Maurice Buckmaster (S.O.E)

Rédigé par Alain dans la rubrique Opération spéciale, Portrait
Maurice J. Buckmaster was born on the 11th January 1902 at Ravenhill in Staffordshire in England. After leaving college he went into teaching and in his twenties he moved to France where he improved his French well enough to be taken on by 'Le Matin' as a reporter.

He worked in banking for a number of years and in 1932 joined the Ford Motor Company in Paris where he worked until 1936. He became virtually bi-lingual and through his visiting of Ford agents he acquired an exceptional knowledge of the towns and villages of France.

He was 37 when war broke out and he served with the British Expeditionary Force in France. He was evacuated from Dunkirk on the 2nd June 1940 on one of the last boats to leave. 
Later that year Buckmaster joined the Special Operations Executive and in March 1941 was transferred to the French Section. In September he assumed command of that Section and was given a flat to use as an office in Orchard Court close to Oxford Street.
He was given the task of building an organization that would carry out acts of sabotage and gather information on the enemy and provide money and equipment for the Résistance.

Between 1941 and 1944 under his command 366 men and women were sent into France and set up around 50 networks as well as 4000 successful parachute drops. Twenty years after the war there still existed 46 Amicale Buckmaster Clubs and even after forty years he was still receiving 25 - 30 letters a week from people in France concerning the Résistance.

In 1950 he played himself in the film 'Odette, agent secret S23' by Herbert Wilcox and in 1952 he published the first part of his memoires 'Specially Employed' and he received le Croix de Guerre 1939-1945, La Médaille de la Résistance, Légion d'honneur and an O.B.E.
He died on the 17th April 1992.

I have been fortunate enough to obtain a 1st edition copy of 'Specially Employed' and inside the book it is signed by Buckmaster himself with a dedication to the person who inspired him to write his memoires. The book he mentions - 'Maquis' by George Millar (one of the agents sent out by Buckmaster) was printed in 1947 and was also available in French under the title 'Un anglais dans le Maquis'. The book is an excellent first hand account of the experiences of being parachuted into occupied France and live to tell the tale. It is set in the Franche-Comté region and I highly recommend it.

Here are some photos of my copy of 'Specially Employed'.

This drawing formed the frontispiece to the Roll of Honour of those British and French officers who lost their lives in the service.

The spirit of resistance

The picture above was taken at the War Memorial at Périgueux in December 1944.
From left to right :
-     André Gaucher ‘Martial’ chef d’état-major F.F.I. de la Dordogne
-     Robert Poirier ‘Commandant Robert’ the father of Jacques Poirier
-     Le préfet du maquis Maxime Roux
-    Jacques-René Poirier ‘Captain Jack’ ‘Nestor’ and also known to many as Jack l’anglais, he was actually French and parachuted under the guise of an English captain into the Dordogne on the 14th January 1944.
-         X
-         X
-     Saluting at the front – Colonel Buckmaster

Epitome of the maquisard with acknowledgment to Messages Personnels by Bergeret

For more information :
  • Infiltrations d’agents en France de 1941 à 1945 (link)
  • Jacques Poirier (link)
  • Jedburgh teams (link)
  • List of S.O.E agents (link) 
  • Réseau Farmer-Sylvestre (link)
  • Tangmere Aerodrome Museum  (link) 
  • DVD et tapis de souris du film "Les Saboteurs de l'Ombre et de la Lumière" (lien)