Jim was just a regular man ... with nine lives

Jim Jamieson had a few close shaves during his service in World War II
Jim Jamieson had a few close shaves during his service in World War II

If they ever made a film about Jim Jamieson’s wartime exploits he would not have wanted a big Hollywood star to play him.

Stenhousemuir-born Jim, who died recently at the age of 92, stressed to his family he was nothing special, just a man who had done his duty, like so many others had, in World War Two.

He may have been an ordinary man, but his story is nothing short of extraordinary.

Married to wife Isabel for 64 years, Jim had three sons, Ian (64), Jim (63) and Leonard (58), five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

All those lives would never have existed had Jim not cheated death on numerous occasions during World War Two.

His sons say he was like a cat with nine lives, who barely had one intact by the time the war ended.

After the war Jim met the love of his many lives, Isabel, on a bus. He offered her his seat to save her from the unwanted attentions of the troublemaker sitting next to her. He was her knight in shining armour that day, but she did not know the half of it.

Before their fateful meeting, Jim had travelled the world with the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy, survived two ships sinking and narrowly missed another when the ship he had previously been serving on was blown to smithereens. He also helped save a king and his gold from an invading army, suffered a broken neck and dodged too many bullets and bombs to even mention.

All before he was 20 years old.

Son Jim said: “I don’t think he saw himself as lucky. He used to laugh and tell people only the good die young.”

He did suffer horrific nightmares, recalling the screams of friends who were trapped below decks as ships were taking on water. He was only 17 years old when he walked around mortally wounded comrades on deck, removing and replacing cigarettes from their bloodstained mouths because they were unable to do it themselves.

Ian said: “He had nightmares all his life, right up to the day he died. He resented people who were proud of what they did in the war and used to tell us anyone who boasts about the war didn’t see the things he saw.”

Jim added: “To see all that before he was 20, it’s got to have had some effect on him. He said he was just trying to do his duty, he wasn’t a hero.”

He was literally inches from death on many occasions and you could say fortune favoured him, but, as he always told his sons, if that was really the case he would not have been fighting in the war in the first place.

While serving aboard the HMS Pelican his life was spared when he was shielded from a bomb blast by the person sleeping in the next bunk.

On another occasion he stopped to put on his coat before heading out on deck to help man the guns during action stations. When he arrived he found that the sailor at his assigned gun post had been killed by enemy fire just a few moments earlier.

Jim vowed that none of his sons would ever join the armed services, especially the navy, which he felt was the branch of the armed forces which left its personnel most exposed as “sitting ducks” when attacks happened.

That probably came from his experience on HMS Hyacinth when it ran aground on some rocks and found itself in the sights of German U Boats and Stuka dive bombers for a full day before it was able to head for cover.

A talented footballer, Jim’s sons said his only regret was not being able to pursue a playing career. However, the game he loved may have saved his life.

He had been serving aboard the HMS Barham when it called into the Port of Alexandria for an extensive refit. Jim was one of the sailors who was left behind, playing for the local football team, when the ship sailed back out onto active duty.

HMS Barnham was attacked and exploded, killing over 800 people, many of them Jim’s friends.

Then the day before the Normandy D-Day landings Jim was badly injured when the minesweeper he was serving on, HMS Pylades, was sunk by one-man German torpedo subs. His neck broken, Jim was saved when his friend gave him his lifebelt to keep him afloat until help arrived.

Nine months later, after recovering from his injury, he was stationed in Aden and, the war effectively over in Europe, was about to sail out to the Pacific to help the Americans fight the Japanese, but atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki before he was called into action again.

He saw out his naval career in the Far East, stationed in Singapore, playing football, soaking up the sun and enjoying life after his intense wartime experiences.

Back on home soil, he took up a post with BP in Grangemouth in 1951, retiring in 1980, and spent the next 60 years living with Isabel in Oxgang Road. He loved his holidays and enjoyed going to his caravan at Port William near the sea for the summer.

He also followed Stenhousemuir FC and Manchester United and was a big fan of Scottish tennis ace Andy Murray.

Jim said: “Perhaps his war experience made him content with what he had. He didn’t really have any great ambitions after the war. He just did his job.”

Ian added: “He was quite proud of serving in the war, but not about the things he had seen or had to do. The war was probably the defining thing in his life. He lived his life afterwards like every day was a bonus.

“I think it made him value family life more rather than take it for granted.”

As Jim himself told his sons many times, he was just one of many who served and did their duty for their country.