Saboteur for CHURCHILL during the war, resistance fighter in the Limousin, father of French frogmen, forest manager and oilman in Africa, actor in Jean-Luc GODARD’s last film, Robert, fondly known as Bob, MALOUBIER lived in the XX century as a pirate.
Bob MALOUBIER was also a conspicuously loquacious guy, who never stayed away from ceremoniescommemorating Maquis du Limousin. A “bigmouth” is what some of his detractors dared to describe him. With a white moustache like an Indian major, sparkling eyes, navy blue blazer with the Special Boat Service (SBS) coat of arms, for which he had been licensed, a French frogmen golden insignia hanging from his neck, he had an imposing personality.
He had this rare loquacity of recounting his life as though it was some sort of Micky-Mouse play. Son of a good family, Bob MALOUBIER, born at Neuilly-sur-Seine, on 2 February 1923, was one of the last three survivors of the Special operations executive (SOE) French unit, created by Winston CHURCHILL in July 1940 in order to sabotage and disorganize German troops in Europe under occupation.
Friend to Fernand BONNIER DE LA CHAPELLE, perpetrator of the attack against Admiral DARLAN in December 1942 in ALGIERS, Bob MALOUBIER joined the SOE at age 19. “That was the onset of the whole adventure”, he says. Dropped in France twice, notably in the Limousin following the Landing, Bob MALOUBIER, fighting as one of Colonel GUINGOUIN’s men, carried out a series of sabotage acts and was wounded twice.
He left the British army with the rank of captain and the prestigious DSO (Distinguished Service Order) award, a distinction that was conferred on only about sixty Frenchmen during the war.
He looks back at this period with some feeling of “nostalgia” and finds it difficult to dissimulate his sorrow when talking about his buddies killed, such as Violette SZABO, a SOE French section agent, with whom he was dropped on 8 June 1944, on SUSSAC, Haute-Vienne, captured two days later at Salon-La-Tour, Corrèze, and killed early 1945 at Ravensbrück.
After the war, he entered into the French services for ten years. At service de documentation extérieure et de contre-espionnage (SDECE, that became DGSE), Bob MALOUBIER participated in the creation of action service and founded, in 1952, with Claude RIFFAUD, the frogmen regiment.
Both men designed their own very diving watch. BLANCPAIN, a famous Suisse Watchmaking Company, created, in 1953, the first model of FIFTY FATHOMS (91 meters, the depth at which it still works). This somewhat mythical watch was subsequently adopted by the US NAVY SEALS.
AS forest manager in Gabon, he met ALBERT SCHWEITZER, became a SHELL oilman, put in place the guard for the Gabonese president Léon MBA (1965), under the aegis of Jacques FOCCART. In 1967, he was working for SHELL in LAGOS when the BIAFRA broke out.
Officially on retirement, he, at 63, embarked on a writing career, recounting his life as a saboteur and secret agent with four books published. Without being so overwhelming in his literary talents, he distinguishes himself as an outstanding “amateur writer though not one that could ever win the Goncourt Prize”.
He played the role of an old spy in Jean-Luc GODARD’s 2010 film, Film Socialisme.
Robert MALOUBIER died on Monday, 20 April 2015, at the age of 92.
This famous volunteer serviceman, wounded twice at the front, holder of 3 commendations, was Knight of the Legion of Honour and had received several awards, including the Second World War Cross, Volunteer Serviceman’s Cross, Resistance medal, and the Escapees’ medal. The United Kingdom had awarded him theDistinguished Service Order as well as theOrderof the British Empire. Robert MALOUBIER was equally Commander of the Laos Ordre du Million d’Eléphants.