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James Almonds

Page Created
March 10th, 2024
Last Updated
March 10th, 2024
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Gentleman Jim Almonds
Gentleman Jim Almonds
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James Almonds, affectionately known as “Gentleman Jim,” is a Lincolnshire native who etches his name in the annals of history through a series of daring exploits spanning continents and conflicts. Born and raised in the tranquil village of Stixwould, near Woodhall Spa, in 1914, Almonds embarks on a journey that sees him become one of the most extraordinary figures to emerge from Lincolnshire in the last century.

Almonds’ odyssey begins with humble origins; leaving school at the age of 14, he embarks on a career that takes him from the streets of Bristol as a policeman to the battlefields of North Africa during World War II. It is during this tumultuous time that Almonds finds his true calling – the military. Joining the ranks of the fledgling Special Air Service, he becomes a key figure in guerrilla warfare against Nazi forces, unleashing havoc on enemy airfields and ports. His daring exploits earn him the prestigious Military Medal not once, but twice, a testament to his courage and resourcefulness under fire.

In September 1942, Almonds, by then a sergeant, and his unit embark on a high-risk operation to sabotage a crucial enemy target during Operation Bigamy. Their objective is to drive a jeep loaded with ammunition and explosives into the harbor, with the intention of destroying an enemy ship and impeding Axis logistics.

However, the mission quickly turns into a harrowing ordeal when Almonds and his team are ambushed by enemy forces. Amidst the chaos of battle, their jeep is hit, igniting a fierce firefight. Despite their valiant efforts, Almonds and his comrades find themselves overwhelmed by superior enemy numbers.

In the aftermath of the ambush, Almonds and his fellow soldiers are captured by enemy forces and taken as prisoners of war. They are subsequently transported to a detention camp in Italy, where they endure harsh conditions and constant vigilance from their captors.

Almonds’ time as a POW is marked by adversity and uncertainty. Despite the hardships of captivity, he remains resolute and determined to survive. His indomitable spirit and resilience are a source of inspiration to his fellow prisoners, as they endure the trials of confinement together.

Throughout his internment, Almonds never wavers in his commitment to escape and return to the fight. He seizes every opportunity to undermine his captors and plots daring escape attempts with his fellow prisoners. Despite facing numerous setbacks and challenges, Almonds remains steadfast in his resolve to regain his freedom.

Ultimately, after months of captivity, Almonds seizes a moment of opportunity and successfully escapes from the detention camp. Through courage, cunning, and sheer determination, he evades enemy pursuit and makes his way to safety, eventually rejoining Allied forces and resuming his fight against the Axis powers.

But Almonds’ journey doesn’t end with the defeat of the Axis powers. His thirst for adventure leads him to distant lands and new challenges. He serves as a military advisor to Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, where he plays a pivotal role in training the emperor’s army.

Later, during his time in Eritrea, James “Gentleman Jim” Almonds serves as the second-in-command of the Eritrea Police Field Force, where he leads daring missions against rebel bandits and plays a crucial role in maintaining law and order in the region. Eritrea, located in the Horn of Africa, is a volatile area characterized by political unrest and insurgent activity during the mid-20th century.

As second-in-command, Almonds faces the challenging task of combating rebel bandits known as “shifta” who pose a significant threat to the stability of the region. These bandits operate in remote areas, conducting raids, extorting locals, and disrupting trade routes. Almonds and his unit are tasked with tracking down these elusive insurgents and restoring peace to the region.

Almonds’ military experience and leadership skills prove invaluable in the fight against the shifta. He develops strategic tactics for locating and engaging the enemy, often employing guerrilla warfare tactics similar to those he had utilized during his time in the Special Air Service . Almonds’ ability to think on his feet and adapt to the rugged terrain of Eritrea earns him a reputation as a fearless and effective leader.

One particular skirmish in Eritrea stands out as a testament to Almonds’ bravery and tactical acumen. During this encounter, his unit successfully engages a group of shifta insurgents, resulting in the capture of several bandits and the seizure of their weapons, including swords and spears. Almonds’ decisive actions help to neutralize the threat posed by these rebel forces and demonstrate his commitment to maintaining peace and order in the region.

Almonds’ time in Eritrea is marked by a relentless pursuit of justice and a dedication to serving the local population.

Almonds’ wanderlust eventually leads him to the steaming jungles of Malaya, where he once again dons the uniform of the Special Air Service to combat Communist insurgents. His service to his country culminates in his retirement from military life in 1961, having reached the rank of major.

But perhaps Almonds’ most remarkable feat is yet to come. In a testament to his ingenuity and determination, he embarks on an epic three-month voyage across the Atlantic, sailing from Ghana to Boston, Lincolnshire, aboard a 9,75 metres homemade boat. Designed during his seven-month internment as a prisoner of war during World War II, the vessel symbolised Almonds’ indomitable spirit and his refusal to be confined by the constraints of his circumstances.

Following his extraordinary adventures, Almonds returns to his roots in Stixwould, where he lives out his days in the same house where he was born. His daughter, Lorna Almonds-Windmill, immortalises his wartime escapades in her book Gentleman Jim: The Wartime Story of a Founder of the SAS and Special Forces, and continues his legacy with a sequel titled Escaping the Ordinary: How a Founder of the SAS Blazed a Trail at the End of Empire.

James “Gentleman Jim” Almonds passed away in 2005 at the age of 91.