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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. A 2012 TV series, "The Secret War" (see below) points to very serious failings on Buckmaster's part that might fulfil the terms of either criminal negligence or criminal incompetence, as his inaction resulted in the torture and murder of hundreds of agents. This leads also to very serious questions about Buckmaster's right to hold the Croix de Guerre. 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
Maurice Buckmaster was born on 11 January 1902 at Ravenhill, Brereton, Staffordshire, England. He was educated at Eton College, but his studies ended when his father went bankrupt. He left school and first became a reporter for the French paper Le Matin. Later he became a banker and eventually a senior manager with the French branch of the United States (US) Ford Motor Company.
World War II
When World War II started, Buckmaster returned to Great Britain. He joined the British Expeditionary Force and fought in France until the retreat to Dunkirk. Following this, he was an IO, (information 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 the Information Officer of the French section of the SOE, and following an attachment to the Belgian Section from July 1941, in September he was made head of F Section. His job was to form an organisation to supply and train French Resistance members in occupied France and to gather intelligence. He was directly involved in the agent training and worked with the (communist) FTP. He had a habit of giving his agents personal gifts before they departed for their missions. For his service, France awarded him the Croix de Guerre, the Americans the Officer of the Legion of Merit and the British the OBE.
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, Special Employed (1952) and They Fought Alone (1958), and was interviewed for the 1969 documentary The Sorrow and the Pity.