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Gentleman Jim: The Wartime Story of a Founder of the SAS and Special Services

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She said: "He navigated using the sun, the stars and the current, in ways that he had learned to navigate as a boy in those big empty spaces in Lincolnshire. During the two-month operation, “Fritz”, as the German was dubbed, was made to do the housework and cooking.

The doctors said he would "always be a weakling" but at home the boy quickly recovered and later went on to command an SAS squadron at Hereford. Using a map Almonds stole from a priest’s Bible, the four PoWs travelled by night through bad weather, reaching the coast after 12 days.Leaving three soldiers with their mules and provisions, the remaining twelve Field Force men ran the last 10 miles to their target. Almonds’ diary chronicled his hazardous parachute and endurance training, experimental training missions and early raids behind enemy lines. When he was told by an Italian the Germans had taken over the camp, he escaped and set out westwards. After a raid on Nofilia aerodrome [Libya], he took command of his party after his officer had been killed.

One of them was Jim Almonds, a very tall sergeant in the Coldstream Guards with dark brown hair and eyes. They could find no boat of any kind, were too weak to travel further and were therefore forced to give themselves up.Almonds took over command and, in the one remaining truck, he and his men covered the arduous 200-mile journey back to their camp, sheltering by day and travelling by night.

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