Obituary: Jimmy Storie, unassuming former commando and PoW who fought with the SAS in North Africa

Jimmy Storie
Jimmy Storie
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Born: 3 December, 1919, in Ayr. Died: 8 January, 2012, in Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire, aged 92.

Their daring, audacity and fearlessness knew no bounds but now the final chapter in the exploits of the original band of legendary SAS soldiers has come to a close with the death of the last surviving member.

Jimmy Storie, a tile fixer in civilian life, was one of just 22 men who survived the first disastrous mission under the command of SAS founder David Stirling. But he went on to complete incredible feats of bravery in the desert before being captured, held in solitary confinement and packed off to a prisoner of war camp in Czechoslovakia, eventually returning home to marry his sweetheart.

Though he spoke little of the hardship he endured during his war, he featured in the Channel 4 series Commandos, re-living some of the daredevil raids that saw the SAS destroy 400 enemy planes during their 18-month desert campaign. They included the storming of an enemy air base when they drove two convoys of armoured jeeps across the airfield, blasting every plane they could with 90,000 rounds a minute.

In order to achieve their deadly missions they had had to acquire all sorts of equipment by any means – even if it meant stealing tents from under the noses of Allied troops.

When they first set up camp, scratched from the barren desert, they had virtually nothing so they pinched 16 tents from New Zealand troops who were away in action and took easy chairs from an officers’ cinema.

“We had the finest camp in the Middle East,” Storie recalled. “and after that we were thieves all our days.”

On another occasion, having been refused a drink before a mission by Stirling, they cut into an Air Force officers’ enclosure and helped themselves. When the commanding officer discovered their deed, he confronted them: “Well boys, I know you’re drinking my whisky … can I join you?”

Stirling was not best pleased and ordered them to be given a stern lecture in which they were branded habitual criminals.

But their resourcefulness simply demonstrated the mettle he had sought in the first place, a band of lionhearted individuals who would back down for no-one and do what it took to accomplish their mission.

Storie, born in Ayr, joined the Seaforth Highlanders at the age of 19. He was later recruited by Stirling, who needed men who could work on their own initiative for a new raiding unit.

By this time Storie had already met his bride-to-be, Morag. She had been about to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) when he told her: “If you join up, I’ll join something worse.” It was aimed as a deterrent but failed as she went into the ATS and he joined what was to become the world’s most famed and secretive hit-and-run unit.

As part of 11 Scottish Commando, he was in at the start of the Special Air Service, becoming one of the 60-odd men of L Detachment in the summer of 1941. Even the name L Detachment was disinformation, aimed at persuading the enemy that it was part of a much larger group.

Their first North African mission, a parachute drop during the worst storm in 30 years, ended in chaos with only 22 of the 66 men returning. After that, to prove his determination, Stirling organised a raid not on enemy territory but on a British base.

Storie and his comrades marched 100 miles on virtually no rations, cut through the barbed wire and eluded guards to break into the camp. They left their calling card – stickers exclaiming “Blown Up” on all their planes and even the officers’ mess. Point taken.

After that they walked into numerous enemy airfields destroying scores of planes. When the foe got wise and deployed guards outside the bases, Stirling switched tactics. At Sidi Haneish, L Detachment took on one of its most spectacular missions, driving into the airfield guns blazing.

“The planes were all parked on either side,” recalled Storie, “the idea was we could all go in a line and take a plane each, destroy the aircraft and swing round the other side and do the reverse.”

The commandos simply opened up and let fire. The noise was astonishing and they were duly gratified when the planes quickly burst into flames.

During their exploits, one of their group, Lt Jock Lewes, perfected what became known as the Lewes Bomb, an incendiary device for blowing up aircraft, and Storie was the assistant he took with him, up into the hills, to make up the latest batch.

After almost two years’ service, Storie was captured. His feet barely touched the ground as the Germans whisked him off to Berlin. Having managed to persuade them he was a pilot, he was spared the usual fate of an SAS PoW – death – and was put into solitary confinement for a month where he counted the nails on the wall of his cell to retain his sanity.

After time in Czechoslovakia he was repatriated in 1945 and immediately married Morag, on 28 April, 1945.

He worked for a short time as a warder at Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison, at slaters’ in Cammachmore and then joined Aberdeen firm James Scott and Son as a tile fixer where he stayed until retiring at 65.

He had twice been invited by Lt Col Paddy Mayne, commanding officer of Ist SAS Regiment, to return to the SAS but the recruiting officer did not agree to the request. On the second occasion, Storie left the recruitment office without signing the papers and two days later police arrived to arrest him for desertion – he escaped the charge due to the unsigned paperwork.

Storie, who lived most of his life quietly in the village of Muchalls outside Aberdeen, was an unassuming, down-to-earth and easy-going family man.

Though he did not seek the limelight or glory in any way, there can be no denying that his heroics in action displayed the very essence of the proud SAS motto, Who Dares Wins.

He is survived by his wife Morag, children Sandra, Ian, Marion and Brian, five grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

ALISON SHAW