Revealed: How crossdressing spy spooked foreign office
SPIES might be supposed to be masters of disguise, but a British intelligence officer caused embarrassment to his political masters through his penchant for dressing up, according to official papers released yesterday.
Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Clarke, a key Middle East figure in the Second World War, set alarm bells ringing when he was arrested in Madrid dressed as a woman.
National Archives files show that Lt Col Clarke – supposed to be travelling undercover as a war correspondent for 'The Times' – had stopped off in the Spanish capital on his way to Egypt in October 1941.
The embassy cabled London: "Last night he was arrested in a main street dressed, down to a brassiere, as a woman."
He told Spanish police he was a novelist and had "wanted to study the reactions of men to women in the streets".
When the British consul visited him, he found Lt Col Clarke "unconcerned" by his predicament saying he had been taking the clothes to a woman in Gibraltar and had put them on as a "prank".
"This hardly squares with the fact that the garments and shoes fitted him," the embassy noted.
While the Spanish police were inclined to treat it as a "homosexual affair" and release him with a fine, the local Germans believed it was a "first-class espionage incident".
"I need hardly point out the damage this incident will do to us and 'The Times' here," the embassy warned. "Jokes have already begun about 'the editor' of 'The Times' masquerading as a woman."
Prime minister Winston Churchill was informed, and instructions were sent to get Clarke Gibraltar out of as soon as possible.