Bob Maloubier (SOE agent)

Rédigé par Alain dans la rubrique Opération spéciale, Portrait

Bob Maloubier aka Robert Mortier was born in 1923 in Paris and was just 17 when the Germans invaded France. He had spent part of his childhood in the U.S. where his father had been a Professor at the Columbia University in New York.

Bob Maloubier in 1943
In the summer of 1940 his parents were in the south of France and Robert, known as Bob by all who knew him since his stay in the US, decided to leave Paris on a bicycle. All the roads were blocked with slow moving traffic fleeing Paris and the surrounding area. There were old men and women with their carts, children in prams and people weighed down by their belongings moving along on foot. At times german planes flew overhead dropping bombs and as the people scattered into the fields or hid in ditches the planes returned and fired on them.
By the time Bob reached the south, France had fallen. After a stay with his family, he left for Marseilles and managed to cross by boat to North Africa where he joined the French Air Force hoping to be joining the fight against the boche. He soon discovered that Petain's army in Africa had no intention of fighting the Germans.

The day after the Allied landing at Algiers in november of 1942 Bob 'borrowed' his Colonel's bicycle and crossed over the frontier to join the Allies.

He approached the first British Officer he met and offered his services to the British Army. This was not as simple as he had hoped but the British authorities, who were impressed by his determination  flew him to Gibraltar and then on to London where he enlisted in the S.O.E.
He began his training with an extended course in arms and explosives. He was then sent to Rouen to assist Captain Charles Staunton a Parisian by parentage and whose real name was Phillipe Liewer, he had been responsible for organising in Nice one of the first Resistance groups in France.
The two men worked well together and Bob was put in charge of supply receptions and instructing the local Resistance in handling arms, who carried out many successful sabotage actions.
In december of 1943 Staunton left Rouen and was collected by a Lysander and returned to England for consultations and a short rest in London. Bob was left in charge of the Rouen network and just before Christmas he left Rouen to receive material at a dropping zone near Elbeuf. He went by motorcycle (a 125cc) with a pillion passanger, a member of the local Maquis who had been responsible for all the forged papers that the network had needed and at the time was working at the mairie.
They left Rouen later than planned just before eleven at night and hopefully enough time to get out of the town and not be stopped by curfew patrols.
As they travelled along a quiet country lane towards Grande-Couronne they realised that there was a car coming up behind them. It overtook and passed them then pulled up in front of them and motioned for them to pull over. Inside the car was the Gestapo who promptly leapt out.
The pillion passenger jumped off the back of the motorbike and fled across the fields. The Germans fired at him but he managed to escape unhurt. Bob was questioned about him but pleaded ignorence saying he had no idea who he was and he was just someone who had been thumbing for a ride. Bob was then ordered to get back on his bike and with one of the Gestapo as a pillion rider behind him and a gun in the back of Bob's neck the German ordered him to drive to Oissel, a small town a few miles outside of Rouen. The Gestapo car followed close behind so Bob had no choice but to go along with it.
As they came into Oissel and approached the Police Station the German car overtook the motorbike. Bob sensing this would be a chance to escape slammed his brakes on and swerved the bike round. His passenger was thrown off, Bob threw his bike onto him and ran. The Gestapo jumped from their car and started shooting at Bob. He was shot in the lung but managed to escape by running down a dark side street. Suddenly he saw in front of him a soldier with a helmet and a gun. Fortunately it was not the enemy but an old soldier in stone on the Monument au Morts in the middle of the square!
The Germans were slow to follow and he was able to run unto a nearby field and hide in a ditch of dirty water near a railway line before the Germans came down the side street.
Using torches and two police dogs they searched for him for most of the night but by lying in the water he managed to evade detection.
He laid there for some time after the Gestapo had given up their hunt, his limbs were frozen and he had an agonising pain in his lung. He crawled and staggered every step in terrible pain and he succeeded somehow to cover the few miles to Rouen.
As dawn was about to break he reached the apartment block where he'd been staying. He managed to reach the 5th floor and entered the flat where his friends with whom he'd been staying were shocked to see him in his terrible condition. They called a Doctor who was a member of the Resistance and after an examination said that he didn't think Bob would live.
The friends were now confronted with a serious problem. If Bob were to die they would have to arrange a funeral, a death had to be reported, the funeral notified and a grave ordered. The Police and perhaps the Gestapo would hear about it and realise that the body would be the suspect who had escaped at Oissel. They would then arrest the friends with whom Bob had been staying with posing as their cousin. They would be questioned and tortured and perhaps shot as members of the Resistance.
The Doctor thought that there was no hope for Bob at all and arrangements were made for a 'funeral' with the utmost secrecy. They got two potato sacks, slit them open and stitched them together to make one sack large enough to take the body as Bob was very tall. They got rocks to weigh him down and with the help of a friendly lorry driver planned to take the body out of Rouen and drop it into the Seine, hoping the body would not be found. But... Bob survived the night, the Doctor visited each day, treated him but there was no improvement. Miraculously Bob over the next two weeks started to recover, the Doctor and the 'cousins' were totally astounded, it was clear now that Bob would live. Ten days later he was able to get up from bed and join his friends at a New Years Eve party.
Shortly afterwards Staunton returned to Rouen and greatly concerned about Bob's condition insisted that he must get back to England to convalesce. They returned to England by a 161 Squadron Lysander on the 7th february 1944 and while Bob rested in a London hospital Staunton went to Ringway to practise parachute jumping. While there he met a young women - Violette Szabo.
Staunton and Violette came back to London together to meet Bob before he went on an extended arms course in Hertfordshire.
By june Bob who had now recovered from his injuries begged Buckmaster, head of the S.O.E. to return to France. After a while the Colonel finally agreed that Staunton, Bob and Violette should go as a team to the area of Limoges. They would be joined by an American O.S.S. Officer, Lieutenant Jean-Claude Guiet who was a Radio Operator and whose parents were French. This would be Violette's second mission into France.
After many delays they were parachuted into France during the night of 6/7th june - D Day plus one. They were dropped near Sussac in Haute Vienne, in the heart of the Limousin Maquis who numbered more than 2000 members. The leader of the local Maquis was 'Anastasie' (Jacques Dufour).

