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Captain The Hon. Ewen Edward Samuel Montagu, CBE, QC, DL, RNR (19 March 1901 – 19 July 1985) was a British judge, writer and Naval intelligence officer. He is well known for his leading role in Operation Mincemeat, a critical military deception operation which misdirected German forces' attention away from the Allied Invasion of Sicily in Operation Husky.

The Hon. Ewen Montagu
Ewen Montagu in uniform.jpg
Ewen Edward Samuel Montagu

(1901-03-19)19 March 1901
Died19 July 1985(1985-07-19) (aged 84)
OccupationNaval intelligence officer
Known forOperation Mincemeat

Life and careerEdit

Montagu was born in 1901, the second son of Gladys Helen Rachel (Goldsmid) and Louis Montagu, 2nd Baron Swaythling. His family was Jewish.[1] He was educated at Westminster School before becoming a machine gun instructor during the First World War at a United States Naval Air Station. After the war he studied at Trinity College, Cambridge and at Harvard University before he was called to the bar in 1924. One of his more celebrated cases as a junior barrister was the defence of Alma Rattenbury in 1935 against a charge of murdering her elderly husband at the Villa Madeira in Bournemouth.

World War IIEdit

Montagu was a keen yachtsman, and enlisted in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in 1938.[2] Because of his legal background he was reassigned to specialized study. From there he was assigned to the Royal Navy's Humberside headquarters at Hull as an assistant staff officer in intelligence.[3] Montagu served in the Naval Intelligence Division of the British Admiralty, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander RNVR. He was the Naval Representative on the XX Committee, which oversaw the running of double agents. While Commanding Officer of NID 17M, he and Squadron Leader Charles Cholmondely RAFVR conceived Operation Mincemeat, a major deception operation.[4] Montagu had the idea of having a corpse dressed as a British officer wash ashore in Spain, carrying faked papers revealing plans for invasion of Greece (the real target was Sicily). The location chosen was where pro-German Spanish officials would show the papers to German agents. Montagu also manufactured an entire false identity for the corpse to have in his pockets: military ID, theater ticket stubs, love letters and a photo of his fiancée, bills from a tailor and jeweler.

The Germans were fooled completely. German documents found after the war showed that the false information went all the way to Hitler's headquarters, and led to German forces being diverted to Greece. The invasion of Sicily was a success. Historian Hugh Trevor-Roper called it the best deception in the history of military deception. For his role in Operation Mincemeat, Montagu was appointed to the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire.[citation needed]

Other workEdit

From 1945 to 1973 he held the position of Judge Advocate of the Fleet. He wrote The Man Who Never Was (1953), an account of Operation Mincemeat, which was made into a movie three years later. Montagu himself appeared in the film adaptation of The Man Who Never Was, playing an Air-Vice Marshal who had in real life disparaged his own character (played by Clifton Webb) in a briefing. Montagu also wrote Beyond Top Secret Ultra, which focused more on the information technology and espionage tactics used in World War II.

He was a governor of a public health project, the Peckham Experiment, in 1949.[5]

Montagu was president of the United Synagogue, 1954–62, and President of the Anglo-Jewish Association from December 1949.[6]

Before the Courts Act of 1971 he was Chairman of the Quarter Sessions for the Middlesex area of Greater London[7] and Recorder (judge) in the County of Hampshire. He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Southampton.


Montagu's youngest brother Ivor Montagu was a film maker and Communist.

Ewen Montagu married Iris, the daughter of the painter Solomon J. Solomon, in 1923. They had a son, Jeremy, who became an authority on musical instruments,[8] and a daughter, Jennifer, who became an art historian.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Smyth, Denis (2010). Deathly Deception: The Real Story of Operation Mincemeat. New York: Oxford Press. p. 25.
  3. ^ Smyth, Denis (2010). Deathly Deception: The Real Story of Operation Mincemeat. New York: Oxford Press.
  4. ^ "Jean Gerard Leigh". The Daily Telegraph. 5 April 2012.
  5. ^ "The Bulletin of the Pioneer Health Centre". Peckham. 1 (5). September 1949. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  6. ^ Year book of the Anglo-Jewish Association 1951
  7. ^ Whitaker's Almanack (1968) p.636
  8. ^ Macintyre, Ben, (2010) Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II, preface


Further readingEdit