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Marcus Bloom

(1907 - 1944)


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Early Life

Marcus Reginald  Bloom was born in Tottenham, North London, on 24th September 1907, into an orthodox Jewish home, [2] the second of  four  brothers (Alex, Marcus, Bernard and Jenice) [3]. He was the son of Harry Pizer (Percy)  Bloom, born in East London in 1882, of poor Polish Jewish immigrants, and Anna Sadie Davidoff, born in Russia around 1882 and brought to England the same year. Anna’s family were small shopkeepers also in the East End and soon Anna and Harry met and were married in the early 1900’s. The newlyweds moved from a Brick Lane “over the shop address” and  rented a house in Tottenham where Alex and then Marcus were  born. From a very young age, Harry (who died in 1949 – Anna died in 1946) had been a successful small businessman so when the Zeppelin raids hit the East End during World War 1, Harry had by then earned enough to move his family away to the safety of Hove (in Sussex) at  13, Medina Villas  [4]where the family lived until 1929. As a young man , and after attending Cranford College in Maidenhead and later, Hove High School, Marcus often helped out working at his father’s cinema in Wandsworth [5], South  London, their  mail order textile firm, or in their restaurant business in Hove. Just before the Second World War, when his parents separated, and the family – now  quite well-off - were living in various hotels around London, Marcus moved to Paris.

 Bernard  Bloom describes his brother Marcus as having a great sense of humour and a love of good food and the cinema. He was by far the most adventurous of the brothers and it was thus he whom their father sent to Paris in the 1930’s to run the mail order business (called “Sterling Textiles”) . He took an office in the Boulevard Haussman  and learnt French. He employed Baron Michel de Tavenau as his manager  and it was he who taught Marcus how to ride, play polo and shoot. As the business prospered, Marcus took an expensively furnished apartment in Clichy. His life changed and he mixed with the wealthy French minor aristocracy. He owned a white Arab pony called Rajah, a Great Dane dog called Sphinx  and a pale blue convertible Delage car which he drove  wearing a white flying helmet! With his girl friend Germaine Fevrier (who was from Village du Tot,  Barneville-sur-Mer  in Manche, Normandy) , he and the Baron were often seen at race meetings. He was always generous to his friends in France and England and adored his mother for whom he always bought expensive gifts. However after 5 years the firm closed following a court case in England when  the “News of the World” newspaper questioned the morality of mailorder as a means of selling to the public.   

Marcus  returned to London and  married Germaine in March 1938 in St Marylebone Registry office, and they took a flat in North West London. However, Germaine was unhappy in England and went back and forth to France , where she happened to be and was trapped when the Maginot Line collapsed before the German Blitzkrieg in 1940.

SOE

Marcus had originally volunteered within 48 hours of the outbreak of war on Sept 3rd 1939 and he was  interviewed at Clapham Junction recruiting office by a Staff Sergeant. Marcus told him he spoke fluent French and wished to use it in the service of his country. Three weeks later he was summoned to the War Office with  Bernard accompanying  him. He was interviewed by a Major - but turned down! They had not tested his French or knowledge of France and only asked about his religion, job and the birth place of his parents. They then said that as his mother had not been born in England he could not be recruited for the use of his French, and hence the rejection. Angry but undeterred, in mid 1941 Marcus enlisted as a private in the Royal Artillery and by December 1941 was an officer  [6]! However he was soon summoned to SOE offices at Norgeby House  in Baker Street . Met by Vera Atkins (the formidable PA to Col. Maurice Buckmaster, the leader of the French Section of SOE [7] )  he was brought before the Colonel who – to Marcus’ surprise - was wearing a casual sports jacket and trousers!

Marcus’ file was lying unopened on Buckmaster’s desk (he had given shooting and riding as his hobbies!); he stared for a few moments at Marcus and then said, “Tell me fully what you were doing in France for five years” [8]. Marcus explained in detail and the interview continued half in French, half in English; Marcus said he knew Paris and La Manche well and had travelled on business all over Europe; that he was “willing to undertake special duties”; when finally Buckmaster  said, “………..I must tell you that the people who work for us  are taking on a dangerous job …..and it is not for the faint hearted. You should now return to your unit  and in the meantime I will consider whether we can use you . If you have second thoughts about it please advise your Commanding Officer”.

Three weeks later Marcus was summoned again to see Buckmaster, who was this time in uniform. “Since I have not heard from your CO, I must assume you still wish to join our organisation”. Marcus said he did. “I have decided that you are suitable material……..you must not discuss your activities with anyone. All your work will be top secret”. The Colonel stood up and in a complete change of tone, put out his hand to Marcus and said, “ Welcome to the Firm. I wish you every success in your training ……….” [9].

