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Gentleman Jim Almonds ~ SAS Founder Member from Lincs

Gentleman Jim Almonds An SAS Founder Member and a Lincolnshire Worthy
It’s an eclectic mix when it comes to those bestowed with our honorary title of Lincolnshire Worthy but if anybody deserves a place then this remarkable soldier does . . .

Major ‘Gentleman Jim’ Almonds was born on August 6 1914 at Stixwould here in Lincolnshire, he was a founder member of the world renowned military force the Special Air Service, better known as the SAS.
His father was a small-holder in Stixwould and Almonds was educated here in the Golden Shire at the local village school which he left at the age of 14.
In 1932 he enlisted in the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards.

After a brief spell in the Police he was recalled at the onset of World War II briefly spending time in various guises until he found the military home he felt right for him . . . the newly-formed No 8 Commando !

Really intensive and specialised training in Scotland followed which led to a brief spell in Egypt and then came the legendary Torbruk, the so-called Torbruk Four which led to the formation of the world’s most famous Special Forces Unit - The Special Air Service !

For more information about this and another Lincolnshire Worthy, from Grimsby, you should check out our Tour de Force on James Blakeney, SAS Original Member

After many hazardous and heroic missions he fought his way back to allied lines in October 1943 and was returned to England where he was was put in charge of security at Chequers (Winston Churchill’s, the Prime Minister, Country Residence) - it hardly needs saying that this was, albeit important, sedentary (by his standards) life wasn’t for Gentleman Jim.

In 1944 he rejoined SAS Regiment at Darvel in Scotland. Only 4 months later he parachuted into France in “Operation Gain” and despite an injury he covered 12 miles over hazardous terrain to lay explosives on a railway line.
A month later he was reconnoitring behind enemy lines and when driving back got caught in traffic - eventually finding himself actually driving in the midst of a German Convoy !!! Amazing !!

This led to him meeting General Patton (who accused him of stealing an American Jeep and told him he’d be shot if he couldn’t prove he was British) to him receiving the Croix de Guerre and later to a meeting with Field Marshall Montgomery himself.

‘Gentleman Jim’ Jim Almonds retired from military life in 1961, with the rank of major, and came back here to Lincolnshire and not just Lincolnshire but the house in Stixwould where he was born - he passed away in 2005 aged 91 and was the last surviving member of the original SAS

There is obviously so much more to life military life of this incredible man and a proud son of Lincolnshire.
If you can add anything, not copy and pasted from other sites or simple links, then we’d love to hear from you.

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Gentleman Jim Almonds surely deserves the title of . . . Lincolnshire Worthy - the stamp of man I doubt we’ll see the likes of again.

Respectfully in admiration,
Rod

15 Comments »

  1. Doug said,

    January 21, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

    Hi Rod fantastic article

  2. Rod said,

    January 21, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    Doug,
    thank you and very pleased you enjoyed the overview. I’m hoping this will, in time, build as more information turns up.
    Best
    Rod

  3. Chas said,

    March 17, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

    Rod
    The book ‘Gentleman Jim’ by Jim Almonds daughter Lorna Almonds Windmill is by far the best source on Jim. It is very well and properly researched and referenced, with the advantage of access to military sources and Jim’s own diary. I lived in Stixwould in the 1950s and 60s, and remember seeing the boat that Jim had built in Africa (called the Kumasi-Takoradi) and sailed home from there.

    It was on the river Witham at Stixwould for a time, but I have no idea what happened to it afterwards. I also remember seeing Jim (known locally as Jack) driving by in his Humber Super Snipe. My mother, who had lived at Bucknall before marrying, told me that Jack had built some sort of aircraft at Stixwould as a young man.

    I have never seen any verification of this, but Lorna, or her sister Gloria, might know more. I believe that Gloria might still live in the house that belonged to her father, in Stixwould.
    Chas

  4. Rod said,

    March 17, 2013 @ 9:23 pm

    Chas,
    wonderful information, many thanks indeed and welcome to the site
    Kind regards,
    Rod

  5. Chas said,

    March 18, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

    Rod
    Thanks for the site; it has been of considerable interest in other areas already. Have asked my brother to try to find out more about the plane that Jim Almonds built, from out Aunt, who was also living in Bucknall then.
    Chas

  6. Chas said,

    March 19, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

    Some more information from the Internet: the following site gives information on Jim Almonds medals, taken from a site summarising the sale of his medals:

    This states that his medals were: Military Medal, G.VI.R., with Second Award Bar (2655648 Sjt. J. E. Almonds, S. Gds.); 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Italy Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals; General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Malaya, G.VI.R. (Capt. J. E. Almonds, M.M., Glosters); French Croix de Guerre 1939. The site does not state who bought the medals, so it is not clear if they are on public display anywhere; they sold for £58,000.

    The second item to note is that Jim’s daughter Lorna Almonds Windmill seems to be in the process of starting a website. At present there is no content on the pages other than one on Jim himself:

    so there is no contact information for Lorna herself yet. She must surely be the best source for unpublished information on Jim.
    Chas

  7. Chas said,

    March 20, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

    Information on the plane that Jim built. There is a brief mention of it in Lorna’s book, which says that Jim and a friend built the plane in the school yard when Jim was 17. It was powered by a Douglas motorbike engine, but it never flew. My brother recalls that the fuselage, made of hardwood, without wings or engine, was still standing in the orchard at the school house (probably in the early 1950s), but disappeared soon afterwards. This seems to be an early example of Jim’s engineering skills, of which the boat was a later exaple. I cannot find anything about the boat on the internet, although Lorna’s book tells us that Jim designed it in his head when he was in solitary confinement in a prisoner-of-war camp, and he later built it while serving in Ghana.
    Chas

  8. Henry Barrowclough said,

    March 12, 2014 @ 3:12 pm

    Great read on my Great uncle.

