Benjamin ‘Ben’ Cowburn French Section SOE

SOE agent Benjamin ‘Ben’ Cowburn.

Ben Cowburn was born in Lancashire on 3 March 1909 and at the age of 8 moved with his British parents to Paris and was educated at a British school in Boulogne-sure-Sein. Shortly after marrying a French woman Cowburn studied electrical engineering and after graduating worked for the American company Foster Wheeler which was building oil refineries throughout France. Apart from his language and cultural skills SOE was interested in his extensive knowledge of the French oil industry and Cowburn became one of the first students to train at Wanborough Manor in 1941 before completing four missions to France and after the war was awarded the Military Cross and Bar and the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by France but like many agents, he tended to downplay his war service and bravery whilst talking about the bravery of others.

Benjamin Hodkinson Cowburn died on 17 December 1994 aged 85 in Boulogne-Billancourt, France.

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

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