107 year-old Desert Rat laid to rest

05 June 2020

Jimmy Sinclair, a 107 year old veteran and one of Britain’s last surviving Desert Rats, was laid to rest on 5 June, in Kirkcaldy.

Fife’s civic leaders had planned something akin to a military funeral for Jimmy but coronavirus restrictions meant that it had to be private, family affair.  Nevertheless many members of the Armed Forces community turned out to line the route to the crematorium at appropriate social distancing intervals.  One of those paying his respects to this old soldier was Major (Retired) George Givens, Chairman of SSAFA Fife.

The Armed Forces Champion on Fife Council, Councillor Rod Kavanagh, described Jimmy as “an amazing man” and added: “He was an icon in Kirkcaldy. When we had our armed forces commemoration day parades, he was always this iconic character who would take pride of place”.

Jimmy was reported to be the last remaining Desert Rat and the last surviving Scottish soldier who served in the 7th Armoured Division under Field Marshall Montgomery.  He was the UK’s oldest surviving veteran, and battled Nazi forces when he served in Africa as a gunner with the elite Chestnut Troop of the 7th Armoured Division - the Desert Rats.  During the North African campaign he served in a number of notable battles, including the siege of Tobruk, El Alamein, and going on into Italy and Monte Cassino.

The Regiment was firing on Otterburn Ranges and he was invited – aged over 100 by then, to come and visit The Chestnut Troop.  It was freezing and I was wearing every piece of clothing I could find and some I’d probably borrowed or stolen!  Jimmy got out of a mini bus in a white shirt, Battery tie, blazer and wafer thin anorak, was helped over a few tussocks, chatted, had lunch and got onto a gun without gloves and scarf.  He seemed impervious to the Northumberland weather; perhaps that’s how he got to be 107!

- Sir Andrew Gregory, SSAFA Controller (and Royal Artillery Master Gunner)

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