School London

Operation Mincemeat has a very cunning and clever plot, which has been made into a very cunning and clever book. The book is essentially about the dead body of an Englishman carrying top secret documents (containing the Allies' next moves) being found off the coast of Spain. But this body is in fact a fake as are the top secret documents which are all part of a plan to convince the Nazis that the Allies were going to attack Greece when in fact they were intent on attacking Sicily. The characters are great, all slightly strange in their own way, as well as the fact that there is a Soviet spy and of course Ian Fleming who went on to write James Bond! 


As well as all this, although the book is in fact non-fiction it really is written like a spy story and this makes it very exciting. I was really captivated by the book as it told of how the story of the body and information passed through so many filters but somehow managed to end up on Adolf Hitler’s desk in Berlin. Ben Macintyre must have done a tremendous amount of research to make the story quite as accurate as it is. 


Overall a fantastic read that has, in truth, made me reconsider my perception of the term non-fiction.

Sophie, from Wren Academy Barnet

I thoroughly enjoyed attempting to read this book. It is about how senior officials tried to use a dead body to trick the Germans into thinking they were going to attack Greece and not Sicily. 

Although I liked the storyline I feel it was a bit too slow to start to really captivate your imagination. In my opinion you had to read until about page 100 before you could truly get into the story. I also feel that (since it is an adult book) it is slightly too heavy for a Y7; despite the fact that I tried to finish the book in two weeks, I was not successful and had to renew it.

 

I liked the way the book was written – almost from an outsider’s point of view. It almost seemed like a documentary rather than a story. I have in fact watched the documentary and found it much more interesting than the book. I believe this is because it cut to the chase and finished in an hour.

 

I think I would like to read the book again when I am older.

Tom, from University College School London

Operation Mincemeat is a book written by Ben McIntyre about the cunning plot to make the Axis powers divert their forces away from Sicily so that the Allies could attack and overpower it.


This book has an intricately laid plot with new problems and devilishly cunning ways to get around them at every turn. I loved this because it made it incredibly gripping right up until the end. As Operation Mincemeat is a true story it helped me learn a lot about the Second World War. I think that to be able to make me learn from it the book had to be well written and incredibly well researched, with every detail being exact. This obviously shows that the author was very meticulous with the information he found whilst writing the book. It also shows that the author has a flair for writing and a real passion for the subject about which he writes.


The detail and description really brings the characters to life and it made me feel that I knew each one of them personally. Though I loved this amount of detail it sometimes became less prose and more like a fact file of information about the character. This made it quite hard to read at times and meant that to be able to fully understand the plot you had to always be paying attention to what you were reading, making it not very good for reading just before going to sleep.


Overall the book was written with real passion, though was sometimes a bit confusing. It was an incredibly good read that I would recommend to people who like adventure books and books that make you think.

William, from University College School London

Ben Macintyre is a historian, author and columnist for the Sunday Times, whose books are widely acclaimed within Britain. A tale of cunning, courage and skullduggery, Operation Mincemeat provides a fascinating insight into the way in which MI6 operated during the Second World War and how those not on the front line contributed to the war effort. Operation Mincemeat tells the tale of the deception operation which underpinned the invasion of Sicily and helped to win the war.

 

Macintyre tells the fanciful tale of how two British intelligence officers deceived the Germans with a truly outrageous lie that consisted of dropping a Welsh n’er-do-well off the coast of ‘neutral’ Spain; the body contained ‘official’ documents relating to the imminent invasion of Sardinia and Greece. The plan relied on the fact that the Spanish would pass the fake documents to the Germans as Spanish support for Germany was ubiquitous in Spain. The author’s love of meticulous research on each character who appears in the novel means that the novel is at times slow-paced. However the author’s thorough research does give the reader a deep understanding of the plot and the characters involved. Macintyre manages to give a real sense of the personality of the two protagonists - the straight-laced Ewen Montagu and the more abstract Charles Cholmondely  - through his short synopsis of their lives and hobbies. This gives the reader an opportunity to empathise with the two characters throughout the novel, during times when the plan appears to be having its desired effect and when it does not. Through the medium of dropping the dead body off the coast of Spain Macintyre exposes the dangers of submarine warfare during the Second World War. The body containing the false documents was dropped off by a British submarine where conditions below decks were awful; a smell of unwashed bodies and engine oil suffused the ship. According to Macintyre, working on a submarine during the war was one of the most dangerous jobs available for a British soldier.

