Jim James, who has died aged 98, was awarded an MC for his part in rescuing escaped Allied PoWs and, after the Battle of Arnhem, was on the run himself for six months in occupied Holland.
6:04PM GMT 30 Jan 2012
Commissioned in 1942 while serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWR), James saw action in North Africa with 8th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, and then with the 3rd Battalion in the Sicily Campaign. In September 1943, after the Italian Armistice, a large number of Allied prisoners escaped from camps near Pescara and hid in the neighbouring hills. An Allied operation code-named “Simcol” was launched to rescue as many as possible.
On October 2 James, then serving with 3 Para, was dropped with a troop of eight men close to the river Tronto. He had orders to escort any escapers to the coast, where they were to be taken off by the Royal Navy
. During the next 10 days he guided those he found to a rendezvous on the beaches.
Possibly due to German broadcasts which falsely indicated that James had been killed, the rescue vessel did not arrive at the pre-arranged time. James requisitioned three fishing boats and managed to get about 20 men back to the safety of the British front line at Termoli. He was awarded an immediate MC.
In September 1944, again with 3 Para, James took part in operation Market Garden. He got within a mile of the Arnhem road bridge but, on September 25, was captured. In the cattle truck taking him to Germany, he forced the lock, waited until the train passed into a wood, and jumped out. As he crossed the tracks he heard machine gunners posted on top of the trucks firing on those who had made a run for it just after him.
He found himself near Enschede, close to the Dutch-German border, and headed north and west. He was hiding in a barn when a Dutchman found him and tipped him off that the police were on their way.
When, 10 minutes later, two policemen came in one door, James ran out the other. He made for a line of trees and hid; though the policemen came within a few yards they did not see him.
The next day, the Dutch underground contacted him. They provided him with a bicycle, and for several months, looking like a labourer but with part of his uniform under his overalls, James moved from farm to farm, dodging the Germans and keeping to wooded areas. He helped the Resistance to collect arms drops, instructed them in the use of explosives and, on one occasion, interviewed a man suspected of being a spy; James was able to provide an assurance that the other man was genuine.
On March 31 1945, after six months on the run, he linked up with advancing British troops. He was able to give them much valuable information and was mentioned in despatches.
Ernest Albert James, always known as Jim or Jimmy, was born at Bournemouth on September 1 1913 and went to Westbourne School, then Bournemouth Municipal College. After working in department stores in the town, he enlisted in the RWR in 1940.
By his own account James “got too close to an explosion” at Arnhem, and had trouble with his hearing afterwards. He was also reported “Missing In Action”. His wife refused to believe that he was dead, and on arriving at work one day she found a bunch of red roses with a note that read: “Remember me?” Her husband appeared and the manager gave the office the day off to celebrate.
After the war James worked for the Prudential until 1975. In retirement in Ealing he enjoyed reading, drawing and playing snooker . He kept in close touch with the Dutch families who had helped him and with fellow veterans.
Jim James married, in 1939, Dorothy Olney, who survives him with their daughter.
Jim James, born September 1 1913, died November 7 2011