Marcus was formally accepted into SOE  F (French) Section on February 24th 1942  [10] and was sent to Scotland for his initial assault course training, which must have been particularly hard  for a man of his age (he was then 35 years old). With balding red hair and moustache, hazel eyes and standing  5’ 8”, an excerpt from his Paramilitary Training Report at Arisaig  (see appendix 1) by his instructor says, “Hardly the build for hard work on the hills, but always gets there with a smile on his face although completely done in. He has plenty of  ‘guts’ and is an extremely able man. He  has a very sound knowledge on all branches of the training , and has done exceptionally well  [11] ”.  The Commandant’s report  (dated May 15th and 17th 1942) went on to say , “MICHEL [12] has done very well indeed. His willingness to try anything has been an excellent example to the others. Possessed of a keen sense of humour, he has been the life and soul of the party. He is a very nice fellow who has plenty of intelligence and ‘guts’ . Company seems to stimulate him to greater efforts , so he should work very well with others. Seems very English “ [13]. Opposed to this is a nasty quote in the book by Sarah Helm [14] where “Roger de Wesselow, head of an F Section Training School, in an official training report, makes the anti-Semitic remark that “physical effort seems to come hard to this pink yid’ “  [15] adding that Bloom “keeps under his shell the usual racial nimbleness”. In the same report , a Lt R F Turner describes Marcus as “slightly Jewish in his outlook and appearance” . What this can mean , readers can only judge for themselves! Thus the racism of the officer class at that time.

Marcus then continued to Wanborugh Manor in Surrey to train as a wireless operator in morse code, decoding and repairs of equipment.  After this he was sent to Ringway near Manchester for parachute training and was then recalled by Buckmaster, who told him he was needed in the field urgently. What he did not say was that SOE were losing WO’s at an alarming rate.

“Urbain”

Marcus was given a short leave; his mother was no fool and realised there was some French connection and that this meant dangerous work somewhere behind enemy lines. He consoled her with the fact that there were plenty of escape routes  if things went wrong  [16]. Back at Baker Street he was given the code name "Urbain" [17] and  like all agents, a fictitious new background. Dressed in authentic all-French clothes and  personal items, with his false papers in the name of Michel Boileau  or Blount [18], money and briefcase wireless set, he was embarked on a troop ship – much to his surprise – to Gibraltar in August 1942. There he was joined by another SOE agent . It was from here he sent a telegram to his brother Bernard,  who was in a military hospital in Ranchi, India, saying, “Many Happy returns of the day, get well soon, I salute you. Marcus”. This in fact was the last time Bernard Bloom ever heard from his brother.

 According to Bernard Bloom’s research, one morning some weeks later (probably about 18th/19th October), Marcus was warned to prepare himself and that night was put aboard a naval motor torpedo boat with his colleague, and taken in darkness to a submarine lying offshore, which they boarded. Travelling all night, the submarine surfaced in the early dark  morning and Marcus and his colleague, with the Captain and two sailors, went onto the conning tower. Then they launched a small rubber dinghy tied to the submarine and peered out to the nearby, dim coastline. Suddenly, from slightly inland, a light flashed the code letter “Q”,  the arranged signal, and the two agents and two sailors embarked on the dinghy and rowed towards the shore.

There is, however, a different official version of this. Richards  [19] says  that Marcus was inserted after an eight day journey by the Polish SOE felucca “Seadog” , commanded by Capt. Buchowski in operation Watchman III, Overgrow and Dubonnet [20] on the night of Nov. 3/4th 1942 at Port Miou near Cassis in southern France [21]. With him were SOE agents Lt. Col. George Starr (DSO, MC), Mary Herbert, Mme. M T Le Chene and the famous Odette Sansom, GC.   

Into France

Whatever the truth, on reaching the beach near Cassis, two men appeared from behind a hut and told the  SOE agents  to follow them.  According to Tickell [22] the reception party was headed by Resistance leader  Marsac,  of  the nearby Marseilles Group. After a night in  a safe house nearby, they continued their journey next day by train to Toulouse, where the other agents left Marcus for  different assignments. Marcus was to work with the Resistance Circuit named “Pimento”.

