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Apgar, T/Sgt. Horace | Balfour, Maj. Ronald Edmund | Barancik, Pfc. Richard M.

Balfour, Maj. Ronald Edmund  

Major, 1st Canadian Army, British Element, Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA)

A British historian and Fellow at King’s College in Cambridge, Ronald E. Balfour used his scholarly background to salvage archives and help protect historic structures in France, Belgium and Germany. He was one of the first Monuments Men in the field, arriving in France in late August 1944. Balfour spent much of his time in Belgium, and was the first to report on the theft of Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna, stolen by the Nazis from the cathedral in Bruges just a week before his arrival. His last report, filed March 3, 1945, described his work in the church in Clèves: “Fragments of two large 16th century retables of carved and painted wood have been collected and removed to safety. Parish archives found in a blasted safe and strewn over the floor of the wrecked sacristy have also been removed for safekeeping.”1

Major Balfour was killed in Clèves on March 10 by a shell while he and four other men were evacuating sculpture from the damaged church. Sir Leonard Woolley, the distinguished British archaeologist and fellow Monuments Officer, described Balfour’s death as “a great and unexpected blow. He had written only the day before, so cheerfully, delighted with being at the front; then he was killed in action, where actually engaged in saving some of those works of art which he loved so much.... The whole field of art history has suffered a tragic loss.”2

[1] Major Ronald E. Balfour, Kings College Archives Centre, Cambridge, The Papers of Ronald Edmund Balfour, Misc. 5
[2] Lt. Col. Sir Leonard Woolley, Kings College Archives Centre, Cambridge, The Papers of Ronald Edmund Balfour, Misc. 5.


Copyrighted by Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art