I didn't even think there were still any around - hardy bunch
And what a coincidence that he should have gone to live in Germany later, and become friends with Rommel's son. If I had made that up, no-one would have believed it!
Scotland’s oldest surviving Desert Rat is getting ready to celebrate his 100th birthday this weekend.
Jimmy Sinclair fought against German forces led by Hitler's most feared general, Field Marshal Rommel, in North Africa during World War Two.
Over the years the pensioner has forged a friendship with Rommel’s son Manfred, the former Lord Mayor of Stuttgart. The pair met when Mr Sinclair moved to Germany in the 1980s and are now penpals.
Mr Sinclair, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, turns 100 on Saturday and says the secret of a long life is everything in moderation and a "wee pinch" of luck.
He said: "I don't feel that old, I'm just getting on a wee bit. But I didn't think I'd live to see the day I turned 100. People ask me what the secret to a long life is and I tell them everything in moderation. I think I've had a bit of luck here and there along the way mind you."
The 7th Armoured division, knows as Desert Rats, fought in every major North African battle and Mr Sinclair lost a lot of friends.
In 1953, He had a near miss himself when the truck Mr Sinclair was travelling in on a stretch of barren African desert took a direct hit from a German bomber but he escaped unscathed.
I read the article and listened to the old fellow telling his story-- interesting and certainly worth mentioning in the press. Wonder how they knew that Jimmy was the last Desert Rat in Scotland? There were a couple of historical points with which I might disagree, but none that I'd label topic-shattering-- might for example question the use of "Hitler's most feared general, Field Marshal Rommel"; I mean what other German generals were involved in the North African campaign--- okay, Armin-or something and I think Kesserling, but the days of the Afrika Korps were over by then and they were really on their way out of North Africa.
The 7th Armoured Division were one of the better well-known divisions in Montgomery's 8th Army (their reputation probably surpassed only by that of the 51st Highland Division--in Scotland anyway). One of the badges of Montgomery's two-badged beret was that of the Royal Tank Corps, always a bit of a nod to the tank men.
We can't talk about a 100-year old Desert Rat without mentioning el Alamein. They did feature in this battle; indeed, I'd say the battle introduced the Desert Rats to the British public. The tank men too, had their work cut out for them and they didn't come through the campaign unscathed. Even in the small world of U.K. cycling , the Rats' battles left their mark. There was a cyclist in Glasgow, Jock Martin, Douglas C.C., who before joining-up had been a cyclist with a promising racing future. I never met him until just after the war, at which time he could scarcely walk, but had some mobility thanks to his bike. Instead of racing he now became a well-respected time-keeper. --Jock had been badly wounded in a Desert Rat tank.
A fellow from Manchester by the name of Reg Harris, also had a promising racing career until the Desert Rats' tank he was in got a direct hit. Reg was demobbed a cripple. He was able to bring himself back to fitness and in the early post-war years reigned for some time as the professional World Bicycle Sprint Champion. (Short aside: in 1948 Reg tried to get reinstated as an amateur so that he could ride for Britain in the 1948 amateur British Olympic's Sprint Championship. Reg was turned down.).
I don't know if Jock made it, like Jimmy Sinclair, to his100 birthday, but I do know Reg didn't. Anyway, I hope Mr. Sinclair, of the Desert Rats, has himself a great birthday celebration tomorrow.
I'm glad you posted this wee story about the 100-year old Desert Rat.
My old man was a Cpl. Sapper in the Rats, would never talk about North Africa at all , all I have is this book and possibly his discharge records.
He did talk a little about Italy , - I think he ended up in part of what became Yugoslavia.
I think he liked the Italians , in the early 1980's he returned on a holiday. I was surprised when my mother told me that he took her to some villages and could not walk around unrecognised after abt. 40 years. Apparently he was involved with stopping / diverting lava flows from Mt. Vesuvious with a bulldozer - they were very appreciative
Imagine your father being rcognisd after all these years, amazing. Incidentally Ford, the mailed fist on the front of the book cover was a part of the badge of the Royal Armoured Corps. The Armured Corps of course was a part of the Desert Rats, i.e. the 7th Armoured division.