M R D Foot (SOE’s official historian) describes Marcus’ arrival less flatteringly [23]. He alleges that Marcus arrived at Toulouse railway station wearing a conspicuous, loud check coat and smoking a pipe He  made contact correctly in a warehouse – as arranged -  with his control, Tony Brooks  [24].  When they met, Marcus held out his hand and with a broad grin and in his cockney voice allegedly said,  “Ow are yer mate?”.  Brooks thought this a breach of security – using English in a place where informers may be listening. In addition, Marcus had already spent 24 hours in Toulouse chatting in the flat of  Maurice  Pertschuk  (he and Pertschuck  - another Jewish agent - had trained together in England [25] ) and in fact had allegedly – against all security rules – made this rendezvous  arrangement  in England before they left for France! As a result, Brooks passed Marcus on to Pertschuck, whose WO and second in command of Circuit, he then became (see below). However, Foot gives his source (in a footnote) for this information as “private” and there is no way this can ever now be confirmed or denied, therefore – especially as Marcus and Pertschuck did not survive to respond to the truth or otherwise of  this anecdote.

Opposed to this view is that of French SOE agent Robert Martin, in his debrief in London, who described Marcus as “willing and courageous if temperamental, and anxious to do more important work than being a W/O” [26] .

Be that as it may, in the following months and beginning January 8th

1943  [27],  Marcus worked very successfully and sent and received many messages to and from London (estimated at over fifty), having to keep constantly on the move to avoid the German radio detection vans. Marcus also assisted in sending and receiving messages for Starr in Circuit Wheelwright  [28]One favourite ploy was to sit on a river bank pretending to fish whilst  using the rod as an aerial!  Another fellow agent described how Marcus also transmitted  in open country using a long forked pole to tap the current from overhead cables. Although cars were often stopped by the Germans and  Vichy French, and searched for black market goods, Marcus persisted bravely in using his “permis de circular” in the service of the Resistance group he worked in  [29] . He also organised receipt of four  drops of stores for his Circuit [30] which included much arms and explosives  for the Resistance [31] as well as assisting RAF evaders to get to Spain on at least one occasion [32].  Marcus also assisted in carrying out repeated acts of sabotage on telecommunications and railways  [33] . In late Spring, Pertschuck had to visit Marcus to repair his radio for him. Occasionally, Germaine would  also visit Marcus from Normandy.

Marcus, now working comfortably in Circuit “Prunus” with Pertschuk, [34]  received instruction from London to plan to destroy the Toulouse Powder (explosives) factory that Pertschuk had been investigating. For this work, Marcus was Mentioned in Despatches.

Betrayal

Marcus was hiding out at the Chateau d’Equerre at Fonsorbs with the Vicomte d’Aligny , when  at dawn one day in April 1943 (certainly before April 15th) [35] , the villa hideout of Marcus and his comrades [36] was betrayed and surrounded by SS troops. Although escape was attempted, they were all captured. In fact Marcus and a Spanish member of his group , Robert, ran into  the surrounding wood, handcuffed together, firing pistols at the pursuing Germans, and made it  an astonishing 14 kms. away to a local Gendamerie  [37]  having crossed a river 7 times to throw the Germans off their trail; but Robert became exhausted and suggested going to the French police at Murray (near Toulouse) where the Capitaine was a known Gaullist. Arriving at 5a.m., however, a different officer ( a Brigadier) said he would fetch the Capitaine. But he disappeared and instead the Gestapo arrived. One story is that the French police gave them away at their hideout, another that it was a local SOE double agent; nobody really knows to this day. According to Foot it may have been the Franco-German double agent Roger Bardet, known as “Le  Boiteau”.

(On July 17th  1945, after the war, a British Intelligence Captain Hazeldene interviewed a M. Colle at 27 Rue Lepic in Paris. Colle had shared a cell with Marcus at Fresnes, between March 23rd and May 25th 1944 and told the story that Marcus related to him. In fact, Marcus had been arrested at the Chateau at 10pm on the night of April 13th 1943 by the Gestapo; he substantiated the rest of the story of Marcus’s capture).

Later that day Marcus was seen, his face covered in blood, being escorted to the military prison in Toulouse [38].

 Foot argues that,  again defying security training, Marcus and Pertschuck had previously held a meeting at a black market restaurant where all seven leaders of “Prunus” were sat at a single table, chattering in English over dinner.

Foot’s assertion  that security among “Prunus” agents was lax, was challenged after the war (according to Bernard Bloom) and some SOE agents successfully sued  Foot for giving a misleading picture in his book; Marcus, of course, was dead and so could not speak out.

