Dudley Clarke

Dudley Clarke

Dudley Wrangel Clarke, CBE, CB (27 April 1899 – 7 May 1974) was a Brigadier in the British Army who was behind several deception operations during the Second World War and who founded the British Army's Commando force.[1] He was born at Ladysmith, Natal, and educated at Charterhouse School.[2] As well as the Commandos, he is responsible for the name and concept of the US Army Rangers, and the Special Air Service's name.
His brother was the film screenwriter T. E. B. Clarke.


Second World War

During the Second World War, Clarke instituted a scheme whereby he would attempt to make the leadership of Italy think that British General Archibald Wavell would invade Italian Somaliland in 1940; whereas Eritrea was the targeted country.[3] The Italian leadership was fooled, but instead of diverting troops to Italian Somaliland as the British hoped, they ordered their soldiers there to withdraw into Eritrea.[3] Clarke also invented a number of deceptions against the Germans.[3] One idea, codenamed Operation Copperhead, was to establish a look-alike for Bernard Montgomery.[3] The look-alike, M. E. Clifton James, was deployed to the Mediterranean region in an effort to distract the Germans away from the English Channel.[3]

Clarke also was responsible for the creation of the First United States Army Group, a fictitious army group based in south-east England, that was designed to fool Adolf Hitler into thinking that the Allies of World War II were going to invade France at Pas-de-Calais.[3]

In January 1941, Clarke had a meeting with the American Colonel William J. Donovan, and wrote a paper outlining the formation of an American equivalent. As he had recently seen the Western film Northwest Passage, which dramatised the frontier force Rogers' Rangers, Clarke suggested the term "Rangers" as a suitable name.[4] At the same time, Clarke was fabricating the existence of a British paratrooper regiment, the Special Air Service, to prey upon Italian fears of parachutists dropping behind their lines. False documents, genuine (but staged) RAF reports, staged photographs of "SAS soldiers" for the service magazine Parade, and two soldiers dressed in "1 SAS" uniforms hinting at Crete or Libya postings in Cairo were just some of the tactics used to spread the rumour. When David Stirling proposed the idea of small, mobile four-man commando teams, Clarke gave it his full backing as long as Stirling called them the Special Air Service; as a result, the real SAS 'confirmed' the existence of the fictional one in the eyes of the Axis.[5] According to The Guy Liddell (MI5) Diaries, Clarke was detained while operating under cover in Spain and released in November 1941 due to intervention by the Germans. Strangely, he was dressed in women's clothes at the time, the reason for which was not known to Liddell.


  • Seven Assignments (1948), an account of Clarke's military career in deception.
  • The Eleventh at War (1952) a history of the 11th Hussars 1934 - 1945.
  • Golden Arrow (1955), a thriller.

See also


  1. ^ http://samilitaryhistory.org/ross/redcoats.html
  2. ^ http://www.goarticles.com/cgi-bin/showa.cgi?C=704060
  3. ^ a b c d e f Brendon, Piers (2008-10-04). "Dark arts and self-delusions". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/oct/04/history. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  4. ^ Churchill's Wizards: The British Genius for Deception, 1914-1945 (Rankin, Nicholas), page 454 (2008 paperback)
  5. ^ Churchill's Wizards pages 460-5 (2008 paperback)


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