Fred H. J. Maxse (1904-1970)
Fred Henry Joseph Maxse was born in Sussex, England on January 21, 1904. He was educated at Eton College and earned his Bachelor of Arts from New College at Oxford University.
During the war, he became a Captain in the service of the Royal Sussex Regiment (Territorial Army). He served with the MFAA in Italy from 1943 to 1945 working first as an MFAA officer in Sicily and Southern Italy, and then at MFAA Headquarters in Naples. As Deputy Advisor to the MFAA, he frequently worked alongside Lt. Col. Mason Hammond, the first Monuments Man in the field. The two developed a friendly working relationship.
In his work with the MFAA, Maxse toured the region examining small parish churches and civic museums. He supervised the transfer of some of the most valuable objects in the region to Vatican City and repositories in Urbino. Throughout his work, he developed a strong foundation with local administrators in his region. He personally interviewed the Abbot of Monte Cassino after it was bombed and, after interviewing locals, submitted a report on acts of cruelty and vandalism done to churches by German soldiers.
In December 1943, he submitted a list ranking Italian cities by cultural importance for the RAF to use during air strike planning. These lists would later be widely distributed to aircrews and were integral in preventing future damage.
After the war, Maxse worked with the British Military Administration in Eritrea between 1946 and 1948. He was decorated with the award of the Territorial Decoration in 1947 before serving as Controller of Customs and Excise to the Government of Cyrenaica between 1948 and 1950.
Maxse died in the Republic of Cyprus on April 11, 1970.
Photo courtesy of the Walter Gleason Collection, The Monuments Men Foundation Collection, the National WWII Museum, New Orleans, LA.