The SD (Sicherheitsdienst – or  Nazi party Security Service) had arrested Marcus and found among his belongings a photo in British uniform of Pertschuck; somehow this had escaped security detection in England before he was inserted into France. This was disastrous as it not only blew Pertschuck’s cover but the Germans could use it against other captured agents who knew Pertschuck. It could even be used to suggest that the Germans had a spy in Baker Street – also useful to get captured agents to confess! 

Josef Goetz, the SD Section IV Paris wireless expert, was sent immediately to Toulouse to try to “play” Bloom’s captured  wireless and codes to the British (ie pretend he was Bloom). But Bloom behaved impeccably  and gave no information to his torturers (see below). The British thus knew at once from Goetz’s faulty messages that Marcus had been captured.  Goetz did not know Marcus’ security check and Baker Street sent one particular set of messages asking Marcus to meet them at “the Green pub” that only Marcus would know about (in fact it was the Manchester Arms in Baker Street itself, frequented by SOE  personnel when at HQ). Goetz’s  puzzled replies to this request  showed clearly that he was controlling the wireless and not Marcus [39]  [40].

Taken to Paris, Marcus was imprisoned at the notorious Fresnes prison in the suburbs of the French capital, a building that was host to many SOE agents during the “silent war”. In his cell were two French Resistance workers, one Spanish passeur and a third Frenchman who was railway controller at Montparnasse and named Leopold Turcan; he was accused of passing information on railway movement to the Allies  [41]. All of them were demoralised and unkempt but Marcus struck up a friendship with Turcan who like Marcus, knew Paris well.

Interrogation

Next day Marcus was taken in manacles to that other notorious location in occupied France, the Gestapo HQ in Avenue Foch, central Paris - where he was questioned about his Resistance Circuit, codes and comrades as well his superiors in London. He refused to say anything but his name, rank and number. He was then marched down a corridor to another room  and shoved violently inside. He was pushed into a chair in the middle of the room by two men in suits. One man stood in front of him  and again Marcus refused to answer questions, upon which he was struck fiercely in the face by  the back of the Gestapo man’s hand. Again he refused to answer questions and so the second man came from behind and pointed a revolver at Marcus’ temple. Yet again he refused to answer and he was struck on the head by the butt of the gun. He fell  to the floor, blood running down his face, as one of the men kicked him. The interrogators left the room and another guard helped Marcus up and he was driven back to Fresnes.

At one point it was rumoured by a sympathetic member of the French Surete, that Marcus had been executed in Fresnes in July 1943, a rumour which proved untrue  [42].

In the cell, Turcan bathed Marcus’ wounds with water and he slowly recovered , helped by his anger at those who had beat him, but got nothing out of him. To keep up morale, Marcus persuaded the others to keep clean, exercise, wash their clothes, shave and have daily discussions. Through his strength of character, he welded their resolve to resist.

Marcus’ brother Bernard met Turcan many times after the war and he testified to the way in which Marcus had helped him stay alive. He too was taken and beaten at Avenue Foch, and in return Marcus nursed him back to health. When Germaine heard he had been caught and was in Fresnes, she moved to Paris and had food parcels smuggled into him – at great risk to herself – which he always shared with his cell mates.

On a second occasion, Marcus was taken to Avenue Foch and severely beaten about his body; again he said nothing . Much of the time at Fresnes he spent talking to Turcan about his work before he was captured. He also resolved to escape by trying to convince the Germans that if they moved him to a camp, he would be more co-operative; his idea was that whilst in transit he would find it easier to make his getaway, than from a high security prison like Fresnes. Turcan advised against this but eventually, Marcus succeeded and bid farewell to his fellow prisoners [43].

Mauthausen

Bernard Bloom has been unable to find any information about the next fifteen months of Marcus’ imprisonment in Germany. However, the author discovered the personal archive at the Imperial War Museum of the late Vera Atkins [44] .  It reveals that her immediate postwar research and interviews with German war criminals and eye witnesses in many camps  and prisons over a long period of time [45], showed that  Marcus had arrived at Mauthausen from a fortress style camp called Ravitch (Ravitsch) on the  Polish /Silesia border , north east of Breslau (now Wroclaw), sometime in August 1944. This was  owing to the rapid Soviet advances, and they were marched west by the Germans towards Dresden, then  taken to Gusen  [46], a satellite camp of Mauthausen, near Linz  in Austria [47]. At Gusen  Marcus either met other Dutch and  British SOE agents and even one American (see below) there, or they all had come from Ravitsch together. In any case they formed a cohesive group and always kept themselves separate and well fed as far as they could. They were much admired by the other prisoners.

