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Ernest Van Maurik, known to all simply as ‘Van’, joined the illustrious Artists Rifles regiment in the Territorial Army in 1936, but when war broke out he was commissioned into the Wiltshire Regiment. In the summer of 1940 the regiment was posted at Folkstone to defend the South Coast in the event of an invasion, during which time he undertook a course at Hythe Small Arms School and found himself involved with the SOE, the Special Operations Executive.
This led to him to Scotland, first to the Commando Training School at Lochailort and then to Arisaig, where he became responsible for helping organise resistance to the Nazi regime in occupied countries. This involved the training of prospective agents in small arms, demolition and other special forces activities. At this time, he helped train a number of Czech soldiers who went on to participate in Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich in Prague.
Van was then transferred to the SOE’s headquarters in Baker Street, London. There he was to work for notable figures such as Maurice Buckmaster and General Colin Gubbins. He also got to know a number of individuals who were to become famous agents, people such as Peter Churchill, Odette and Yeo-Thomas (‘The White Rabbit’). His main work was to get agents both in and out of Occupied France – but then it was his turn to go into the field.
Van was initially sent to Malta to help with the dropping of agents into Yugoslavia. His next mission was to Switzerland – via Occupied France – to assist SOE agents in France and also deal with couriers from F Section SOE who used Switzerland as a channel for communicating with London.
After many adventures, Van reached Switzerland where he carried out his task until the end of the war in Europe. He then was involved in assisting the investigation into the fate of the many SOE agents who had been captured by the Germans and were still missing.
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