Smith's Independent obituary describes his early years as follows:
Smith served as Head of Chancery in Moscow from 1961 to 1963, a period which included the Cuban Missile Crisis. From the 1963 to 1968 he served as head of the department dealing with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He was appointed Ambassador to Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion, serving there until 1971, when he was appointed UK Representative in Northern Ireland.
The Independent describes Smith's role:
- In the last months of the Stormont Assembly, he had the difficult task of acting as Whitehall's man on the spot while sending advice back to the Home Secretary. Not without personal risk, he developed a vast circle of contacts of all shades of opi- nion and preserved in his own house there a place of friendly discussion and reason through the transition to direct rule.
- A very large pipe-smoking Arabist, a veteran of Suez and the Sudan, who had recently been in Nairobi, Steele knew very little about Northern Ireland, but Smith considered he would bring a fresh approach to the post. According to Steele, he was precluded from running agents 'but was expected to use his experience of conflict situations in the Middle East and Africa'. Anthony Verrier, whose main source was also Steele, claims that this included 'covert counter-intelligence operations' which, it was argued, were required to fulfill the need to find a political solution.
Cabinet Office and Moscow
Robin Ramsay and Stephen Dorril suggest that Callaghan's decision to appoint Smith rather than an inside candidate was a reflection of the chaos within MI5 in the preceding years, the era of the 'Wilson Plots'.
- Albert Buckley, Obituary: Sir Howard Smith, The Independent, 10 May 1996.
- Stephen Dorril, MI6: Inside the Covert World of her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Touchstone, 2002, P.739.
- Bloody Sunday Inquiry transcript - Day 215 - Tuesday, 28 May 2002.
- Robin Ramsay and Stephen Dorril, Smear! Wilson and the Secret State, Fourth Estate Limited, 1991, p323.
- David Leigh, The Wilson Plot, Mandarin, 1989, p.254.