Another letter in the VA file is written by a Capt. Rousset (French agent “Leopold”) who was a POW too, dated 14th Sept. 1945. He had been at fresnes for 3 months with Marcus. He says he had been at Ravitsch from April 18th 1944 and he saw the Allied SOE prisoners dressed in blue  prison uniform, with a white triangle marked with “I” on the back, and that they were all kept together in the same wing of the Camp .  It appears Marcus arrived there in May 1944 [48] .

On July 30th 1944, following the aborted attempt on Hitler’s life , orders reached various Nazi camp commanders from General Keitel on Aug. 18th  ,  that terrorists and saboteurs should be severely dealt with. Marcus and his comrades realised that this was a death sentence for them.

On September 2nd  1944 the group were taken by  lorry from Gusen, through the village of Mauthausen and up the hill to a dark, granite fortress which was the notorious Death and Labour Camp. In front of two high double gates, a guard telephoned and then the gates slowly opened as they drove them into a large cobbled courtyard. To the left stood the main prison wall, to the right were arches each with green double doors. Ahead was a house with a long stone balcony and in front stood the SS Commandant of the camp, looking at them. Some archway doors were opened and the men were shoved through these. In the camp records it is recorded in section 16 “…..arrivals Sept. 2nd    ………47 Allied soldiers;39 Dutch;7 Britons;1 USA….”.

The archway cavern in which these 47 SOE men were placed  was usually a transport depot, cold and dank. There was no food that night and only thin gruel and black bread the next day. On the third afternoon, each man was ordered to open his shirt and numbers from one to forty seven were painted on their chests. This was the order in which they were to be shot.

The end

September 6th was warm and sunny. The doors were thrown open and the men were ordered outside to form up in twos facing the Commandant’s house in the courtyard. Witnesses  believe Marcus was number three though a list in the Atkins archive shows him as number 29 with a prison number 96529.

From the courtyard it appears the men were taken to the right up some steps but instead of going into the main camp, they were turned, heavily guarded,  down a narrow path (away from the prison)  that was partly earth and partly covered in irregularly laid stone slabs. Eventually they came to a vast, deep granite quarry, with a sheer drop from the path they were walking. A bluff jutted out into a platform feature overlooking the quarry which the Germans called “The Jew Jump”. Here many Jews were pushed to their deaths. The prisoners were marched to the notorious  180 step staircase leading down into the quarry, built of uneven granite slabs and difficult to negotiate. Looking down they could see that the rest of the emaciated camp inmates had been assembled below and were peering up at them. The SOE men scrambled down the steps; they were in better condition than the other prisoners. They were then lined up with their backs to the quarry wall. Armed SS and a mounted machine gun faced them.

Then an SS officer moved forward and screamed at the first man (a Dutchman) in English , “You vill go over there and pick up a big stone and put it on your shoulder . You then run up the stairs”. The Dutchman stared to move , pushed by a guard. He put a heavy rock on his shoulder as the officer yelled, “Schnell! Schnell!” . The Dutchman started to climb the stairs, the armed guard behind him. After about 14 steps, the officer  shouted , “Feuer!” ; the guard shot and the Dutchman fell dead. This horrific charade was meant to comply with Keitel’s order that the SOE men were to be shot trying to escape.

The second man was murdered in the same way and then Marcus came forward. He ran up the steps with a rock but suddenly turned and threw his rock at the guard striking him fully in the chest; he fell tumbling to the bottom of the steps. Marcus then made a  defiant run for it up the stairway of death, but the machine gun cut him down [49].

It took two days to shoot the whole group. It was witnessed by hundreds of prisoners. They never forgot the courage of  Marcus Bloom and his comrades.

However,  Atkins’ archive contains a till now unknown letter from Prof Karel Neuwirt of 11 Zborovska Mor. Otsrava, Czechoslovakia, to Mr Vaclav Pistora of Prague 1, c. 194,  dated December 19th 1945. It gives a slightly different version of events and says he witnessed the Allied soldiers being dragged into the camp by Chief of SS Obersturmfuhrer Schulz  (Kommandant Ziereis was in overall command, however). They were wearing their Army uniforms still  (contradicting Rousset, above) and they then had their heads crudely shaven with blunt razors. Then a particularly brutal “blockfuehrer” called Farkas (a German Slovak from Bratislava) was called to march the men away towards the infamous quarry. It was then allegedly the SS Hauptscharfuehrer  Spatzenger and Kapo Paul Beck who murdered the first group of prisoners that afternoon of Sept. 6th. The rest were taken the next morning. Neuwirt also named SS Oberscharfuehrers Karl Schulz,  Werner Fassel and Prellberg and SS men Diehl, Klerner  and  Roth, as well as Hauptscharfuehrer Wilhelm Muller (Chief of the Crematorium) as particular participants in the war crime. Neuwirt went on to name another surviving witness as Casimir Clement of 11, Ave. Marceau, Solidarite Catalene, 16e, Paris. 

