RIP, Col. David Smiley

Colonel David Smiley, who died on January 9 aged 92, was one of the most celebrated cloak-and-dagger agents of the Second World War, serving behind enemy lines in Albania, Greece, Abyssinia and Japanese-controlled eastern Thailand.
After the war he organised secret operations against the Russians and their allies in Albania and Poland, among other places. Later, as Britain’s era of domination in the Arabian peninsula drew to a close, he commanded the Sultan of Oman’s armed forces in a highly successful counter-insurgency.
After his assignment in Oman, he organised – with the British intelligence service, MI6 – royalist guerrilla resistance against a Soviet-backed Nasserite regime in Yemen. Smiley’s efforts helped force the eventual withdrawal of the Egyptians and their Soviet mentors, paved the way for the emergence of a less anti-Western Yemeni government, and confirmed his reputation as one of Britain’s leading post-war military Arabists.
In more conventional style, while commanding the Royal Horse Guards (the Blues), Smiley rode alongside the Queen as commander of her escort at the Coronation in 1953.

What a life, what a career.

(Via Brits at their best.)

7 thoughts on “RIP, Col. David Smiley”

  1. What a career indeed! His actions and dedication to free Albania from communists won’t be forgotten by Albanians (including this one). RIP Col. Smiley

  2. I think it is telling and unfortunate that due to the bureaucratization of today’s Armed Forces (in the US at least) such a similar type varied career for anyone would be virtually impossible.

  3. “After the war he organised secret operations against the Russians and their allies in Albania…”

    This must have been the famous Balkan one betrayed by double-agent Kim Philby.

  4. Yes it was, Zenpundit. Which shows the limits of courage and intelligence in miliary matters, all of which Col Smiley had in abundance. Oman was one of Britain’s big successes in the Middle East, otherwise a so-so record. I wonder if it would be possible for someone like that to operate now. There were never that many of them in the first place. Perhaps people like Smiley nowadays work for private companies. Well, I suppose hiring himself out to the Sultan of Oman, though carefully orchestrated by the British command, was becoming a kind of mercenary. Ditto Yemen.

  5. Oh one more thing, which is tangentally related to the topic. Philby was not really a double agent. He was a Soviet agent who pretended to be a British one as a cover. Except for the rare bird who will work for any side that will pay him or her there really is no such thing as a double agent. You are on one side or the other.

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