Seeking Out ‘The Man Who Never Was’ by Lester Hillman

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St Pancras Gardens 24th April 2018

The Somers Town Community Centre hosted a talk about a famous individual who passed through Somers Town but who never actually lived and nobody knew! Tuesday 24th April 2018 saw a 75th anniversary of a World War II deception plan. It was put into operation locally and ultimately credited with saving many lives in the allied invasion of Sicily four months later in July 1943.
The talk by Lester Hillman, author of ‘A Walk in the Past – A churchyard tour of St Pancras Old Church’ outlined the story of Royal Marine officer and how the Coroner’s Court, Coroner Bentley Purchase, St Pancras Hospital and local undertakers Leverton & Son played a part in creating a fictitious courier (Bill Martin) who washed up on a Spanish shore with papers pointing to landings other than Sicily. To help with the deception he even carried treasured personal papers from a fictitious girlfriend who lived at the Spaniards.

Goon but not forgotten
Neighbourhood links, colourful personalities and surprises continued in the decades following, inspiring articles, a film, books and even comedy programmes. Three Goons Shows were broadcast in the 1950s with local links to programme producer Charles Chilton MBE and script writer Larry Stephens who assisted Spike Milligan. A plaque at KoKo’s Mornington Crescent commemorates the last Goon Show, recorded 30th April 1972. The week leading up to the Somers Town ‘We Are Ageing Better’ event had seen commemorations of the centenary of Spike Milligan’s birth 16th April 1918.

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Marking a 75th anniversary

Following the talk, and fortified with delicious refreshments, a short guided walk to St Pancras Gardens offered the chance to see where the drama played out exactly 75 years ago.

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St Pancras Gardens with the Coroner’s Court in the background

Written by Lester Hillman Academic Adviser Camden Tour Guides Association
Photos courtesy Louis Berk
We Are Ageing Better Project Coordinator Jess Grieve

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