As commander of the submarine HMS Seraph, Jewell was involved in one of the most vital acts of deception of the Second World War. The story of Operation Mincemeat, as the plan was known, became the subject of several books and was made into the 1955 film The Man Who Never Was.
Norman Limbury Auchinleck Jewell, or Bill as he was known, was born in the Seychelles on 24 October 1913 where his father was a doctor and a . Soon after his birth the family moved to Kenya where during the First World War the Germans held his family prisoner. At the end of the war Jewell was sent to prep school in England and finally Oundle before joining the Navy in 1936.
Jewell served on HMS Osiris and HMS Otway, and in November 1940 joined HMS Truant commanded by Lt-Cdr Haggard, who was constantly seeking the enemy and was something of a mentor to Jewell. On one occasion Haggard disobeyed orders not to approach within 15 miles of Tripoli but in fact penetrated a dense minefield by following an Italian minelayer. Six months later he led battleships of the Mediterranean Fleet through the same minefield to bombard Tripoli.
On 27 May 1942, Jewell took command of Seraph and its 44-man crew, little realising what part it would play in naval history.
Seraph was chosen to take the American General Mark Clark and his staff to talks with Vichy French officers in Algeria. On 19 October Jewell landed Clark's party in small collapsible boats about 50 miles west of Algiers, with a bodyguard of three Royal Marines. Seraph spent a day lying submerged in deep water but, after dark, Jewell took her in until there was less than 10 ft of water under the keel. The sea was too rough to recover the boats from the beach so Jewell took Seraph in until she was almost aground. Clark and his party then dashed for the boats, paddled hard through the surf, and were hauled on board; Seraph reached Gibraltar on 25 October.
His most famous mission, and probably most macabre, was Operation Mincemeat, one of the most successful disinformation exercises of the war. This successfully deceived the Germans about allied intentions to invade Italy in 1943. It became the subject of several books, and a 1956 film, The Man Who Never Was.
As part of the ruse, the corpse of a vagrant named Glyndwr Michael was dressed as a Royal Marine officer and briefcase stuffed with dummy secret papers chained to its wrist. The body was transported in a metal container packed with ice by Bill Jewell in his submarine. On 30 April 1943, just off the port of Huelva in Spain, Jewell surfaced. He had never performed a burial at sea, but aptly chose Psalm 39.
Later Career and Retirement
In 1948, Jewell became Captain 3rd Submarine Flotilla. He was a director of the RN Staff College at Greenwich and also worked on Mountbatten's staff. He retired in 1963, and worked for the Mitchell and Butlerbrewery in Birmingham, where he was also life president of the Submarine Old Comrades' Association.
Awards and Decorations
In 1998, Jewell aged 85 suffered a serious fall and was paralysed from the neck down. He spent the remainder of his life at the Royal Star and Garter Home, Richmond. He died on 18 August 2004 aged 90.
- Captain Bill Jewell - The Daily Telegraph, 24 August 2004
- Captain Bill Jewell, Daring Naval Officer - The Independent, 27 August 2004
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