Col Maurice Dumont

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The Independent Online

Maurice Dumont, army officer and intelligence agent: born Epinal, France 1911; died Pagny-sur-Moselle, France 8 August 2001

Col Maurice Dumont was one of the officers directing French military intelligence after the Second World War. He specialised in counter- espionage and information, but during the war years his most important work was concerned with organising the resistance movements in southern France and preparing them for the liberation.

At the time of the Anglo-American invasion of French North Africa in November 1942, Dumont was serving with the Foreign Legion in Algeria. Whilst Allied attention was largely concentrated on the rivalry between generals de Gaulle and Giraud and the problem of who should rule the French possessions that had been freed from Vichy's control, the French army had units that were preparing for an Allied landing in southern France. Dumont worked with the future Colonel Pierre Paillole in gathering reliable information about the different resistance movements in the south and their positions with regard to the German and Italian occupying forces.

In the course of 1943 Dumont was given responsibility for the south-western region. At the beginning of 1944 he went to France and moved clandestinely amongst the resistance groups, preparing for their liaison with the 1st French Army which was commanded by General de Lattre de Tassigny. The Allied landing took place on 15 August.

Apart from the immediate task of defeating the Germans, Dumont had been given two main objectives. The one was to achieve as much independence as possible from the Americans, the other was to bring the different groups of the resistance into effective co-operation with the French army, which was itself immensely varied, consisting of former Vichy forces, Gaullists, French settlers and North Africans.

Dumont had to overcome the hostility that many of the Resistance felt towards an army of colonial troops commanded by Vichy officers, and liberating forces were sometimes shocked to be greeted with apathy. Dumont worked hard to overcome these difficulties and he was successful in creating a division made up of Resistance members. He took part in the liberation of several cities, including Pau, Tabes, Toulouse, Limoges and Poitiers.

Dumont came from eastern France, being born in Epinal, but after being a cadet at Saint Cyr he had always served with the Foreign Legion in Algeria and Morocco. In 1945, after his successes in southern France, he was sent as an intelligence officer to Germany with the task of tracing former German members of the Gestapo and of German intelligence, the Abwehr. This was work that had to be carried out in co-operation with the Allies, but once again Dumont was well-known for his distrust of the Americans.

In 1949 Dumont became chef de service of the Centre for Counter- Espionage in Paris. He later became Director for Research and Information in the French Special Services. Naturally, little is known of his particular work there, which was largely concerned with domestic aspects of the French positions in Indo-China and North Africa.

It was in the 1960s that the Special Services became involved in public controversy. There were problems concerning the mysterious Jacques Foccart who had special responsibilities for the Africa territories, but who saw de Gaulle very frequently and who gathered information about many individuals, often using mechanical techniques to overhear private conversations.

Rumours about Foccart, often exaggerated, circulated before he was denounced by a newspaper after 1968, and it was alleged that he had the support of the secret services. Equally the secret services were alleged to have co-operated with Moroccan agents who kidnapped Ben Barka, the Moroccan opposition leader, in 1966.

The French prime minister Georges Pompidou was very critical of these activities, especially in 1968 and 1969, when they contributed to the rumours concerning Madame Pompidou and her relations, via the film star Alain Delon, with supposed Communist agents. Pompidou was by then no longer prime minister, but when he was elected President of the Republic in 1969, he ordered, through his friend Alexandre de Marenches, a complete clean-out of these services.

Dumont had ceased to be officially in charge of the service from 1966, but he continued to work with them. It was a sign of his varied abilities that he proceeded from being an intelligence officer to being the administrator of the Paris theatre Le Gymnase, the theatre of Marie Bell (who had worked with him and Colonel Paullile). He was an active member of the Special Services Association.

Douglas Johnson