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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.

David de Crespigny Smiley
Born11 April 1916
Died9 January 2009 (aged 92)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
UnitNo. 52 Commando
Blues and Royals
Somaliland Camel Corps
Royal Horse Guards
Special Operations Executive
Commands heldRoyal Horse Guards,
Sultan of Oman's Armed Forces
Battles/warsWorld War II
Operation Masterdom
Albanian Subversion
Jebel Akhdar War
North Yemen Civil War
AwardsLVO, OBE, MC & Bar
Other workMilitary Attaché, Stockholm
Commander, Sultan of Oman's Armed Forces



Smiley was the 4th and youngest son of Sir John Smiley, 2nd Baronet[2] 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 before joining the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry (redesignated the North Irish Horse in 1908). He gained the rank of Major in the service of the Carabiniers (6th Dragoon Guards) and fought in the First World War.[3]

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

Some have suggested that John le Carré consciously or unconsciously took David Smiley's surname for that of his hero George Smiley.[4]

Military serviceEdit

Smiley attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1934, and was commissioned into the Royal Horse Guards in 1936.[5] While 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 the Second World War in 1939, Smiley's regiment sailed for Palestine, where one of his first jobs was to shoot his troop of forty 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[6] 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 1943 he parachuted into Albania where he co-ordinated partisan operations for eight months, and was awarded an immediate Military Cross. In April 1944 Smiley and Lieutenant Colonel Neil " Billy" McLean again parachuted into Albania,[7][8] carrying out guerrilla operations, for which Smiley was awarded a Bar to the Military Cross 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.[9] He rode behind The Queen in the Gold State Coach in the Coronation Procession on 2 June 1953.[10][11]

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.[12]

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,[13][14] Albanian Assignment[15] and Irregular Regular.[16]

Smiley died on 9 January 2009, survived by his wife, Moyra (daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Lord 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),[17] 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. ^ "Heroes and Villains". MI6: A Century in the Shadows. Episode 2. 3 August 2009. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. ^ "- Person Page 1428". 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.[unreliable source]
  3. ^ "- Person Page 8244". 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.[unreliable source]
  4. ^ "Colonel David Smiley - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. London: TMG. 9 January 2009. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  5. ^ "No. 34318". The London Gazette. 28 August 1936. p. 5597.
  6. ^ "David De Crespigny Smiley - SOE - Special Forces - Roll Of Honour". 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  7. ^ Berg, Sanchia (13 December 2008). "Churchill's secret army lived on". BBC News.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 December 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2009.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ 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)
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 August 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2009.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^
  13. ^ Published L Cooper 24 April 1975 ISBN 978-0850521818
  14. ^
  15. ^ Published Chatto & Windus 29 Oct 1984 ISBN 978-0701128692
  16. ^ Published Michael Russell Publishing 31 Jan 1994 ISBN 978-0859552028
  17. ^ Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition, volume 3, page 3657
  18. ^ "Viewing Page 1013 of Issue 43886". 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  19. ^ "Colonel David Smiley - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. London: TMG. 9 January 2009. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 22 April 2012.

External linksEdit