British WWII Spymaster Dies At Age 90
LONDON (AP) _ Maurice Buckmaster, who controlled Britain’s spies in France during World War II and was credited for helping to shorten the conflict, has died at age 90, news reports said today.
The Times of London said he died Friday, but gave no cause of death. He lived both in London and in Sussex, south of the capital.
Buckmaster ran the French section of the SOE, or Special Operations Executive, from 1941 to 1945, commanding 400 agents.
At the war’s end, Allied commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said the section had helped shorten the war by six months. ″It was the equivalent of 15 divisions,″ he said.
Buckmaster was drawn into the intelligence service by his gift for languages, particularly French, which he learned as a schoolboy at Eton.
He was born Jan. 11, 1902, and after Eton went to France, where he worked for Le Matin as a journalist. He later worked for the merchant bank J. Henry Schroder and Co., before joining the Ford car company in 1929.
Buckmaster became Ford’s manager in France, then all Europe. At the war’s outbreak he entered the Intelligence Corps.
In 1941 he was put in charge first of SOE’s Belgian section, then the French section. His agents were deployed around France to spy, sabotage and recruit French resistance fighters, which they did with a high degree of success and at a very harsh cost. More than 100 spies were killed.
France honored Buckmaster as a chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the Medaille de la Resistance, and the U.S. Legion of Merit. Britain made him an Officer of the Order of British Empire in 1943.
After the war, Buckmaster returned to Ford and eventually became director of public relations.
Buckmaster’s wife of 47 years, Anna Cecilia Reinstein, died in 1988. He had a son and two daughters from his first marriage, to May Dorothy Steed. There was no immediate report of his survivors or funeral plans.