Hitler's High Command were deceived over the date of D-Day – June 6, 1944 – by the appearance of Field-Marshal Montgomery in the Mediterranean a few days before the invasion went in. He was received by Field-Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson at Algiers with public ceremony. He visited other military headquarters. Fascist agents, by the way of Spain, transmitted the news to Berlin that Monty was away from his invasion base.
But it was not Monty at all who flew from Britain to the Mediterranean. It was Lieutenant Clifton James of the Royal Army Pay Corps, a peacetime actor, the Field-Marshal's perfect double. Morley Richards, who met the lieutenant in a London restaurant on Oct. 4, 1945 – "the likeness was so startlng that until I noticed the two pips on his battledress I was certain it was the Field-Marshal" – has told the story of the great deception, in The Daily Express:
Clifton James, son of a Western Australian Chief Justice, is not permitted to tell anything about the greatest part of his career. But it is possible to piece together the story of one of the biggest bluffs of the war.
James was an entertainment officer at Leicester early last year. One night, he walked on the stage in battledress and was loudly cheered by the troops under the impression that Monty was visiting them. The incident was reported in the Press, and a picture of James was printed.
It gave Britain's Military Intelligence an idea. Immediately before the great attack in December 1940, by Field-Marshal Lord Wavell on the Italian Army in Cyrenaica, the Italians had been fooled by the arrival by air of the British commander in Malta. If the Italians could be hoodwinked, why not the Germans?
James was sent for. He underwent special training for the part he was to play. Monty's voice, gestures, walk and distinctive salute had to be studied. The two men met, somewhere in the seclusion of the North. But there was a difficulty. Clifton James had lost a finger of his right hand on the Somme in the First Great War. That was the saluting hand, which could not be concealed. So they built a false finger for him.
A few days before D-Day, seen off by leading members of the Imperial General Staff, "Field-Marshall Montgomery" left on a tour of inspection in the Mediterranean. He was received at Algiers by Field-Marshal Wilson's aide and they drove with an American escort through streets of cheering people. There were introductions, presentations, and drinks at Field-Marshal Wilson's headquarters. Clifton James deceived eyewitnesses say, played his part superbly. The plot had worked beautifully.