 

The tale also perfectly epitomises the wartime spirit in the secret service during the war. When it looked as though the head of MI6 would not sanction the plot, Montagu unleashed a torrent of anger aimed at his senior which shows the frustration which was rife throughout the country. However beneath the surface it is clear that there was an underlying sense of steely determination to succeed. This is shown by the reluctance to sanction the plot for fear of the Germans sensing a ‘red herring’ and being alerted to Britain’s real intentions (which was to invade Sicily).

 

Notwithstanding the occasional slow pace, the novel still manages [to keep] your interest and excitement. The way in which Macintyre sets the scene for the important part of the tale (when the documents fall into the hands of the Germans) through thorough research and interesting anecdotes builds excitement and makes the book a real page-turner. The book is a must read for those who are interested in the Second World War and even those who enjoy a fanciful spy story.

William, from University College School London

Operation Mincemeat is the thrilling tale of a dead Welsh tramp, part of a thrilling deception plan that would change the course of World War II. It is a detailed account of the plan and execution of the deception, part of the main objective, Operation Husky, to invade Sicily. Ben Macintyre’s detailed account is tribute to how much research he has done. Prime examples of this are the insights into the characters’ minds who formed this whole plan. These men were brilliant and possibly a little mad. They had “corkscrew minds” according to the author. These men were Charles Cholmondeley of the RAF, and Ewen Montagu of the Royal Navy. They were in charge of a top secret intelligence unit which came up with ideas of how to deceive the Nazis. 

 

To invade Europe from North Africa, the Allied Forces were going to have to invade Sicily. The problem was, Sicily was exactly where the Nazis expected the allies to invade, so they made the island a strong hold. A deception plan was needed to make the Nazis believe that the intended target was in fact Crete. This would be a difficult task especially as the Nazis expected something of this nature to occur. So the small intelligence unit based under London came up with a plan...

 

Much of the first part of the book is a detailed account of the main characters, Montagu and Cholmondeley, and how they formulated their plan. Ewen Montagu was part of a very rich family and educated at Westminster School. He enjoyed the finer things in life, was married, and had children who were packed off to America to avoid the war...

 

Charles Cholmondeley was a tall, eccentric man who had “a first rate brain”. Rather unluckily he did not have good enough eyesight to fly a plane, although he was in the RAF. He was also a giant of a man and was rather clumsy. He studied geography at Oxford University and after he left wanted to become a spy but did not have the body for it. Therefore he poured his imagination into espionage from a desk. It was Cholmondeley who actually came up with the idea. Over the next months, Montagu and Cholmondeley would pour their imagination into the idea...

 

The main reason Hitler believed this miraculous plan was down to his intelligence advisers. His most trusted intelligence officer seemed to realise the Nazis were criminals and there is even evidence that some of his work was against his own side. As he believed the plot, Hitler did too and as a result forces were removed from Sicily allowing the Allies a clear path to Europe. This plot changed the Second World War.  

Yumna, from Wren Academy Barnet

This was a great book, however I found most of the time I didn't understand what was going on. It was, to me, quite confusing, but the times I managed to understand a bit, it was quite thrilling. Ben Macintyre captured all the significant details in a tiny jar. I have to say that I never found World War II very interesting but this book threw a new light on it for me, I thought it was all shooting and killing but it is more than that. The beginning confused me a little but it grasped me as it started with a mystery but as much as I love mysteries, I didn't quite understand much of it. In my opinion it was still quite spell-binding; I don't think anyone has ever written about this.