From today, April 15th, Operation Mincemeat is in cinemas. Colin Firth takes the lead role in this blockbuster portrayal of a bonkers operation carried out by British intelligence during World War II.
Joining Firth is Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting), Penelope Wilton (The BBC’s Ever Decreasing Circles), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter) and Matthew Macfadyen, who played Mr Darcy in Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice (2005).
The film is set in 1943, where the battle was still raging between Hitler’s army and the allies. This was the year that Germany suffered its first huge defeat, now infamously known as the Battle of Stalingrad.
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The Soviet Union fought off German forces who were trying to take control of the city of Stalingrad (later renamed to Volgograd) in Southern Russia. Meanwhile, British Intelligence were cooking up a plan to liberate Europe from Nazi control.
Here’s everything you need to know about the film, and the little-known operation that inspired it.
What is Operation Mincemeat about?
Directed by John Madden, the film follows two intelligence officers – Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) – who have a mammoth task ahead of them: fool the Nazis so they can launch a successful invasion to take them down.
The synopsis reads like this: “It’s 1943. The Allies are determined to break Hitler’s grip on occupied Europe, and plan to launch an all-out assault on Sicily; but they face an impossible challenge – how to protect the invasion force from potential annihilation.
“It falls to two remarkable intelligence officers, Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) to dream the most inspired and improbable disinformation strategy of the war – centered on the most unlikely of secret agents: a dead man.
“Operation Mincemeat is the extraordinary and true story of an idea that hoped to turn the tide for the Allies – taking impossibly high risks, defying logic, and testing the nerves of its creators to breaking point.
Is Operation Mincemeat based on a true story?
And it is. While it sounds too bonkers to be true, this operation actually did take place in 1943. The new film is based on the non-fiction book of the same title by journalist Ben Macintyre, who pulled together private documents, letter, diaries, memories and photographs to tell this fantastic story.
“Operation Mincemeat was the most successful wartime deception ever attempted, and certainly the strangest,” the book description reads.
“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 from him: to convince the Germans that instead of attacking Sicily, the Allied armies planned to invade Greece. ”
This mad scheme was cooked up by Rear Admiral John Godfrey and his partner Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming. The grisly plan used the body of Glyndwr Michael, a tramp who died from eating rat poison. They dressed him as the fictitious officer Captain William Martin, and dumped his body off the southern coast of Spain, where a Spanish fisherman found it the following day.
The Spanish government altered the German military intelligence organisation. They feel for it, and they send their troops to Greece and Sardinia. Operation Mincemeat was an overwhelming success; Sicily was free from Hitler’s grip and countless lives were saved.