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David de Crespigny Smiley
Born 11 April 1916
Died 9 January 2009 (aged 92)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Rank Colonel
Unit 52 Commando,Blues and Royals,

Somaliland Camel Corps, Royal Horse Guards, Special Operations Executive

Commands held Royal Horse Guards,Sultan of Oman's Armed Forces
Battles/wars World War II
Awards LVO, OBE, MC & Bar
Other work Military Attaché,Commander Sultan of Oman's Armed Forces

Colonel David de Crespigny Smiley, LVO, OBE, MC & Bar (11 April 1916 – 9 January 2009) was a British special forces and intelligence officer. He fought in the Second World War in Palestine, Iraq, Persia, Syria, Western Desert and with Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Albania and Thailand.


[hide] *1 Background


Smiley was the 4th and youngest son of Sir John Smiley, 2nd Baronet[1] and Valerie Champion de Crespigny, youngest daughter of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny, who was a noted jockey, balloonist, sportsman and adventurer.

His father fought in the Second Boer War between 1899 and 1900 with 4th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and before joining the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry (redesignated North Irish Horse in 1908). He gained the rank of Major in the service of the Carabiniers (6th Dragoon Guards) and fought in World War I.[2]

David Smiley was educated at the Nautical College, Pangbourne, Berkshire, England, where he was a noted sportsman.

Some have suggested that John le Carré unconsciously took David Smiley's surname for that of his hero George Smiley.[3].

Military serviceEdit

Smiley attended Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1934, and was commissioned in the Royal Horse Guards in 1936.[4] Whilst based in Windsor, Berkshire with the Blues, he was seen as a "man-about-town", owning a Bentley car and a Miles Whitney Straight aircraft. He was also an amateur jockey and won seven races under National Hunt rules.

After the outbreak of World War II, his regiment sailed for Palestine, where one of Smiley's first jobs was to shoot his troop of 40 horses when it became clear they were of no use in modern combat.

In 1940 Smiley joined the Somaliland Camel Corps, but was to arrive at Berbera the same day it was decided to evacuate British Somaliland. He returned frustrated to Egypt where he persuaded family friend General Wavell to recommend him for the newly-formed commandos. Smiley was appointed a company commander (with the rank of captain) with 52 Commando [5] and his first mission was sneaking from Sudan into Abyssinia.

He fought against Vichy French forces in Syria. For his reconnaissance work in ruins near Palmyra he was mentioned in despatches (Middle-East, 1941).

Smiley was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) 1943 and undertook his first operation with them in Palestine in the same year. Later in the year he parachuted into Greece for another operation. In April 1944 Smiley and Lieutenant Colonel Neil " Billy" McLean started an operation in Albania,[6][7] for which Smiley was awarded the Military Cross. He was awarded a second Military Cross for SOE Operations in 1944.

He was invested as an Officer, Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in 1946 (SOE, Thailand).

He was Colonel of the Royal Horse Guards between December 1951 to December 1954.[8] He rode behind The Queen in the Gold State Coach in the Coronation Procession on 2 June 1953.[9][10]

He was invested as a Lieutenant, Royal Victorian Order (L.V.O.) in 1952 and received the Coronation Medal.

He was British Military Attaché to Stockholm between 1955 and 1958.

After the war, he held the record for the most falls in one season on the Cresta Run in St Moritz; bizarrely, he represented Kenya (where he owned a farm) in the Commonwealth Winter Games of 1960.

He was Commander of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman's Armed Forces between 1958 and 1961.[11]

He was Military Advisor to Yemen between 1962 and 1967.

Later workEdit

Smiley was the author of three books based on his experiences, Arabian Assignment,[12][13] Albanian Assignment [14] and Irregular Regular.[15]

Smiley died on 9 January 2009, survived by his second wife, Moyra (daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Lord Sir Francis George Montagu Douglas Scott KCMG DSO, the 6th Duke of Buccleuch's youngest son, and Lady Eileen Nina Evelyn Sibell Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound - married 28 April 1947) two sons, Xan de Crespigny Smiley (born 1 May 1949) and Philip David Smiley (born 26 Aug 1951),[16] a stepson and a stepdaughter.

Awards and decorationsEdit


  • David Smiley, "Arabian Assignment", with Peter Kemp (Peter Mant McIntyre Kemp) - Cooper - London - 1975 (ISBN 978-0850521818). With numerous photographs.
  • David Smiley, "Albanian Assignment", foreword by Patrick Leigh Fermor - Chatto & Windus - London – 1984 (ISBN 978-0701128692). With numerous photographs.
  • David Smiley, "Irregular Regular", Michael Russell - Norwich - 1994 (ISBN 978-0859552028). Translated in French by Thierry Le Breton, Au coeur de l'action clandestine des commandos au MI6, L’Esprit du Livre Editions, France, 2008 (ISBN 978-2915960273). With numerous photographs.
  • Colonel Dayrell Oakley-Hill et David Smiley (Introduction) "An Englishman in Albania: Memoirs of a British Officer 1929-1955 ", The Centre for Albanian Studies, Learning Design Limited, London, 2002 (ISBN 978-1850439400). With numerous photographs.
  • David Smiley, Foreword of "General of the Dead Army", Ismail Kadare (ISBN 978-1860466441).
  • Leroy Thompson et Ken MacSwan, Uniforms of the soldiers of fortune - Blandford Press - Poole - 1985 (ASIN B000V9AOHE). David Smiley is pictured in Yemen.
  • Roderick Bailey, The Wildest Province : SOE in the Land of the Eagle - 2008 - Jonathan Cape Ltd (ISBN 9780224079167).
  • Bernd J. Fischer, Albania at War, 1939-1945, West Lafayette, Purdue University Press, 1999 (ISBN 978-1850655312).
  • E. Bruce Reynolds, Thailand’s Secret War. The Free Thai, OSS, and SOE during World War II, Cambridge University Press, 2004. SOE in Thailand, 1945 (ISBN 978-0521836012). David Smiley is photographed page 377 with his Force 136 team.
  • Stephen Dorril, MI6 : Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service The Free Press, New York, 2000 (ISBN 978-0743203791 ).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "- Person Page 1428". 2012 [last update]. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  2. ^ "- Person Page 8244". 2012 [last update]. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  3. ^ "Colonel David Smiley - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). 9 January 2009. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  4. ^ London Gazette: no. 34318. p. 5597. 28 August 1936. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  5. ^ "David De Crespigny Smiley - SOE - Special Forces - Roll Of Honour". 2012 [last update]. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  6. ^ Berg, Sanchia (13 December 2008). "Churchill's secret army lived on". BBC News.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Royal Channel YouTube The coronation of Queen Elizabeth David Smiley, the Royal Horse Guards and Colonel William H. Gerard Leigh, the Life Guards (1915-2008, CVO, CBE)
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Published L Cooper 24 April 1975 ISBN 978-0850521818
  13. ^
  14. ^ Published Chatto & Windus 29 Oct 1984 ISBN 978-0701128692
  15. ^ Published Michael Russell Publishing 31 Jan 1994 ISBN 978-0859552028
  16. ^ Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition, volume 3, page 3657
  17. ^ "Viewing Page 1013 of Issue 43886". 2012 [last update]. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  18. ^ [author missing] (Template:DATE MISSNG). "Colonel David Smiley - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
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