Another letter  [50] dated December 12th 1945 is addressed to Lt. Commander Pat O’Leary at 4, Rue de Valois Paris,  1er – a very famous and highly decorated member of SOE who was also at Mauthausen. This was sent from Victor Pistora (almost certainly the Vaclav Pistora mentioned above) , another eye witness to the executions. His testimony adds  that the SOE men arrived at 1pm  that fateful  September day,  but that they were also given a shower and then changed into prison garb and had a number inscribed on their chests in indelible pencil. They were registered by a prisoner clerk Czech friend  of Pistora, a Mr P Dobias. The first 21 were murdered that afternoon. At about 5pm the remaining 27 were returned under heavy SS armed guard, carrying the bodies of their comrades on carts  and into the main camp where the others spent the night. The following day the surviving group  too were marched to the quarry and were all machine gunned at about 7.30 am. He ends his letter by stating that Prof Neuwirt was his good friend and as a clerk knew all the men and their home addresses.

There are also two more documents in the VA files dated June 6th 1945, from AMX (American Intelligence)  to Vera Atkins at Field Intelligence in the British Occupation Zone of Germany. One lists the 47 names of the men “shot whilst trying to escape” and was obtained from a captured German Corporal who witnessed the killings and was in US custody.  Remarkably it contains the name of  Capt. Isidore Newman , MBE (mistakenly named as Mattheo or Matthieu  Newman and corrected in her own  hand by Vera Atkins) code name “Julian”, another famous Jewish SOE agent; it is amazing that this study should reveal for the first time that they both died together at Mathausen [51].

 The second document is a follow up to the first and states that “Josef Pelzer, a German Kapo of  the Strafkompanie at Mauthausen  witnessed the executions and named specifically SS man Gockel (a German) and Kisch (a Yugoslav) as the murderers”. Strangely, in his death bed confession on May 24th 1945 after being fatally wounded in a fire fight with American troops, Kommandant Zereis never mentioned the murders of the Allied SOE men in his camp, even though he detailed many other atrocities of which he was guilty .  

After

The parents and wife of Marcus were notified of his death soon after the war [52]. A Colonel Ravensdale had written to Germaine that the only effects  left in the War Offices’s care were Marcus’s  wedding ring, which he sent to her together with his MiD Oak Leaf and Citation. Marcus’s estate had come to  £521-8s-10d  (£521-45p) which was to be shared between her and his brothers. But Germaine was destitute and she explained to the WO that she had borrowed 40,000 francs from friends to supply Marcus with food and clothes when he was in prison at Fresnes and spent a further 10,000 francs of her own. The British Government soon agreed to pay this back to her. In a letter of 3rd September 1946, she also complained to Col Ravensdale at the WO,  that 2 expensive shooting guns owned by her and Marcus had been left in the care of Marcus’s Regiment and she wanted them returned to her; and her parents in law were not being very helpful in giving her some of Marcus’s possessions to keep. She especially asked about the guns to be a reminder “of the many happoy hours spent with my husband”. But they had disappeared.

Remembered

So ended the life of a brave man.

Marcus is remembered at the Brookwood memorial, in Surrey,  to SOE agents with no known grave, Panel 21, Column 3:  at the SOE French Section Memorial at Valency near Paris; on a plaque  on his mother’s grave at Edmonton Federation Synagogue cemetery, Montague Road (London) in  Block X, Row 10, grave 33  [53]; on the War memorial of the St John’s Wood Synagogue in Grove End Road (formerly in Abbey Road) ; and of course on a memorial at Mauthausen camp itself [54] together with that of Isidore Newman. Marcus’ family also erected a private  obelisk memorial at Mauthausen, inscribed with his name soon after the war.

An F Section Summary (PRO HS9/166/7) says, “ The risk of sending to the Field this officer with his imperfect French and his Anglo-Saxon Jewish appearance , was only justified by an extreme penury of WT operators. He was very courageous and fought to the finish….it is clear he did a good job for many months”.

Describing Marcus’s SOE career, Buckmaster’s citation for the MiD included , “ For his courage and devotion to duty during his clandestine mission to France, it is recommended that Lt. Bloom be Mentioned in Despatches”  [55].

