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News > From the Archives > From the Archivist > Leaders Launch: David de Crespigny Smiley

Leaders Launch: David de Crespigny Smiley

David Smiley was a truly remarkable man, someone who lived for action and adventure, a keen sportsman who lived life to the full and was not afraid of taking risks.

David De Crespigny Smiley

David De Crespigny Smiley was a truly remarkable man.  Someone who lived for action and adventure, a keen sportsman who lived life to the full and was not afraid of taking risks.  So much so that at one point he held the record for the most consecutive crashes on the Cresta run, standing at five.  During World War Two he saw action in Abyssinia, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Thailand amongst others.  His exploits are too many to list here but are full of extraordinary courage and told in fascinating detail in the new book ‘Leaders’ by Robin Knight. 

During World War Two he saw action in virtually every theatre of war and cheated death on numerous occasions.  A man who lived for action and adventure he had all the attributes of a true ‘Boys Own’ hero.  On leaving The Nautical College Pangbourne he entered Sandhurst before joining the Royal Horse Guards.  David lived the life of the dashing cavalry officer to the full, finding time for polo, skiing flying and of course partying.  Tobogganing at the Cresta run in St Moritz was also a favourite pastime despite his propensity for crashing.

Five months after the outbreak of World War Two, David and his regiment were sent to the Middle East but after eight months of seeing little if any action he managed to obtain a move to the Middle East Commando’s and it was at that point that his war stepped up a gear.  Before long he had joined the Middle East Section of SOE operating behind enemy lines.  One, fellow officer was quoted as saying that he was destined for a VC “if he doesn’t get killed”.

Thankfully David Smiley survived the war and remained in the guards where in 1952 he rode in the escort party at the funeral for King George VI and later as a member of the Queen's Escort at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.  David died of pneumonia in 2009 aged 92.

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