Obituary: Maurice Bourges-Maunory

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The Independent Online
Maurice Bourges-Maunory, politician and wartime resister, born Luisant Eure-et-Loire 19 August 1914, prime minister of France 1957, died 10 February 1993.

THE GRANDSON of a Marshal of France, Maurice Bourges- Maunory was one of the heroes of the Resistance and, briefly, the French prime minister.

Having been a prisoner of war he entered a famous group, Amicale Action, which had its headquarters in Paris in the Avenue Foch and worked closely with British Intelligence. In January 1943 he arrived in London via Spain, where he had spent three months. From London he was frequently parachuted into France and in August he became the military delegate for the southern zone of the Resistance, based at Lyons. His friend Jacques Chaban-Delmas was to give him his false identity papers but, in the train on his way to meet him, Chaban-Delmas was ordered by a German officer to get out at the next stop. Chaban entrusted the papers to an unknown old man in the same compartment. He never saw this man again but the papers were delivered safely. In September 1944 Bourges (best known in the Resistance as 'Polygone') was badly wounded and it was in hospital that de Gaulle decorated him and made him a Companion of the Liberation.

After the war he turned to politics, becoming deputy for the Haute Garonne. But, unlike many of his fellow radicals who had distinguished themselves in the Resistance and who were associated with de Gaulle, Bourges tended to remain one of the traditional politicians of the south-west. He become suspicious of de Gaulle and he collaborated willingly with the despised Fourth Republic. He was a minister on no less than 12 occasions, occupying a range of posts, including the Interior and Industry and he was on several occasions Minister for Defence.

He always claimed that he had hesitated before accepting a post in the government of Pierre Mendes-France, but he undertook, in consultation with General Koenig, to find a compromise concerning the disputed Defence Community Treaty. When the Assembly rejected the treaty he resigned and began to stress his European affiliations and his unease about the liquidation of the French empire. But he returned to the Mendes-France government in its dying days and in 1956, as Minister for Defence, he was responsible for the conduct of the war in Algeria and was a resolute supporter of the Suez expedition. He became Prime Minister from June to September 1957, when his main preoccupation was to isolate Algeria from the neighbouring states who were supporting the Nationalist rebels. But French politics were in a state of great confusion and his administration was always fragile.

'A country that does not have a foreign policy is a country that does not exist,' he said. But he voted against de Gaulle in 1958 and he lost his parliamentary seat. In 1960 he was one of the leaders of the partisans of French Algeria who swore that in all circumstances they would fight for the integration of Algeria into the Republic. But Algeria became independent, and, apart from the occasional gesture, Bourges then devoted his time to business. He was director of several large companies as well as having interests in a number of newspapers.

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