Dr Claire Hubbard-Hall, Senior Lecturer in History at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU), has been awarded a Janet Arnold Award by the Society of Antiquaries of London to support her research project SOE Spy Clothing: Dress & Deception during the Second World War.

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was established 1 July 1940 with the task of co-ordinating subversion and sabotage abroad. Each country was assigned its own section and staff that worked alongside partisans and resistance fighters to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation. Dr Hubbard-Hall will be working with Dr Adrian O’Sullivan, a former intelligence linguist and fellow intelligence historian, to examine the ways in which the SOE clothed and disguised its agents throughout the Second World War.

Dr Hubbard-Hall discussed why the subject of agents’ clothing was of such great interest to both her and the wider historical community:

“Intelligence historians currently find themselves at a turning point, where new approaches to the writing of intelligence history have been called for that transcends the study of operations and policy, whilst drawing when necessary upon the methodologies of adjacent disciplines such as dress history.

At present, no serious study has been undertaken into the way secret intelligence organisations disguised their agents through the use of appropriate national and regional dress, determined by the assigned operational location.

An agent’s life was fully dependent upon being able to ‘pass’ effectively without drawing enemy attention, and authentic cover clothing was an essential part of an agent’s camouflage. This pilot study is the first academic study of wartime spy clothing and will inform our understanding of the importance of dress history within Second World War intelligence history.”

If you would be interested in joining these discussions our new BA (Hons) in Military History, which reviews the evidence for conflict from the medieval period through to the present day, is the perfect place to start. Visit our website or contact our Enquiries Team for more information.

Dr Adrian O’Sullivan will be visiting the university on Thursday 9 May to speak on the subject of his latest book The Baghdad Set: Iraq through the Eyes of British Intelligence, 1941-45 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). For further details on this free event, please visit our events section.

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