The grocer's shop in Sussac
The 'visitors' from England stayed above a grocer's shop in the centre of Sussac. They were given a good night's rest and in the morning breakfast was brought to them in bed.
Two days after their arrival the S.O.E. officers heard that the 'Das Reich' SS Panzer Division were on the move north from Toulouse to reinforce the German Army in Normandy. They had reached Tulle in the Correze, and had inflicted a terrible massacre there. Advance units of the Division were reported to be only 20 or 30 miles to the south of La Croisille.
Violette and Anastasie decided to drive to Chateauroux to request reinforcements from Colonel Charles for other Maquis units to join them to be better able to take on the advancing Germans.
As they drove they had their guns ready in case there was trouble. As they approached the sleepy village of Salon-la-Tour they ran into an ambush. They jumped from the car and ran across a field. As they ran Violette fell and twisted her ankle badly, Anastasie picked her up but Violette struggled free and as they both dodged bullets she shouted at Anastasie to carry on and then opened fire on the Germans, killing how many, we don't know. Anastasie managed to reach a nearby farm where luckily the farmer and his family knew him and hid him under a pile of logs in a barn. The Germans arrived, questioned them and got no information from them, at the same time Violette was captured in a field nearby and then taken to the prison at Limoges.

Wanted poster for Staunton and Bob
Anastasie fortunately was not found and was looked after by the family of the farmer.
Staunton on hearing Violette's fate immediately planned a rescue operation. With Bob Maloubier he went to Limoges and they watched the prison for several days. A rescue operation was organised for friday 16th june, six days after Violette's capture.
Early on friday morning Bob and four others went into Limoges and at 10 o'clock a car was stolen and held ready in a side street. At 11 o'clock on each day Violette had been lead under guard to the HQ of the Gestapo in Limoges for questioning, unfortunately that day Violette had been taken at dawn from Limoges to Fresnes just outside of Paris for further questioning and torture.
Bob and his comrades waited for hours and then later heard that she'd been taken to Fresnes over 200 miles away and too far for any further rescue attempts.
Having not given any information away whatsoever She was later taken to Ravensbruck where she was shot
on the 5th february 1945.
On the 25th of june 1944 the first parachute drop ever made by daylight during the war was made near Sussac. 864 containers were dropped - supplies, weapons, ammunition, explosives, petrol and even money. It took 300 maquisards 3 days to carry the supplies away.
Bob was now in charge of the reception committee for allied soldiers parachuting into the area.
On the 25th of august 1944 Bob, Staunton and the Maquis of the Haute Vienne entered Limoges and liberated the city.

May 2011 - Bob has written a new book covering his experiences during the war. It's called 'Agent Secret de Churchill' and published by Tallandier, Paris. As far as I know it is only currently published in french.

Bob, now 88 years of age is one of only two living F Section S.O.E. agents. On the 6th may 2011 and looking as dapper as ever! he was joined by Princess Anne at the S.O.E. monument at Valency in Central France to commerate the first S.O.E. parachute jump made into France by Georges Begue 70 years ago.

In August 2012 I had the honour of spending a few days with Bob during his visit to Limoges for the commemoration of the Liberation of Limoges. 

Related posts :
  • Book : Agent secret de Churchill (link) 
  • Cérémonie 2012 à Limoges (link) 
  • France 3 Normandie (link)
  • DVD et tapis de souris du film "Les Saboteurs de l'Ombre et de la Lumière" (lien)