Gentleman Jim: The Wartime Story of a Founder of the SAS and Special Services

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Gentleman Jim: The Wartime Story of a Founder of the SAS and Special Services

Gentleman Jim: The Wartime Story of a Founder of the SAS and Special Services

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Without any losses, he redeployed his unit and with no concern for the danger involved, led an attack on the Germans. British justice was swift yet he remained humane, respecting the local officers with whom he served and honouring their customs. Stirling liked a face to face meeting, possibly with a few key points sketched out on the back of a tobacco packet as an aide mémoir. Paddy Mayne gave the gyro compass to my father, his troop sergeant at the time, with a request that he modify it so that it could work in an SAS jeep. He dislocated his knee on landing, but the following day he covered 12 miles of rough terrain to lay explosives on the railway line between Orléans and Montargis.

Indeed, if ever there was proof a professional soldier can be both ruthless killer and possess great compassion, Sergeant (later Major) Jim Almonds was that rare example. In his authorised biography of SAS founder David Stirling, Alan Hoe wrote: “Sergeant ‘Gentleman Jim’ Almonds…was in many ways to the desert born. After a spell in Ethiopia training the Emperor’s army, it felt good to be back in action, to smell cordite and hear the crack of rifles.His job was to drive the lead jeep, which was full of ammunition and limpet mines, into the harbour. When I purchased Almonds’ gallantry and service medals at auction in December 2007, they came with his remarkable wartime diaries of over 20,000 words and other memorabilia from his incredible military career. The hand-picked men were drilled in Stirling’s guerrilla tactics based around the actions of Blakeny and the Tobruk Four.

I acknowledge with thanks the assistance of the National Archives – records held by them appear courtesy of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office – and the invaluable help of the staff of the British Embassy and British Consulate, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Faded blue wings on the left breast of his tattered tunic meant only one thing: L Detachment, 1st SAS.She has enjoyed full access to Earl Jellicoe’s papers and letters and has interviewed him and many friends, acquaintances and contacts while writing this book. The short barrels and small calibre might support such a notion, but success depended on an accurate hit – and Almonds was a marksman. When he was told by an Italian the Germans had taken over the camp, he escaped and set out westwards. They could find no boat of any kind, were too weak to travel further and were therefore forced to give themselves up.

That first night, after Stirling's talk, bank upon bank of vermilion cloud marbled the late evening sky as the newly formed SAS men began to consider their first night operation, an assault on the New Zealand Army. By some miracle, my father had survived the Second World War unscathed, despite coming close to death nine times in my first book – the prequel to this one: ‘Gentleman Jim: The Wartime Story of a Founder of the SAS and Special Forces’.The 103 third parties who use cookies on this service do so for their purposes of displaying and measuring personalized ads, generating audience insights, and developing and improving products. When war broke out Blakeney had been working at the docks as a ‘lumper’ or general labourer at the busy docks. They were not to waste time carrying back anything that they could already get like basic rations, issued kit or medical supplies.

He was in uniform, but he had taken the precaution of turning his red beret inside out and drove through two road blocks without being detected. There were just the two of them but they pulled in and parked their captured lorry among the Italian and German trucks. The story is set in the dog days of the British Empire, with snap-shot detail of the many countries in which Almonds served and the ports he visited during his three-month sea voyage. It employed many American servicemen stationed in Eritrea, gathering and beaming information into the Pentagon. On the other hand, the means to train properly was vitally important; the success of the unit and possibly the saving of lives depended on it.Almonds didn’t talk about himself so I am delighted that his daughter has now written the story of his post-war adventuring. L" Detachment subsequently joined up with the Long Range Desert Group at Jalo Oasis, and in December they raided the aerodrome at Nofilia, Libya. Mr Almonds refused to talk under interrogation and as punishment he was shackled in the back of a lorry and paraded in front of the local townsfolk.



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