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Southgate’s Diary, Part 1 – 24th July 1941

Maurice Southgate Part 1

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. I was taken by ambulance to a nearby camp, where I was able to take a shower and lose my watch. Then came a coach journey, a magnificent trip in the English countryside, to Plymouth RAF Station where I met with several of my squadron companions in the Sergeant’s mess. I was met with open arms, cries and lots of beer.

Next morning, in ill-fitting uniform, I left for London and arrived at my parents on the evening of 20th June 194, my birthday.

——-

Both parents crying, as they had no news for several days, whilst the evacuation was taking place. I was listed missing and have had a lot of trouble establishing my credentials at the finance department of the ministry.

A few days holiday. Visits to the French Consulate in order to get news of France. Upon arriving there, I met three Polish women speaking fluent French, but no English. They had all arrived from Dunkirk, having lost everything, apart from their stories about the evacuation. And what stories! Bombed, machine gunned and this and that. Went for tea at Lyon, Piccadilly and talked about France, Poland and Old England. I left, forgetting to pay and was grabbed by the till woman. Never laughed so much!

Holidays over, I went to Gatwick to find the rest of my squadron and prepare for departure to Iceland. Just hours before we had to leave, order came for me to go to Gloucester. At Gatwick we slept in a corner, without tents, beds or ground sheets, but with two blankets (and this for three weeks!) but this is war. At Gloucester, meet about another 35 interpreters, and our quarters were the most fun in a camp of about 6000 men.

——-

Despite our hardship and boredom, our moral in general is good. The countryside is glorious, the English are happy and the war is secondary to them. The bombs may fall, but the English play football without noticing and only go and check after the match if their houses are still standing. Several of us got sent to other air stations. I travel a lot from one end of England to the other.

Small holiday in London, my luck to be in the middle of an air raid. The battle of Britain is at its height, and since then I never missed a major bombing of the capital. But it is war and the English don’t care. They rely on themselves, “OK, three bombs in my garden, soon it will be nine bombs in a German garden” and I now agree with them. Even beaten, the English don’t know it, and with this mentality they never will be. It’s simple, but you had to think it up.

——-

Maurice Southgate’s words
Translated by Parade Antiques

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Comments (7)

  1. Being fluent in French and having lived and worked in France, made him an ideal candidate for the SOE. Following interviews, he joined them in June 1942. Described as having brown hair, oval face and a clear complexion, he commenced training at Wanborough Manor (STS 5) near Guildford with Party 27 R on 8 July where he was described as ‘the most hardworking and thorough of the party. An earnest disposition. Security-mindedness very good.’ (TNA HS 9/1395/3) From there he went for paramilitary training at Meoble Lodge (STS 23) in northwest Scotland and in mid-September he had parachute training at Ringway (STS 51), now Manchester Airport, where the Commandant considered him to be ‘reliable enough to receive further training for operations in the field.’ After a week’s leave at his parents’ home in Slough, he attened the ‘Finishing School’ at Beaulieu where he was taught the art of clandestine warfare. A note in his file indicated that his instructors reported being impressed by his seriousness and thorough approach and identified him as a potential organiser.
    As part of his mission included sabotage operations, he was sent to Brickendonbury (STS 17), an industrial sabotage school near Hertford, which gave him a very positive report on 2 December 1942.

    General This student made a very good impression. Keen, modest and hardworking. In spite of his long field experience, admitted that he had a great deal to learn and also that he had benefitted from the course.

    Mechanical Made excellent progress with an unfamiliar subject and can now recognise and deal with most common types of industrial machinery.

    Electrical Took a great interest in the lectures and got on very well; should be well able to deal with attacks on this type of equipment.

    Transport Good, keen and interested. Has well understood the subject.

    Demolitions First class

    P.T. Fairly fit

    Scheme Understands how to plan and attack well.
    (TNA HS9 1395/3)

    Details of both his operations into France and the successful sabotage attacks can be found in ‘Agent Designer’, an as yet unpublished biography of Jacqueline Nearne, his courier. Once I’ve got the illustrations, I’ll upload it onto http://www.lulu.com.

    • Hello Bernard,

      Thank you so much for such a wealth of fascinating information. A really interesting read. I particularly like the industrial sabotage school report, quite the student it seems! How did you come across that (if you don’t mind me asking)?

      Excited to read the biography, are the illustrations far from being finished?

      Kind regards,
      Alex – Parade Antiques

      ps. Part 3 coming today!

      • Whilst writing ‘Agent Rose, The true Spy Story of Eileen Nearne: Britain’s Forgotten Wartime Heroine’, I was also researching her sister Jacqueline#s story. Both were secret agents infiltrated into France during WW2. Jacqueline worked as a courier for Maurice Southgate in the southwest of France so, to gain more insight into her time there, I accessed Southgate’s (and other agents) personnel files in the National Archives. Not only did they provide useful information for ‘Agent Desinger’ (Jacqueline’s autobiography), Southgate’s work involved important sabotage operations, details of which I’ve included in ‘Churchill’s School for Saboteurs: Brickendonbury (STS 17)’, to be published later.

  2. Hello There. I discovered your weblog the usage of msn. That is an extremely well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your helpful info. Thank you for the post. I will definitely return.

  3. You can definitely see your skills within the paintings you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. At all times follow your heart.

  4. Bernard O'Connor

    Me again. Might there be any mention of Maurice being given instructions to arrange the sabotage of Ratier’s propeller works in Figeac when he went on his second mission on 27 January 1944?
    He may have allocated the task to others in WHEELWRIGHT?
    Regards,
    Bernard

    • Hello Bernard, thanks for getting in touch again.

      Unfortunately the diary is only of Southgate’s time in England and finishes quite abruptly in March, 1942 – Presumably around the time he left for France? Sorry we couldn’t be more helpful.

      regards,

      kind regards,

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