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ID - L.T. Col. Gibson - British Embassy Istanbul

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Harold Gibson was the SIS Commander in Istanbul. He also served in other places but his main stomping ground was Istanbul, where he had been active as early as 1920. The SIS was also known popularly as MI6. Gibson specialised in running deep cover spies operating in the USSR before and after WW2. Once his cover was blown by a disgruntled Russian operative in 1945, Gibson was under Soviet surveillance until his death in 1960. Gibson was also involved in British dealings with Zionists. If this belonged to the MI6 spymaster Harold Gibson, it would be an interesting piece indeed. Indeed, it could be quite a valuable piece if offered to the right buyer.

The hallmarks appear to be Egyptian. Egyptian hallmarking of precious metals followed the British format. They had to include the content hallmark, the national hallmark and the date hallmark. This bracelet conforms in that respect.The lefthand hallmark denotes silver content, which was normally 800/1000 in Egypt. The national hallmark in the middle is the Cat motif, used until 1946. The righthand hallmark is the date symbol. Egypt stopped using the British-style Roman alphabet date letters in 1940 and adopted Arabic letters. This hallmark appears to be م,This is the Arabic M. Information on Egyptian silver date letters was hard to find for a long time but the Egyptian government has kindly provided information on one of their websites:


As you can see, م or M denotes the Christian year 1979. I is strange to find a 1979 date letter on a piece bearing the pre-1946 national hallmark. There are some other possibilities: that this hallmark is a badly-formed ا or A for the 1940/41 season; that it is a badly-formed hallmark for the pre-Arabic system, in which "I" denoted the 1933/34 season. The engraving is by hand and of acceptable quality. Looking at the lay of the letters, particularly the Y in Embassy, it might even have been done by a craftsman more accustomed to working from right to left, Arabic being written from right to left. But why would Gibson or anyone else include the letters G.S. after the name? That's a bit like advertising one's function. As a military spook, Gibson would have been on the General Service roll rather than the roll of a particular regiment or corps. This might explain the abbreviation after his name. The rank, name and unit reminds one of details as impressed on medals of the era or published in, for instance, the London Gazette.

Perhaps a chap who had been a military spook since 1920 and probably earlier, and who spoke Russian amongst other languages, would have worn such a bracelet in to render identification easier were his bloated remains found bobbing about in the Bosphorus. However, the local hired assassins sent by the Russians or, during WW2, the SD-Ausland to eliminate him for whatever reason would probably have stolen this bracelet, along with any gold dental work in his mouth, before dumping his corpse. He would have had his fire and waterproof military ID tags anyway. After all, SIS/MI6 men were serving soldiers. Gibson's status as an intelligence officer would have been known in the business, so to speak, but why would he parade about the place wearing something like this in the first place? It's also terribly un-British. British Army officers have never been prone to wearing jewellery, bar wedding and family signet rings.

Of course, it could well be the case that someone conceived the notion of producing a piece that might excite collectors of espionage memorabilia. The assumption on the part of anyone examining this bracelet would be that Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Gibson, head of the SIS in Istanbul, decided to have an identity bracelet made up during a wartime visit to Cairo or Alexandria. Well, why not? Perhaps a colleague or a friend had it made up for him. Again, why not? Cat Hallmark? Pre-1946. Arabic date letter? Post-1941. So Gibson wore this bracelet during WW2! Maybe he wore it during the talks leading up to the so-called Gibson-Kaplan Agreement regarding Palestine in 1943. An historic piece to be sure!

Don't get me wrong. I know nothing of the provenance of this item. I am merely applying the rule of Occam's Razor. The Devil is in the details and I just cannot get past that 1979 hallmark. Is the piece genuine but with a badly-formed date hallmark? Or did someone with an incomplete set of pre-Nasser hallmark punches use the Arabic M in the hope that Western eyes would see it as an Arabic A for 1940/41 and conclude that Harold Gibson had it made during a trip to Egypt? Or am I completely off-course? Did some other country use a cat hallmark with Arabic assay and date marks? I have looked but have found nothing.


Edited by PKeating
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Hello Gentlemans,

thanks to all for ifno. I bought this ID tag from many years from very old man.

He was Czechoslowak legionary during WWII....after war maybe agent too?????

He had more some ID tags, but I had not much interest on this....unfortunately.

He owned these ID tags over 40 years, so I think, that should be genuine items.

Thanks, Xt.

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Harold Gibson did serve as MI6 Station Head in the British Embassy in Prague at some point. I don't know whether this was before or after the Second World War. As for the Czechoslovak former Foreign Legionnaire who told you that he had owned this item for more than forty years, I cannot comment on that.

