A year ago, Parade Antiques acquired the DSO and diary of SOE Maurice Southgate. The diary, written in French, charts Southgate’s memoirs from mid 1940 to early 1942. Our esteemed overlord, Phillip the Prawn, being an impeccable speaker of the French language, was able to translate. Respectfully we have omitted the more personal aspects of the text, leaving a humorous, insightful and vivid account of an incredible time.
24th July 1940
To my wife, London, 24th July 1940 – It was reading the story in the ‘Readers Digest’, July 1940, “A Little at a Time” by John Erskine, that I decided to write this book. Since my arrival in England, several of my friends have started (and some continued with) a diary.
I disembarked in Falmouth 19th June 1940, covered in a blanket and shoeless.
24th July 1940 (continued)
Return to Gloucester and then to Hereford. I’m busy with the Poles, and they are great guys. Full of life and desperate for battle. Admirable bravery. I remember them from France, always on the attack. According to a report they are “fighting mad”.
25th July 1941 (Continued)
The news on the radio is, the continuous bombing of the French front, the stop of the German advance in Russia and the sinking of an Italian convoy in the Mediterranean. The Japanese have seized bases in Indochina and the Vichy government disgusts me more and more. Soon, I suppose, Japan will attack Russia soon and then the USA will enter the fray.
27th July 1941
Guy Wingate is now married to an English woman after breaking his engagement in France. Clear sky outside, ideal bombing weather, if the Germans knew. They haven’t been over for several weeks (10 to be exact). We do not forget them however, every night two large German towns get some of our medicine, not counting canals, railways and not forgetting their shipping.
30th July 1941
Stark left us and I walked back to Marble Arch whilst chatting to Pearl. She told me more about her life 1930-40. Poor girl, she has been very brave and continues to be. During the afternoon Suzy Witherington, the 2nd in age, came to visit. She is the only one of the 4 sisters who is married and has a baby. She married a Scot and lived in Paris. Got back to Slough – gone midnight. That’ll teach me to go out with a young woman. Are you jealous dearest?
3rd July 1941
Went with my father to Hounslow to visit one of his cousins. His son (32) is in the army. His daughter got married during the war and her husband left for Africa 2 weeks later. He is missing. Darling I miss you so much, I sometimes wonder, what is the point without you?
10th August 1941
According to the paper today, the Germans have made serious gains in Russia. This reminds me of Mr Barthe, “you will see, Mr Maurice, it will be the Russians that will save us.”
12th August 1941
Since yesterday, I am back in the office, with a lot to do. I left my diary at home, but I feel like writing to you, so I am putting it on a loose sheet. Many people, especially, the Hun, would like to know this. Mr Churchill is in conversation with Mr Roosevelt at this moment, on the latter’s yacht.
13th August 1941
Still very busy at work. Still raining. Had rabbit last night, which was very nice and I hope to have it again tonight. The Germans are attacking still and I fear for Odessa. But even if the Huns take the town, it will be the first of any importance in 8 weeks of very hard fighting. Last night we bombed 6 German towns including Berlin.
28th August 1941
I hope you find this diary more interesting with the newspaper clippings. I like it, but even without the Russians, the English were certain to win the war. In how many years, God knows. But with the help of the USSR it will bring the fall of Adolf.