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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pirate flag that changed the course of WW2

It looks more like a Halloween joke than an interesting footnote in WW2 history, but this pirate flag has a story...

From the Daily Mail

Some of you may recollect a popular film called "The Man Who Never Was."  It was the story of a tramp's body dressed in British commando uniform, equipped with very convincing fake intelligence papers, and then dumped into the sea, for the Germans to find.

It was based on nothing less than fact ... and the pirate flag by carried the submarine Seraph, which signified that it was bound on a clandestine mission, has surfaced.

It was one of the most audacious missions of World War Two that saw false information about Allied plans to invade Italy planted into the hands of a German intelligence officer.

And today a Jolly Roger flag from HMS Seraph - which had a crucial role in the clandestine mission known as 'Operation Mincemeat'  - has emerged, 70 years after the famous event.
In April 1943 the senior crew of the Royal Navy submarine dropped the body of a Welsh tramp, dressed up as a uniformed commando, a mile off the Spanish coast.
False identity papers showed the corpse to be that of Major William Martin of the Royal Marines and attached to his wrist was a briefcase containing secret bogus plans.

The highly-sensitive papers falsely stated the Allies planned to invade Italy through Greece and Sardinia.
As planned, when the body washed ashore in southern Spain the documents ended up in the hands of a local German intelligence officer.
As a result the German high command diverted troops to Sardinia and Greece - away from Sicily where the Allies successfully invaded two months later.
It gave the Allies a foothold on Hitler’s fortress in Europe for the first time since Dunkirk.

 To mark the special operation the flagman on HMS Seraph added a dagger emblem to the submarine's Jolly Roger to go alongside five others for clandestine missions.

It was traditional for Royal Navy submarines to have its own skull and cross bones after a World War One Admiral famously compared submarine warfare to piracy.

Emblems were added to the flags each time the submarine sunk an enemy or completed a mission.

One of the other daggers on the flag signified a bizarre special operation which involved the entire crew speaking in American accents to appease an English-hating French general they were rescuing.
General Henri Giraud refused to board a British craft and so the sub hoisted the Stars and Stripes and pretended to be American.

HMS Seraph's Jolly Roger was kept by a junior rating, whose role was to update it, after it was replaced by a new one in 1944.
He handed it on to his son who has now made it available for sale at auction and is estimated to fetch £10,000.

Auctioneer Steven Bosley, of Bosleys of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, where the flag is to go on sale said: 'It is rare for these Jolly Rogers to come on the open market because most of them went to the submarine captain or ended up at a museum.
'It is hard to value it because they are so rare but this one does carry a premium because of the association with Operation Mincemeat.
With thanks to Dave Shirlaw

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