worthing history
 

© FREDDIE FEEST 2012

 
Not quite the full MONTY - The man who confused Hitler
 
       
 
Monty addressing the troops
NOT QUITE the full Monty. Clifton James performing the most serious role of his acting career when he impersonated General Montgomery to mislead the Germans. Here he addresses Desert Rat veterans on Broadwater Green, just before they took part in the DDay invasion. Everybody was fooled.

IT was one of the most successful hoaxes of World War Two, fooling not only Hitler and his generals but also the entire civilised world. The man who pulled off the coup that helped the Allies totally surprise the Germans over the location and timing of the D-Day Normandy landings was a little-known repertory actor named Clifton James, from Worthing.

POSSIBLY you know something of his story, because after the war Clifton James achieved celebrity status and wrote a book, I was Monty’s Double. What he had actually done in the run-up to the D-Day landings, which launched the Allied invasion of Europe, was to help mislead the Germans over the timing and location of those landings.
     Clifton James used his remarkable resemblance to General Montgomery, Commander-in-Chief Allied Land Forces, to bluff the Germans into believing he was NOT carrying out the tasks and duties of a man about to lead the massive Allies forces into Europe and victory.
     This deception was made in Gibraltar when he was flown out for a well-documented decoy visit in the lead-up to DDay. News of this was leaked to Nazi spies in Spain, leading the enemy to believe that the Allied D-day landings (confidently expected by the Germans to be across the Straits of Dover) must still be some way off.
     What they couldn’t be allowed to know was that the real General Montgomery was in last-minute top-level deliberations with Allied chiefs-of-staff, that the Allied landings were imminent and they would take place in the most unexpected location, the Normandy peninsular, which required a much longer Channel-crossing. For actor Clifton James the most satisfying part of the hoax must have been just before D-Day in his hometown, when he addressed troops while standing on the bonnet of a Jeep on Broadwater Green, Worthing. Afterwards he paid an official visit to the mayor of Worthing at the Town Hall. Not a single person penetrated his guise as Britain’s favourite – and best-known – World War Two general.
     After victory in Europe in 1945, British official sources revealed brief details about the top secret Monty hoax and Clifton James became something of a cult hero, acting as technical consultant when a film was made of his unique wartime adventure. Not until six years after the war ended did Clifton James himself admit that it was he and not the real General Montgomery who had addressed the mass of troops – including several hundred veterans of Monty’s own army of “Desert Rats” - on Broadwater Green. That “performance” had successfully fooled not only the Germans but also all the people of his own hometown of Worthing.