British v. German uniform underwear and socks. Help needed for writing project.

I’m writing a book in which a man is found dead, wearing apparently an English army uniform. Could there be one small detail about his undergarments or socks that might give away he was a German spy? I can think of something obvious like a small metric number on his socks, but something really clever and subtle would be appreciate.


More seriously, not underwear as such but clothing was rationed in UK and I expect other countries, and fashion took on a utilitarian look with few or none unnecessary features. The exception was Occupied Paris which still did high fashion with extra thrills or whatever. They could afford to because they mainly sold to German officers. So maybe your spy gave in to ego and has a newish shirt or waistcoat or something which had non-functional extra buttons or something which suggests it was purchased in Paris.

Best of luck




Is it a British (not English) army uniform or just apparently one?

The Germans weren’t stupid. They had ample resources to provide their spies with real British uniforms from those captured in Europe and North Africa when Germany was in the ascendant, or to make perfect copies from the captured uniforms.

Why would a German spy be wearing a British army uniform, especially given the great concern of German spies landed in the US to wear German uniforms so they wouldn’t be treated as spies if caught while landing?

Are you looking at an individual spy landed in Britain by air or sea, or found somewhere else?

Or are you thinking of something like the Battle of the Bulge / Operation Greif when German troops donned American uniforms and caused significant problems?

Almost all German spies sent by air and sea to Britain during WWII were captured and the majority were turned into double agents. I think all of the relatively few German spies sent to the US were also captured.

There is also the not inconsiderable problem that troops of all nations in WWII, and many other wars, routinely took enemy weapons, equipment, and clothing to supplement that issued to them by their own nation or lost by them in action.

Harking back to the German spies landed in the US wearing German navy uniforms while landing, a dead man in a British army uniform wearing German undergarments could be a British spy landed in German controlled territory and killed before he had the opportunity to divest himself of his genuine British army uniform and put on German outer garments.

You need to clarify a lot of issues about time, place, and purpose of the disguise to present a convincing story.

More likely something he sneaked with him, some sort of contraband missed - A German or French cigarette (why or how would they get one if after fall of France, maybe smoked on way in, got from one of those that dropped him off and out of habit to save the tobacco - put the stub in his pocket), photo, little keepsake tucked away

Lets agree with leccy that he has a point about the contraband and the photo. I would say a wallet, or generally something reminding him, his family or his “fatherland”, say a coin, or maybe something religious. Perhaps if you “gave” us the background story, it might help.

hehehehe…more subtle ? Skidmarks in his underpants!
An english conscript landing in …in …who says it is in USA ?..anyway, in Allied controlled territory , would NOT be scared to shit his pants…
A german spy however, would be scared…:lol:

But a more serious thing comes to mind: it was said that the German soldiers in Normandy could be SMELLED around a corner. A special odour.
I think it was their german soap, but it could also have been their shaving cream.
Nevertheless, the dead body (found really quick) could still have this strange scent.

(and of course no one around him (in a german sub?) would have noticed the difference and warned him for it…becoz everybody smelled the same…(or in a sub; stank the same…)

Another often mistake was that paradropped/per-sub landed spies were dressed in an OLD version uniform. So a detail like a button of a year older than commissioned at the time of discovery , or a different stitch, gives him away, or at least just enough to raise doubts (that is a more fun story approach).

I remember reading about G.I.'s of native American descent who were able to smell Germans because of the odour of the special leavened bread used by the German forces (“Kommißbrot”). I had problems believing that though…

Might be possible.

My initial reaction was that as eating pizza (and some other ?yeasty? foods I can’t recall) can fool an alcohol interlock device on a car into thinking the breath sample contains alcohol, then maybe those eating the German bread exuded something detectable by the native Americans.

Then I Googled the issue which took me to that marvellous resource known as Wikipedia and it said the German bread was based on sourdough, so no yeast there.

Or maybe sourdough produces something detectable, either in the breath or from some other sort of body odour.

Diet can certainly produce odours detectable even by the dullest nose, as anyone who’s eaten a good feed of asparagus knows when they have a piss, or are next to someone who’s had a good feed of it. Native Americans could well have been more attuned to subtle odours lost on others in the US forces.

It was often said during the Vietnam War that the Vietnamese could smell Western troops and vice versa because of dietary odours peculiar to each group, but I don’t know how true this was and, if it was true, what sort of range was involved.

It was also said that the Vietnamese could smell the Americans because they used powerful after shave and soap perfumes. Why any jungle trained soldier about to go bush on an operation would be using after shave is beyond me, so I think it might fall into the category of possible but unlikely but I’m happy to be corrected. Anyway, one would have thought that after shave and soap perfumes would have been replaced fairly quickly by tropical sweat.

All that said, there is no shortage of references in various wars to one side being able to smell the other.