  9. Ariadne said,

    October 3, 2014 @ 10:19 pm

    Rod,

    You won’t believe this! After reading this post (and the one on James Blakeney) some of the information seemed vaguely familiar but I couldn’t figure out how. Then I remembered that last year I read a special edition of “Military History” (a Greek magazine) on the founding, development and action taken by SAS from the 1940’s to this day. I did some digging, found the magazine and re-read some of the material about WWII.

    There it was: the L Detachment, No 8 Commando (Guards), David Stirling, John Lewes, Jeff Du Vivier, Pat Riley, the training camp at Cabret and … your own man Jim Almonds! According to the author, Almonds designed an elevated structure from which men jumped with the help of pulleys, as part of their training with parachutes. The goal was to help them get used to the speed with which they’d hit the ground after jumping with a parachute. Later it was thought that jumping from that platform wasn’t good enough, so men were asked to jump from the back of trucks moving at a speed of 45-50 kms/hr.

    As for “Operation Gain” in France, which you referred to, it’s mentioned that the man in charge, Major Fenwick (sorry if the spelling is wrong) found out that enemy vehicles moved at night using blackout lights and ordered the drivers of his own Jeeps to do the same and join the enemy convoys without being perceived. I guess that’s how Almonds found himself in the middle of a German convoy.

    There was also a lot about the failed SAS mission of November 16 1941 in Africa, which led to many of the commandos being caught or killed by the Germans. I suppose that’s how James Blakeney got to be a prisoner of war, but he’s not named in the text.

    Anyway, I thought you might find this interesting.

    Regards,
    Ariadne

  10. History Hunter said,

    October 3, 2014 @ 11:18 pm

    Almonds designed an elevated structure from which men jumped with the help of pulleys, as part of their training with parachutes. The goal was to help them get used to the speed with which they’d hit the ground after jumping with a parachute. Later it was thought that jumping from that platform wasn’t good enough, so men were asked to jump from the back of trucks moving at a speed of 45-50 kms/hr.

    Ariadne, that contraption can be seen in one of the first documentaries made about the SAS when the interviewed many of the originals, including Stirling and Jim Almonds. In fact I seem to believe that Almonds was the very first man to jump off it………and he broke his arm, but not wanting to scare the men, he got straight back on and did it again complete with broken arm. Now that says something about the man.

  11. Rod said,

    October 4, 2014 @ 7:52 am

    Ariadne,
    what a comment - superb!
    You never cease to amaze, nor do the completely bizarre coincidences which keep cropping up on this site.
    Thanks for taking the time to search out and add the information too Ariadne
    Kind regards,
    Rod

  12. LORNA Almonds-Windmill said,

    January 24, 2015 @ 9:37 pm

    Rod, Have just discovered your site - excellent - and comments about my father, ‘Gentleman Jim’ Almonds. Am most impressed that he is on your list of Lincolnshire Worthies - and Jim Blakeney too. Two of the SAS ‘Tobruk Four’ were Lincolnshire men. Grateful to Chas for his comments too. I am currently writing the sequel to ‘Gentleman Jim’, which only covered his wartime story. Lorna

  13. Rod said,

    January 25, 2015 @ 8:38 am

    Lorna,
    I’m so pleased you found this and welcome to the site.
    Best of luck with the book
    Regards,
    Rod

  14. Chas Rodgers said,

    February 4, 2015 @ 5:16 pm

    My father, Duncan Rodgers, was the first Senior Hospital Secretary of the wonderful Kumasi Central Hospital in Kumasi, Ashanti, Ghana. I knew Major Almonds as “Uncle Jim” and he was the uncle who made it possible for us to go swimming at the local army camp. Uncle Jim did indeed build a boat all that distance from the sea. He managed to get it transported to Accra and it floated perfectly on being launched. He never doubted it would be seaworthy and proceeded to sail it home. I remember his great tales about the Lovat Scouts, especially the story of the soldier who had no English, or chose not to understand, but held two military policemen up by their webbing to watch the second half of a football match from over the surrounding wall. Uncle Jim used to tell that this amazing feat was probably simply because the Gaelic speaker was not too keen to return to barracks as required by the policemen…. Uncle Jim would never talk about the fighting side of the SAS but was pleased to remember the many humerous and quirky stories from his experiences.
    Many years later, as a taxi driver working in Gloucester, I took some guys back to Hereford. I asked “City centre or the Boys’ Club?” The reaction was quite severe and I was asked what I knew about the Boys’ Club and responded I knew little but that my “Uncle” had been a founder member. “Who’s your uncle?” “Well he was not my real uncle but in the 50’s all grown ups were awarded such honorifics, his name was Jim Almonds, Major Jim Almonds…” I was immediately accepted as “family” and kept the custom of a few of the lads for quite some time.
    I wish there was more history of his times in Gold Coast/Ghana but I’m now approaching 69 and only really remember being able to go swimming, the boat and his amazing kindness. I wish he had been a real uncle, a member of our family, but he always treated us if he were.

  15. Rod said,

    February 4, 2015 @ 5:55 pm

    Chas,
    thanks for this, really appreciated and very interesting - a warm welcome to the site
    Regards,
    Rod

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