The recently published book The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers, by Richard Aldrich and Rory Cormac (William Collins) contains a magnificent instance of dating innovation, which has probably never been attempted before or since.
One chapter features the arrival at Portsmouth harbour in April 1956 of a ship carrying Russian premier Nikita Kruschev, on his way for talks with British PM Anthony Eden.
Eager to take a closer look at the battleship, the Ordzhonikidze, the spooks of MI6 called for the war hero Lionel Kenneth Phillip “Buster” Crabb, OBE, GM, who had distinguished himself as a diver removing limpet mines from British ships and other marine bomb disposal derring do.
Although barely capable of swimming more than a couple of lengths on the surface, a heavy drinker and smoker besides, and utterly disdainful of fitness initiatives, Crabb was described by MI6 as being “the best frogman in the country, probably in the world.”
After a military career that brought numerous accolades and decorations, Crabb was obliged to leave the Navy in 1955.
In civilian life he was no less driven to achieve distinction, and according to military historian Ben Macintyre “He cut a remarkable figure… wearing beige tweeds, a monocle and a pork pie hat, and carrying a Spanish swordstick with a silver knob carved into the shape of a crab.”
Such fabulous accoutrements were nothing compared to his dating techniques, however.
“When taking a woman out to dinner,” writes Macintyre, “he liked to dress up in his FROGMAN OUTFIT.”
‘This seldom had the desired effect,” he adds, although women I have asked claim they would have been delighted to work through the menu with a man in full frogman gear.
Sadly Crabb, well past his wartime diving peak, failed to return from his mission to inspect the Russian battleship.
The memory of the sexy frogman for ladies, however, lives on…