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Michael Richard Daniell Foot
Born (1919-12-14)14 December 1919
Died 18 February 2012(2012-02-18) (aged 92)

Michael Richard Daniell Foot, CBE, TD (14 December 1919 – 18 February 2012) — known as M. R. D. Foot — was a British military historian and former British Army intelligence officer and special operations operative during World War II.


The son of a career soldier, Foot was educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, where he became involved romantically with Iris Murdoch. He joined the British Army on the outbreak of World War II and was commissioned into a Royal Engineers searchlight battalion. In 1941 searchlight units transferred to the Royal Artillery. By 1942, he was serving at Combined Operations Headquarters, but wanting to see action he joined the SAS as an intelligence officer and was parachuted into France after D-Day. He was for a time a prisoner of war, and was severely injured during one of his attempts to escape. For his service with the French Resistance he was twice mentioned in despatches and awarded the Croix de Guerre. He ended the war as a major. After the war he remained in the Territorial Army, transferring to the Intelligence Corps in 1950.

After the war Foot taught at Oxford University for eight years before becoming Professor of Modern History at Manchester University. His experiences during the war gave him a lifelong interest in the European resistance movements, intelligence matters and the experiences of prisoners of war. This led him to become the official historian of SOE, with privileged access to its records, allowing him to write some of the first, and still definitive, accounts of its wartime work, especially in France. Even so, SOE in France took four years to get clearance.[1]

Foot left the Labour Party while his namesake Michael Foot — to whom he was very distantly related[2] — was leading it, and joined the SDP (Social Democratic Party).

Foot was the great-great-great-grandson of Benjamin Fayle who built Dorset's first railway, the Middlebere Plateway in 1806. Fayle was the great-great-grandson of William Edmunson, the First Irish Quaker[citation needed].

He was at one time married to the British philosopher Philippa Foot (née Bosanquet), the granddaughter of U.S. President Grover Cleveland.[3]

M.R.D. Foot was appointed a CBE in 2001. He also received the Territorial Decoration for Long Service in the Territorial Army.[4]


Books and monographs

  • Great Britain and Luxemburg 1867 (English Historical Review, July 1952)
  • Gladstone and Liberalism (1952) with J. L. Hammond
  • British Foreign Policy since 1898 (1956)
  • Men in Uniform: Military Manpower in Modern Industrial Societies (1961)
  • SOE in France. An Account of the Work of the British Special Operations Executive in France 1940-1944 (1966)
  • The Gladstone Dairies (from 1968) editor
  • War and Society: Historical Essays in Honour and Memory of J. R. Western 1926-1971 (1973) editor
  • Resistance - An Analysis of European Resistance to Nazism 1940-1945 (1977)
  • Six Faces of Courage (1978)
  • MI9: Escape and Evasion 1939-1945 (1979) with J.M. Langley
  • Little Resistance: Teenage English Girl's Adventures in Occupied France (1982) with Antonia Hunt, née Lyon-Smith[5]
  • SOE, The Special Operations Executive 1940-1946 (1984)[6]
  • Art and War: Twentieth Century Warfare as Depicted By War Artists (1990)
  • Open and Secret War, 1938-1945 (1991)
  • Oxford Companion to World War II (1995) with I. C. B. Dear[7]
  • Foreign Fields: The Story of an SOE Operative (1997)
  • SOE in the Low Countries (2001)
  • Secret Lives: Lifting the Lid on Worlds of Secret Intelligence (2002) editor
  • The Next Moon: The Remarkable True Story of a British Agent Behind the Lines in Wartime France (2004) with Ewen Southby-Tailyour and Andre Hue
  • Clandestine Sea Operations in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Adriatic 1940-1944: 1940-1944 with Richard Brooks
Further reading
  • Memories of an SOE Historian (2008)

Book reviews

  • Nicholas Rankin (2008). Churchill's Wizards. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-22195-0.  - reviewed in The Spectator 308/9397 (4 October 2008) : 44
  • Thaddeus Holt (2004). The Deceivers. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-84804-6.  - reviewed in English Historical Review, V120 (2005): 1103-04


  1. "M.R.D. Foot". 3 March 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 
  2. Obituary: M.R.D. Foot, Daily Telegraph, 20 February 2012
  3. Eilenberg, Susan (5 September 2002). "With A, then B, then C". pp. 3–8. 
  4. "MRD Foot". The Daily Telegraph. London: TMG. 20 February 2012. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  5. "MI5 suspected young Briton was 'Nazi mistress'". BBC News. BBC. 26 August 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  6. "WorldCat: SOE in France". 
  7. "WorldCat: The Oxford companion to World War II". 

External links

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