Maurice Buckmaster

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Colonel Maurice James Buckmaster OBE (11 January 1902 – 17 April 1992, Forest Row, Sussex) was the leader of the French section of Special Operations Executive and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Apart from his war service, he was a corporate manager with the French branch of the Ford Motor Company, in the postwar years serving in Dagenham. He wrote two memoirs about his service with the Resistance during World War II.

Early life and career[edit]

Maurice Buckmaster was born on 11 January 1902 at Ravenhill, Brereton, Staffordshire, England, the son of a Midlands entrepreneur. He was educated at Eton College, where he was captain of soccer. He showed an academic bent and gained an exhibition to study Classics at Oxford University, but was unable to take this up as his father went bankrupt. He left school and first became a reporter for the French newspaper Le Matin. Later he became a banker and eventually a senior manager with the French branch of the American Ford Motor Company.

Special Operations Executive[edit]

When World War II broke out, Buckmaster returned to England. He joined the British Expeditionary Force and fought in France until the retreat to Dunkirk. Following this, he was an Intelligence Officer with 50 Division, which he decided to leave after the division was scheduled to move to the Middle East. Following a meeting with Gerald Templer, he was recruited into Special Operations Executive (SOE), or MO1(SP) and, as such, was gazetted by the War Office.

On 17 March 1941, Buckmaster was appointed to SOE's French section. Following an attachment to the Belgian Section from July 1941, in September he was made head of F Section. This section recruited agents from among those Frenchmen who had not chosen to directly ally themselves with General De Gaulle. A separate section of SOE, RF Section, worked with those members of the French Resistance who were clearly Gaullist in their loyalties. There was often considerable tension between F and RF sections.[1]

At F Section Buckmaster worked closely with his assistant Vera Atkins, who was also the Section's intelligence officer and a spy mistress. During the war, the F Section handled almost 400 undercover agents, many of whom went missing. After the war, it was Atkin's task to find what happened to them, including agents she had trained. It turns out that Buckmaster had refused to believe that their network had been compromised, thus sending many agents to their arrests and deaths for over a year, despite warnings from agents such as Sonya Olschanezky.[2]

For his service, France awarded him the Croix de Guerre, the Americans honoured him as an Officer of the Legion of Merit, and the British appointed him OBE.

After World War II[edit]

After the war, Buckmaster rejoined the Ford Motor Company, serving in Dagenham as Director of Public Affairs.

In 1946 and 1947, he wrote a series of eight articles on F Section for the now defunct Chambers Magazine, entitled They Came By Parachute. He wrote two memoirs, Specially Employed (1952) and They Fought Alone (1958). He was interviewed for the 1969 documentary The Sorrow and the Pity.

Buckmaster was an adviser on, and appeared as himself in, the film Odette, about Odette Sansom (then Odette Churchill, later Hallowes). He had three children; Michael, Tina and Sybil.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Marks, Leo (1998). 'Between Silk and Cyanide'. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0 00 255 944 7. Pp 30, 75, 167-8.
  2. ^ A Life In Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE, Sarah Helm, Abacus, 2006, pages 295-296. ISBN-10: 0349119368.