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.
In the coming weeks we shall release the translated diary in parts.
Before though, we have a short biography of Maurice Southgate, which we credit entirely to Nigel Perrin’s SOE agent profiles at www.nigelperrin.com.
Born in 1913 to British Parents and educated in Paris. Maurice Southgate served with the BEF in the Invasion of France, and was later evacuated from Dunkirk. Arriving in Britain he was appointed by the RAF to the Air Ministry and went on to work there for around 2 years.
In 1942, he joined the French section of the SOE and was appointed an Organiser in the Limousin section (Stationer). He saw the sabotage of railway targets, power stations and aircraft works. His serious and thorough approach was received with glowing reports. Towards the end of 1943, he was flown back to London to report on his progress.
Returning in France a few months before D-day to help with the incoming Allied invasion, Southgate landed near Toulouse in January 1944. Immediately finding himself burdened with an enormous workload, including the command of 2500 men.
On 1st of May 1944, Southgate was caught by a Gestapo trap in Montlucon, where he missed the secret signal. After interrogation, Southgate was deported to Germany, to the camp of Buchenwald, where 16 of his compatriots were hanged. He escaped this fate through feigning illness and was admitted to the camp hospital. Southgate spent several more weeks being genuinely ill. After which he was moved to work in the tailor’s shop, where he kept a low profile and remained until the end of the War, where American Forces liberated Buchenwald on 11th April 1945.
Southgate was considered by F Section’s commanding officer, Maurice Buckmaster to be among the very best of his agents. He was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) for his actions. However, like his comrades, Southgate had been severely affected by his experiences in Buchenwald, and never fully recovered physically or psychologically. He testified at the American war crimes trials at Dachau in 1947. He lived out the remainder of his days working in the furniture business, before his eventual death in 1990.
Parts of the diary will be released in due time, it makes for a fascinating read. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.