Oldest Desert Rat to celebrate 100th birthday


THE oldest surviving member of the legendary Desert Rats will celebrate his 100th birthday this weekend.

Jimmy Sinclair spent three years in the searing heat of the north African desert, helping to defeat the Afrika Korps and, ultimately, Hitler.

He lost many close friends and wondered if he would survive to the end of the war, so he is amazed and delighted to make 100.

Jimmy, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, served with the 7th Armoured Division – nicknamed the Desert Rats – which eventually defeated German forces after years of bloody fighting.


“We got rid of Hitler” 

He also served in Italy and France and on one occasion survived a direct hit on his truck from a German fighter.

Jimmy, who was born in 1912, said: “I lost lots of mates in the war. It was terrible but I am just glad to be alive now.

“We got rid of Hitler, actually got rid of him in the end.

“We did a good job.”

Jimmy, who earned several medals during the conflict, had not seen his daughter Olive since she was three months old so when he returned five years later, she was starting primary school.

He added: “I’ve had my good times and the bad but what I did must have been worth it. We won.”

The great-grandfather-of-one worked under the command of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery at his Head Quarters for three years.



He said of the legendary – and controversial – war leader: “Monty liked the publicity. He had all the guns. He got everything he needed.

“When we landed in Egypt, there were 600,000 men but half of them had to be sent to Greece to fight.

“But Monty was the one with power, nobody could do what he could.”

After Jimmy returned from the war he served for two years with the Control Commission in Berlin before returning to Scotland to work as slater.

He then moved on to work down a local coal mine.

He said: “There wasn’t much difference between the coal mines and the war. All the same really.”

Nowadays poetry plays a large part in Jimmy’s life. He has already written a book full of poems for his daughter, Olive Brown, 72, to read.



The poems are based on memories from war including friends that he has lost and how he feels now.

Olive said: “I find it really quite emotional to read them.”

Jimmy, who married his late wife, Elizabeth, in 1938, received a Royal reward for his service earlier this year.

He met Prince Charles and Camilla and was presented with a set of Caithness glass whisky glasses and a bottle of whisky.

The old soldier now counts the heir to the throne, who he cheekily calls “Charlie”, as a friend.

Oliver, who set up the Royal meeting, said: “He’s doesn’t have any flashbacks or nightmares and never really has. I think that’s how he’s lived to 100.”

Jimmy added: “Camilla asked me how I’ve done it too. I said I just try to think of the good memories I have.

“Her advice to me was ‘everything in moderation’ is what I need.”

The legendary Desert Rats were officially known as the 7th Armoured Division of the British Army.



In the early stages of the Second World War, it famously battled Rommel’s forces in  the sweltering heat of North Africa.
Under the command Montgomery, the division took part in the Battle of El Alamein which broke the back of Rommel’s Africa Korps.

The division would later see action in Italy and elsewhere in Europe after defeating the Axis powers in North Africa.

Jimmy will celebrate his birthday on Saturday – complete with a telegram from the Queen – with 50 friends and close family at a local hotel.