August 28, 2004

N.A. Jewell, Who Aided Ruse of 'The Man Who Never Was,' Dies at 90


N. A. Jewell, the British submarine commander who set afloat the body of "the man who never was" in an elaborate ruse to confuse the Germans about the Allies' invasion plans in World War II, died Aug. 18 in Richmond Upon Thames, Surrey, England. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by a spokesman for the Royal Star and Garter Home, a nursing home for disabled veterans, where he lived.

In 1943, Lieutenant Commander Jewell, later an admiral, was skipper of the Seraph, which carried the remains of one "Capt. (acting Maj.) William Martin" of the Royal Marines, with bogus papers attached, for release in the ocean near the Spanish seashore, into the orbit of German counterintelligence.

The goal of the plot was to mislead Hitler himself about the pending Allied invasion of Sicily and deflect his defense toward Sardinia and the Balkans.

Against the odds, the plot worked, and German troops were diverted before the successful surprise invasion of Sicily. The plot's details and even its existence were kept secret until after the war. Then it was immortalized in the memoirs of its key planner, Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu, titled "The Man Who Never Was" (1954). In 1956, a fictionalized film version starred Clifton Webb as Commander Montagu, with William Squire as the Seraph's captain.

Commander Montagu, of naval intelligence, managed to get his superiors to go along with what they at first considered a bizarre scheme. He found a likely body of the right age that could pass as a drowning victim from a downed aircraft and carefully drafted forged letters that casually conveyed the intended impression about the Allies' plans.

Commander Jewell received the body in a canister filled with dry ice. Off the coast of Spain, with currents carefully plotted, he ordered the Seraph to surface and had the canister brought topside.

As detailed by David T. Zabecki in World War II magazine (November 1995), Commander Jewell sent the crewmen back below, briefed his officers and prepared the body, inflating its life vest and making sure his document case was securely chained to him.

Commander Jewell, wrote Mr. Zabecki, then "said a short prayer from the Navy Burial Service, and they slipped Major Martin over the side." The currents did the rest, delivering the body to the Spanish authorities and the German counterintelligence forces. They conveyed the message through the chain of command to Hitler and then made sure that the document case was returned to the British looking as if it had not been tampered with.

Norman Limbury Auchinleck Jewell was born in the Seychelles, where his father was in the colonial service. Educated in England, he joined the Royal Navy and was assigned to submarine service in 1936.

He took the Seraph to Gibraltar for the Allied buildup in North Africa, and before the war was over, he undertook a number of dangerous and secret missions, for which he was named an M.B.E. and decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, the American Legion of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre.

He commanded other submarines and served as captain of a submarine flotilla before retiring from the Royal Navy in 1963. He is survived by two sons and a daughter.

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