The new film by George Clooney, The Monuments Men, tells the true story of the men and women of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) unit of the Allied Forces, who risked their lives to save paintings, statues, ancient buildings, historical documents and libraries from theft or destruction by the Nazis. There’s just one thing missing from the film: the story of Ronald Balfour, who was one of only two men that gave their lives in dedication to this mission. The only British character in the film is entirely fictional.
Balfour, a medieval historian and fellow of King’s College, was one of the passionate art and heritage experts who joined the unit, set up to work alongside Allied forces after D-Day. Like the rest of the volunteers, he was given a section of Europe to look after and dispatched into the war zone with only basic military training, a uniform and an officer rank. Traveling from one war-ravaged site to another, he managed to save numerous priceless artefacts including the medieval tower in Goch, near the German-Dutch border. He was later killed by a shell burst aged 41, while trying to protect artefacts inside a church. Balfour was never required to join up for service in the war due to his age, but only did so as the subject was so close to his heart.
The full story can be found here.