But perhaps the most moving tribute to him was written in an unsigned  testimonial report in French from his comrades in Circuit Prunus, written on May 1st 1945  [56]. “ Designated as a radio controller for the Pimento Circuit, and to train circuit members in the use of the “S” phone, Marcus was sent on to work for Prunus. Due to technical difficulties, he was unable to transmit for some five months, but he passed his time usefully helping with the accumulation of important stocks of munitions, and in several acts of sabotage, notably the destruction of an enemy train around January 1943. He made important contacts with local postal workers which later allowed us to carry out important jobs. He began transmitting in March 1943 and sent and received many important messages until his arrest in April 1943. He was probably denounced by one of his contacts and sent to Fresnes, where he was kept until March 1944. In spite of his accent and British appearance, he never hesitated to accept dangerous missions. When he was ordered to do the demanding job of radio controller, he accepted this despite the fact he knew full well that he was not particularly well qualified for it. His great courage and  composure always hugely inspired all those who knew him. We mourn the loss of this congenial  and courageous  officer. He fought a gun battle with the Gestapo, although heavily outnumbered, until running out of ammunition, killing several of them. He is remembered here by us all with enormous respect” [57]  .

Acknowledgements

I would like to sincerely thank Bernard Bloom, brother of “Urbain”, without whose wholehearted support this article could not have been written. It was Gerry Bean of AJEX whose superb survey of Jewish service in World War Two first put me in contact with Bernard whose own very distinguished war service in North Africa, Burma, the Middle East and Italy is in itself an amazing story too, albeit of survival of course.

The staff of the Imperial War Museum  Reading Room were also as usual extremely helpful, as was Mark Seaman – an SOE expert - of the Government Cabinet Office. The Readers Advisers and Librarians at the Public Record Office/ National Archives were also of great assistance. I would also like to thank Gill Bennett, Chief Historian of the Records and Historical Department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Whitehall; Louise Pilley of Brighton and Hove Sixth Form College;  Hadira Elkadi for her French translation skills; Philip Bye of the East Sussex Records Office; and Capt. Ms.Decia Stephenson of the F.A.N.Y Records Office, Chelsea Barracks.

 Appendix 1

Marcus’s Paramilitary report from Majors watt and Bush at Arisaig (Scotland) on May 15th 1942,  stated his physical training had  improved greatly despite his size, but rope, fieldcraft  and close combat work were not too good (“Cannot imagine him really getting tough with anyone”). However, with weapons, explosives and signalling, he was very good, as was report writing, mapwork, tactics, boatwork and navigation

On a 2 day course at Loughborough (21-22nd Aug 1942) , training Sgts Stebbing-Allen and Fox reported to Capt. Angelo and Hilton and Major Lee, that Marcus had done remarkable work with complete mastery; painstaking and intelligent. He had passed all the tests in Making Initial Contacts (“natural manner, remembering the password in a crowded cafe”), Following Suspects (“did not lose his man, good use of cover”), Boites Aux Lettres (“finding and retrieving messages, hiding messages”), Message Passing ( “did not arouse suspicion in a crowded café”), Verbal Messages (“passed perfectly despite distracting deliberate interruptions”), Cover Conversations (“perfectly arranged before questioning with another student”), Interrogation (“had a false life history and documents all convincingly carried out”), Security (“discreet, always hiding his wireless and papers and keeping door locked”)


[1]  E. Cookridge claims Marcus also had the code name “Jack” (“Inside SOE”, A Barker 1966, p. 632).

[2] Telephone interview with brother Bernard  Bloom in June 2002

[3] Much of the material on Marcus’s early  life is taken from his brother’s autobiography “Soon or Late”, Bernard Bloom, 1994, published privately and donated to  the Museum.

[4] Sussex Directory 1899-1938; thanks to Philip Bye, Senior Archivist East Sussex Records Office, Lewes

[5] Super Shows Ltd., 32 York Road, Battersea

[6] Marcus’ AJEX Jewish Chaplain card (there are 60,000 of them from WW2 stored at the AJEX Museum) states that his number  was 1113627 and he attended the 124  OCTU at Llandrindod Wells. He was commissioned 2nd Lt. 26/5/42 and 1st Lt. 6/10/42 – PRO HS9/166/7

[7] See “Daughters of Yael – Two Jewish Heroines of the SOE” , Martin Sugarman, Bulletin of the Military History Society, Feb. 2000, p.127-145; also in Jewish Historical Studies Vol. XXXV p 309-28 1996-1998; also The Military Advisor, J Bender Publishing, California, 2002. This article gives fuller details of SOE training etc.

