DUBBED the French James Bond by the French press, Second World War hero Bob Maloubier has died.
Mr Maloubier, who was one of Churchill’s secret agents, parachuting into France to disrupt Nazi plans and blow up strategic bridges, was 92. He was one of the last two of 350 members of the French section of the Special Operations Executive.
Born in smart Paris suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1923, Mr Maloubier joined Churchill's ‘Secret Army’, the SOE in 1942, aged 19, having secretly left France two years earlier and travelled to London via Marseille and North Africa. He was trained as a saboteur.
"I knew it would be dangerous, but I didn't care," he told Connexion in an interview last year. “I just wanted to do something and I chose explosives because I could never have spent hours hiding and fiddling with a radio. I wanted to blow things up!"
Having completed his training, he was parachuted into France in 1943 as part of a small team of saboteurs where he and his Resistance group set about blowing up strategic targets including a German munitions factory, an electricity plant and a submarine supply ship. They dealt with the ship by smuggling explosives into its hold, he told Le Monde. “The next day all you could see was its flag sticking out of the water,” he said.
Arrested by the Nazis in December 1943, he was shot in the lung, liver and abdomen while escaping but still managed to shake off his pursuers by hiding in a ditch all night. He not only survived but managed to walk 9km and find a doctor who treated him.
Eventually he was flown back to London, where he recovered enough to be parachuted back into France.
This time he arrived the day after D-Day and he and his network set about blowing up as many bridges as possible so as to prevent German troops moving north to Normandy where the Allies had landed. “I must have blown up 20 or 30 of them,” he told Connexion.
"I wasn't frightened. We were so young, and everything was so extreme. We didn't stop to think. We just fought," he said.
After the liberation he joined the French air force and was parachuted into Laos, where he was eventually captured and imprisoned by the Japanese.
After the war he worked for the French security services – including founding a unit of ‘fighting swimmers’ and designing a ‘Fifty Fathom’ watch which could work at 91m, which was adopted by the US Navy Seals and Jacques Cousteau. He later worked as a forester and in the oil industry.
He wrote an autobiography and nearly a dozen other books about the Second World War (only available in French), the most recent of which was published just a few weeks ago.
Mr Maloubier was awarded the MBE by the Queen last year when she visited France for the anniversary of the D-Day Landings, just one of an array medals he won for his exploits including from France the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, Chevalier de la Médaille de la Résistance, the Croix de Guerre and the Escapees’ Medal, a British Distinguished Service Order and the highest knighthood order of Laos, the Order of the Million Elephants and the White Parasol.
Mr Maloubier, from Houilles, north-west of Paris, is survived by his three children and his wife, Marie-Helene France.
His funeral will be at Les Invalides in Paris at 11am next Wednesday if any readers would like to pay their respects.