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Hardy Amies & The SOE

Posted on Aug 10, 2011 by Paul Tiernan

Hardy Amies

Absorbing documentary 'Secret War' played on Satellite channel 'Yesterday' this week, looking at Hardy Amies' work for the clandestine World War II British 'Special Operations Executive'.

We also came across this amusing entry in Wikipedia:

At the outbreak of World War II, with his language experience Amies was called up to serve in the Special Operations Executive. Amies suspected that SOE's commander Major General Colin Gubbins did not regard a dressmaker as suitable military material, but his training report stated:

"This officer is far tougher both physically and mentally than his rather precious appearance would suggest. He possesses a keen brain and an abundance of shrewd sense. His only handicap is his precious appearance and manner, and these are tending to decrease."

Posted to Belgium, Amies worked with the various Belgian resistance groups, he adapted names of fashion accessories as code words, while he organised sabotage assignments and arranged for some of the most notorious and ruthless agents to be parachuted behind enemy lines with radio equipment into the Ardennes. Amies rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, but outraged his superiors in 1944 by engaging famed photographer Lee Miller and setting up a Vogue photo shoot in Belgium post D-Day. In 1946, he was knighted in Belgium, being a Named Officier de l'Ordre de la Couronne.

In 2000, a BBC2 Documentary entitled Secret Agent named Amies as one of the men who, in Operation Ratweek, helped to plan the murder of dozens of Nazi collaborators in Europe towards the end of the Second World War, but Amies disclaimed all knowledge of the matter.

Hardy Amies was quirky, yet uncontrollably conservative, for example having his uniform tailored on Savile Row. Years later Hardy recalled Kim Philby was in his mess and on being asked what the infamous spy was like, Hardy quipped, 'He was always trying to get information out of me - most significantly the name of my tailor'.

We can also thoroughly recommend Amies' book 'ABC of Men's Fashion'. Still available in all the usual places.


  • For several years I wore a school uniform designed by Hardy Amies, who had been a pupil at the school before finding fame as a designer & couturier. It was the most impractical grey tweed, only available from the school & liable to unravel as soon as it developed any holes (pretty common in boys’ uniforms, I would have thought), but it did look rather smart.

    Posted by Jonathan R
  • Did Hardy Amies reveal the name of his tailor to Kim Philby? Who was Hardy Amies’ tailor?

    Posted by Peter O'Connor

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