Scotland's oldest man, who was Britain's last surviving Desert Rat, dies aged 107

Jimmy Sinclair, the Kirkcaldy veteran who was Britain’s last surviving Desert Rat and Scotland’s oldest man, has died at the age of 107.

Today Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance, a longtime friend of Jimmy’s, said “he brightened up every room he set foot in”.

The news was confirmed by Rod Kavanagh, Fife Council’s armed forces spokesman, who said that Jimmy had died at home at around 10pm last night.

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Jimmy led a remarkable life; he was the last remaining Desert Rat and the last surviving Scottish soldier who served in the 7th Armoured Division alongside Field Marshall Montgomery.

Jimmy Sinclair with David Torrance, Carol Lindsay, Rod Kavanagh, the Lord Lieutenant, and his carer Archie.Jimmy Sinclair with David Torrance, Carol Lindsay, Rod Kavanagh, the Lord Lieutenant, and his carer Archie.
Jimmy Sinclair with David Torrance, Carol Lindsay, Rod Kavanagh, the Lord Lieutenant, and his carer Archie.

He served in a number of notable battles, including the siege of Tobrok, Monte Cassino and El Alamein.

After the war, Jimmy struck up a friendship with the son of the leader of the African-based German forces that he spent years fighting against – Erwin Rommel, and spent several years corresponding with Manfred Rommel until his death in 2013.

“He was a true friend of mine,” Jimmy told the Press last year. “He was a proper gentleman.”

Even up until his death the Fife veteran still kept contact with friends in Germany.

‘Local hero’

Jimmy also counted councillor Carol Lindsay among his friends.

She said: “Jimmy was a true gentleman, Kirkcaldy’s local Hero, a friend to everyone far and near.

“The world was a better place for having Jimmy walk amongst us.

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“On my many visits throughout the years I never left without a poem in my pocket or without a story of adventure told.

“What an adventure you had Jimmy , thank you for sharing your life’s journey with us all.

“Rest in Peace dear friend. My condolences to Jimmy’s family.”

Torrance said: “It’s sad news that I learned today that Jimmy Sinclair has passed away at the age of 107.

“He’s always been a good friend, a strong supporter of mine, and a true patriot.

“I’ve met him on many occasions, and I’ve enjoyed his company and his stories which have spanned over a hundred years.

“He was a larger than life character, and he brightened up every room he set foot in. He was always the centre of attention and deservedly so.

“Jimmy was always someone who was full of interesting stories and was proud of what he had achieved.

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“We’ve learned much about the second world war from him, and his attitude to life was absolutely fantastic.

“He’ll sorely missed by a huge number of friends that he gathered on his journey through life, and my thoughts are with his family at this time.”

‘Kirkcaldy icon’

Jimmy also also had correspondence with Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, having met them on several occasions.

Camilla’s father Bruce Shand also served in Africa as a British Army officer.

Councillor Rod Kavanagh said: “I was in regular contact with his family. I was told the news this morning. It’s very sad. He was a character.

“An amazing man really, but quite an unassuming guy, but with a right old sense of humour.

“He was an icon in Kirkcaldy. When we had our armed forces commemoration day parades, he was always this iconic character that would take pride of place.

“Along with Jim Kinloch, the deputy Lord Lieutenant, we had planned something akin to a military funeral for him, but unfortunately now that’s not going to be possible.”

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Speaking to the Press on his birthday in August last year, Jimmy spoke about turning 107: “I don’t feel old, I still feel young

“It was a busy day. I was highly delighted. It was a great feeling to have everybody wish me a happy birthday.”

And his secret to long life was a very traditional Scottish diet.

“I have my porridge in the morning and I have the occasional whisky.”