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

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The book also tells the extraordinary tale of how Mr Almonds and two pals braved Force 10 gales and the risk of being capsized as they crewed his boat from Ghana back to the UK. Night after night they broke out through the Tobruk perimeter for reconnaissance missions, attack artillery positions or capture prisoners. Much to the consternation of the Germans, airfields were raided and at Fuka, on 12 July 1942, 22 aircraft destroyed.

Lieutenant Robert Blair 'Paddy' Mayne is famously said to have pulled the entire control panel from the Italian biplane with his bare hands when the elite unit stormed Tamet airfield in Libya in 1941. The two men, at first stupefied, were quickly all smiles and responded with salutes… It was a small gesture, but something about it brought tears to Bateman’s eyes. And it was in Ghana that he embarked on an epic three month voyage across the Atlantic to Boston, Lincolnshire, aboard his 32-ft home-made boat. The men saw little of their leader, who appeared to spend his time alternately browbeating the staff at MEHQ or importuning his many personal 'contacts' in Cairo with the same objective of acquiring the basic necessities required by his new unit.

The four P/W travelled over the hills by night through bad and rainy weather and reached the coast after twelve days. They said Radio Marina was a telephone exchange, but, like most hilltop listening stations, everybody knew its real role. Rommel was preparing to unleash his forces in one massive attempt to breach the Allies' flimsy defences and sweep into Cairo, Egypt and beyond. The only way to hunt them down was to chase and catch up with them, then mount an early morning raid before they could move off at daybreak. They bear testament to the only education he ever had at tiny Stixwould village school, which he left at the age of 14.

The Kumasi had no modern steering aids, no health and safety to speak of and no way of being able to radio for help.The SAS blew up 14 aircraft and destroyed the cockpits of 10 more in what was considered the first successful raid by the fledgling special ops outfit. Apart from the continued bombardment of Tobruk, which was besieged but still held on, peace appeared to have settled over the Western Desert.

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