Explaining the end of the Ministry of Inhuman War, the true meaning of the end.

The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare Ending Explained

Guy Ritchie’s explosive WWII action comedy The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare examines the first ever special forces mission.


Warning! Major spoilers for The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare ahead.

Guy Ritchie’s latest spy action comedy, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, explores the first special forces mission in history, which laid the foundation for many of the modern special forces units in operation today. Starring Henry Cavill, Alan Ritchson and Eiza Gonzalez, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare chronicles a heavily fictionalized version of the true story of Operation Postmaster, a real WWII mission executed by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). While many of the details in the movie depart from reality (particularly the highly-stylized violence), the central mission is true to history.

Major Gus March-Phillipps (Cavill) is recruited to lead a team of operatives on a covert mission to disable three ships that are essential to Nazi U-boat operations. After freeing a key team member from a Nazi prison, they connect with two operatives already in place in Fernando Po, the oceanside city in Spanish Guinea where their objective is located. The team manages to infiltrate the city and trap a majority of the Nazi forces that would otherwise oppose them in a warehouse, giving them time to steal the three ships they were responsible for disabling with no losses.

Alex Pettyfer, Alan Ritchson, Henry Cavill, Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Henry Golding On A Sailing Boat In The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Why Gus March-Phillipps & His Team Are Arrested After Operation Postmaster

Despite the success of their mission, they wound up behind bars.

Despite the success of their mission and the backing of Winston Churchill, Major Gus March-Phillipps and his team are taken into custody by British authorities upon the completion of their mission. Given the location of their mission (Spanish-controlled territory in Africa), the team’s incursion into Fernando Po to disable the Nazi ships was technically a breach of Spain’s neutrality in WWII, despite the Nazi presence there. While it was Winston Churchill himself who called for the use of unconventional tactics of questionable legality, March-Phillipps and his team were operating outside the boundaries of the British government.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Their mission was kept secret from the leaders of Britain’s military, meaning that they were, for all intents and purposes, acting as pirates with no known attachment to a military unit. For this reason, they were taken into custody and held as criminals. The arrest also helped maintain a level of plausible deniability, as it would be highly inappropriate for an action like that to be commanded by a major world government. In The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, March-Phillipps and his team broke the rules for the greater good, but to those unaware of their purpose or who sent them, they simply broke the rules.

Why Operation Postmaster Was Such A Risk For Winston Churchill

It’s mentioned that it could cost him his job as Prime Minister.

Rory Kinnear as Winston Churchill in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

If it became common knowledge that Winston Churchill sidestepped not only the conventional rules of warfare but also his country’s own military advisers and leaders, it could very well have meant the end of his tenure as Prime Minister. If the true origins of Operation Postmaster were discovered, Churchill would be the one blamed for the entire ordeal. It could have meant more extreme reprisals from the Nazis, and would have acted as an invitation for espionage and sabotage on Great Britain.

Churchill was willing to take the risk because of the dire state of affairs in Britain. When Operation Postmaster was executed in January 1942, Britain was still being devastated by the Luftwaffe while also running out of supplies. Germany’s fleet of U-boats had made aid from the United States and Canada all but impossible, so an opportunity to take out one of the most important vessels when it came to U-boat operations was too good to pass up. His gamble paid off, as the mission allowed U.S. support to finally flow across the North Atlantic, ultimately saving Britain.

How The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare’s Ending Is Different From The True Story

While the major plot points are captured, the movie changes some details.

Alan Ritchson waving a dead sailor's arm as Henry Cavill looks through a telescope in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Gus March-Phillipps’ Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) was the real team responsible for Operation Postmaster, and while much of the movie team’s roster has real-life counterparts, not all of it does. Geoffrey Appleyard, Henry Hayes (a stand-in for real SSRF member Graham Hayes) and Alan Ritchson’s ultra-violent Anders Lassen were all real SSRF soldiers, for example, but Freddy Alvarez (Henry Golding) and Mr. Heron (Babs Olusanmokun) were added for the movie. Marjorie Stewart was Gus March-Phillipps’ future wife as mentioned at the end of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, but there’s no evidence she was part of Operation Postmaster.

Babs Olusanmokun’s character Mr. Heron may be a stand-in for real SOE agent Richard Lippett, who got a job with a shipping company with business offices on the island of Santa Isabel in Fernando Po in advance of Operation Postmaster.

One of the most significant departures from reality that the movie makes is the explosive and violent escape that the SSRF makes at the end. In reality, there were no attempts to stop the ships as they were being stolen, and the entire mission took around 30 minutes. The entire subplot featuring Eiza Gonzalez’s Marjorie Stewart and Til Schweiger’s Heinrich Luhr was made up for the movie, as was Danny Sapani’s “pirate prince” Kambili Kalu. The real SSRF was not arrested upon their return, although it was included in the movie to underscore their rogue nature.

What Happened To Gus & His Team After The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Most of the team continued to fight in WWII.

As depicted in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, Operation Postmaster proved that not only could small black operations units be effective in WWII combat, they might be necessary. As a result of the mission’s success, most of the team remained intact and conducted more missions as part of the SSRF or other specialized military units. Unfortunately, virtually none of the known members of the team survived the war.

Major Gus March-Phillipps died just a few months after Operation Postmaster during Operation Aquatint, a raid along the coast of occupied France. Graham Hayes survived that mission, but he was captured and eventually executed. Anders Lassen became a highly-decorated soldier for Great Britain, but was killed in 1945 during the liberation of Italy in the final months of WWII. Geoffrey Appleyard went on to become a leader in the Special Air Service, but his plane disappeared during the Allied Invasion of Sicily and he was presumed dead. Marjorie Stewart went on to become a prominent actress and lived until 1988.

The Real Meaning Of The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare’s Ending

Gus March-Phillipps’ SSRF changed the face of modern warfare.

Eiza Gonzalez blowing smoke off the barrel of a gun in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare may have had a lighter tone and focused on action and violence, but the real story behind the movie was a defining moment in modern warfare. Operation Postmaster helped lay the foundation for the Allied invasion of France, which turned the tide in World War II. The mission helped clear a path for the United States to begin to funnel resources and soldiers into Great Britain, which became the staging ground for the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule.

Gus March-Phillipps and his team were also the pioneers responsible for the advent of special forces across the globe. Without the introduction of unconventional warfare by the SOE and SSRF, military units like the Navy SEALs or the British SBS might not exist as we now know them. Highly elite special operations units like the SSRF have been responsible for many significant military missions that have helped shape the geopolitics of the planet for decades, and they can all be traced back to the team at the heart of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.

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