[8] “Soon or Late” pp 235 onwards

[9] The Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry for Marcus lists him at Lt., No. 236314.

[10] Bloom’s personal SOE file at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)

[11] FCO

[12] His Training name

[13] FCO

[14] “A life in Secrets – the story of Vera Atkins”  Little,Brown, London  2005, page 286

[15] PRO HS9/166/7

[16] PRO HS6/472 – a document shows he was given  the address of the British Consul  at 35, Passeo de Gracia, Barcelona , if ever he had to escape to Spain!

[17] There is some confusion over this name as M R D Foot (page 219 see below) also uses another code name, “Bishop” – but it is not clear whether this is the name of a local Resistance Circuit, or agent code name,  or his transmitter code name (see also PRO HS6/422) .

[18] PRO HS6/423 and HS9/166/7 – he also used the agent name Henri Duval

[19]   “Secret Flotillas”, B Richards, HMSO 1996 p. 570

[20]  as above page 677

[21]  The FCO file says Nov 8th

[22] J Tickell, “Odette”, Chapman & Hall 1949, page 154

[23]  M R D Foot, “SOE in France”, HMSO 1966 pp. 274-5

[24]  Major Anthony M. Brooks MC, aka “Alphonse”

[25]   Foot page 219

[26]  PRO HS6/423

[27] His original wireless set did not work and hence the delay until it was repaired  (PRO HS6/422)

[28] Records of the F.A.N.Y at Chelsea Barracks, London; thanks to Capt. Ms. Decia Stephenson

[29] PRO HS6/423

[30] Foot page 274

[31] PRO HS6/422

[32] PRO HS6/422

[33] F.A.N.Y Records above

[34] Lt. Maurice Pertschuk, MBE (code name Martin Perkins, Gerard, Martial and Eugene), worked with Odette Churchill, GC and Peter Churchill, famous SOE agents. Pertschuk was betrayed and sent to Buchenwald where he was hanged  on 29th March 1945, hours before the American Liberation of the camp. Born in France, Maurice was brought up in England. A younger brother of his was also in the  SOE

[35] The exact date is thought to be April 12th which was the date of his last message to London (PRO HS6/422)

[36] PRO HS6/423

[37] Evidence from Agent Portier 28/11/43 in HS9/166/7

[38] PRO HS6/423

[39] PRO HS6/422 – there is long correspondence about this matter in the file before Baker Street decided Marcus must have been captured.

[40] In one report (in PRO HS6/422) one SOE officer at HQ criticises the fact that Marcus had been sent into the Field without a “slip in” phrase ie to indicate that he was compromised ; one example is “Tell the parents I am OK” which in fact would mean “I am not OK”

[41] Turcan is mentioned in G Martelli’s “Agent Extraordinary”, Collins, London, 1960 pp. 78 and 191

[42] PRO HS9/166/7

[43] It was from personal testimony from Turcan that Bernard Bloom learnt of Marcus’ experiences in SOE before he was captured and of course his witness testimony to events at Fresnes.

[44] VA files, Dept. of Documents, IWM Box 1, Mauthausen folder.

[45]  See note 4 above

[46] For detail on this camp see PRO HS6/630

[47] There were three camps at Gusen, and these were but three of  48 sub-camps! (Mauthausen Museum booklet, page 5, 1970).

[48] WO 311/607 at PRO

[49] The eyewitness accounts of Marcus’ time at Mauthausen and the manner of his death were given as personal testimony to Bernard Bloom by Yugoslav prisoners who survived and who met Bernard at two camp post-war commemoration events at Mauthausen.

[50] VA files

[51]  Newman was a graduate in French of Newcastle University, and after joining the Royal Signals was recruited by SOE. He was  also WO to the famous Odette and  Capt. Peter Churchill. He was betrayed in Normandy just before D Day on his second drop into France.

[52] The address had been at 9 Brownlow Court, Lyttleton/Littleton Rd., East Finchley, N2

[53] As SOE “did not officially exist” and was not widely known of till the 1950’s, the 1946 inscription says Marcus was in British Intelligence. This inscription is in itself  probably unique in a  British Jewish cemetery.

[54] Photograph in Henry Morris’s book “We Will  Remember Them”, Brassey 1989, page 24. At the PRO, document FO 120/1185 contains a letter showing that Alexander, Bernard and Jenice Bloom were co-Chairs of the British Mauthausen Memorial Committee.

[55] HS9/166/7

[56] HS9/166/7

[57] FCO file


Sources: Martin Sugerman, Reprinted with Permission (Archivist, British Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women – AJEX - Jewish Military Museum, London)

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