Former home of ‘Man Who Never Was’, Taff’s Well

Glyndwr Michael lived here at 7 Garth Street as an infant. During the Second World War his body, dressed as an officer whose plane had crashed, was used to trick the Nazis and save thousands of Allied servicemen’s lives.

Glyndwr was born in 1909 at 136 Commercial Street, Aberbargoed. His mother Sarah Ann Cottrell had at least seven children by her husband George Cottrell before the couple separated. She met coal haulier Thomas Michael. They had three children together, Glyndwr being their second.

Their third child, Doris, was born in September 1911 at 6 Junction Row, Taff’s Well. When Sarah registered the birth on 7 November, her address was 7 Garth Street.

Sarah and the children entered Pontypridd workhouse on 25 March 1913 but left the next day. Thomas died in 1925 and Sarah in 1940. Glyndwr was living with his mother in Pontypridd in 1932, and in Willesden, London, in 1937. He died in January 1943, soon after ingesting rat poison in a London warehouse.

The absence of relatives who would have missed him made him ideal for ‘Operation Mincemeat’. His body was given the false identity of Major William Martin of the Royal Marines. Intelligence officers planted carefully chosen personal objects on him, including love letters, theatre tickets, a threatening letter from his bank manager and a letter written by his fake father (from a Catholic Cardiff family, although Glyndwr was raised as a Methodist) at the Black Lion Hotel in Mold.

A British submarine deposited Glyndwr’s body near Huelva, Spain, in the expectation that a Spanish pathologist would be less thorough than a German one. Chained to the body was a briefcase with fake documents revealing the Allies planned to invade southern Europe through Greece and Sardinia.

Although Spain was supposed to be neutral, the authorities allowed the Germans to copy the documents before returning them to the British. The Nazi intelligence and war machines were hoodwinked, including Adolf Hitler himself. The Allies’ long-planned invasion of Sicily in July 1943 met little resistance because the Germans had concentrated resources on Greece and Sardinia. Were it not for Glyndwr’s body, thousands more lives would have been lost and the invasion might even have failed.

His true name was later added to his gravestone in Huelva. The story was told in the 1953 book The Man Who Never Was, by Ewen Montagu, one of Operation Mincemeat’s chief organisers. A film of the same name was released in 1956.

With thanks to Dr Hazel Pierce. Sources include the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and ‘Operation Mincemeat’ by Ben Macintyre, Bloomsbury 2010.

Postcode: CF15 7PJ    View Location Map