Nor can I comment on his service with the French Foreign Legion during the Second World War other than to remark that the very last people the Czechoslovak Communist Party and its security agencies would have considered for intelligence or espionage work in the late 1940s and early 1950s were men who had served with any Western European military force during the war. Check out the story of Czechoslovak pilots who flew with the British RAF to gain an understanding of official Czechoslovak attitudes when Stalin run the place.

All I can say is that the date hallmark represents 1979 and that it is present on a piece bearing a pre-1946 national hallmark. But if you believe it is genuine despite the questions I raised, you are perfectly free to do so. What other ID bracelets did he have? Do you remember if there was one for Major T. E. Lawrence, who spent some time in Cairo in between missions?



Edited by PKeating
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The one on the right is the date mark. I thank Xtender for the clearer image. Here is a chart of the Arabic alphabet. Which letter or symbol do you all think the date hallmark on this bracelet most resembles? Is it an artistic rendering of the A or


It is possible, in which case this bracelet dates from 1940-1941, which makes it a Second World War-era piece. Harold Gibson was SIS Station Chief in Prague from 1934 and was still there when the Germans marched in on 15.3.1939. Gibson and his staff decamped to London on 30.3.1939. He was then sent to Istanbul, where he had been in 1919-1921 as a Major when it was still Constantinople. Here is an entry from the Special Forces Roll of Honour website at:
Harold Charles Lehrs
Legion of Merit (US)
NW Europe
Additional information
born 1885
Head of Station,Constantinople 1919-21 (Major)
Head of Station,Bucharest 1922-30
Head of Station,Riga 1930-33
Head of Station,Prague 1933-40
Head of Station,Istanbul 1941
Head of Station,Prague 1945-48
Head of Station,Berlin 1949-50
Head of Station,Rome 1955
retired 1958 on 60th birthday (?)
married Rachel Kalmanoviecz (died 1947)
married Ekaterina Alfimov
found shot dead 24.8.1960 at 25 Via Antonio Bosio,Rome
brother Archibald,a journalist with The Times was Head of Station,Bucharest during WW2


The 1885 DoB seems to be a mistake. He was actually born in 1897. He was back in Prague in 1945 and stayed there until 1948. So, if this bracelet dates from 1941 and accompanied Gibson to Prague after World War Two, it could indeed be a genuine piece, acquired in some way by XTender's contact, a Czechoslovak who returned to his country despite the Red Scourge and became some sort of intelligence operative, acquiring Gibson's ID bracelet at some point. In the above photograph, he appears to be wearing the British Royal coat of arms "General Service" cap badge.

His US Legion of Merit was gazetted in The London Gazette of 23.7.1948, when he was listed a a temporary Major, Army N° 115076. Elsewhere in The London Gazette, we find Harold Gibson 115076 of the Territorial Army Officer Reserve appointed 2nd Lieutenant on 3.9.1939. On the 4.1.1940, he is promoted Lieutenant. On 12.6.1947, Harold Gibson, "attached to a department of the Foreign Office", is gazetted Companion of the Order of the St Michael and St George, known in Whitehall circles as the "Call Me God" order. Harold Charles Lehrs "Gibby' Gibson shot himself on 24.8.1960. The official reason? "Money problems". at the age of 63.
Regarding the rank of Colonel or Lieutenant-Colonel, further perusal of the London Gazette proves fruitless, except for a reference on 1.1.1918 to a Captain Harold Gibson of the Royal Army Medical Corps, acting Lt-Colonel. But he was killed. But I have so far not been able to find Harold Charles Lehrs Gibson mentioned in The London Gazette as a Lieutenant-Colonel or Colonel. He retired in 1958 as a Major, albeit an Acting Major. In such cases, officers are sometimes promoted a grade in their retirement. This would explain why he is remember as "Colonel Harold Gibson". So, what we have here is an identity bracelet apparently dating from the 1941-1945 period to an intelligence officer who is not gazetted anywhere as a Lieutenant-Colonel.

Edited by PKeating
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Gibson was also involved in the Enigma intrigue. All in all, an very interesting but unsung figure. I hope your bracelet is genuine but some of these dots are just not joining up. Here is another photo of Gibson. He is third from the left.

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Very interesting and intriguing. Do you think the letters GS after his name are for General Service - I can't think of an award ? This would help to substantiate that this is genuine - tags were worn for identification in case of death.

The other point - Prosper says he was only a substantive Major - however, it was common for an officer on assignment to be given an acting rank.

The id shows him as a Lt. Col. - and whilst he would have been given the extra rank on retirement , does this mean he was retired at the time he wore this ?

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