DURING WWII, Perth man James Edgar lived the kind of life that captures the imagination. As a member of the British Army’s Intelligence Corps, he was recruited into the ultra-top secret Special Operations Executive (SOE), British French Section, to train would-be agents for sending into occupied France.
On Thursday, this very humble war Veteran will celebrate his 100th birthday with his wife, Valerie, one of his two daughters, and a couple of friends at their home in Perth’s Hills.
Last year, RSLWA had the honour of hosting a very special Legion d’Honneur ceremony to recognise the outstanding service of Mr Edgar and another Veteran, John Revell, in World War II. This is the highest order of merit available in France, which now sits alongside his Croix de Guerre, also awarded to him by the French.
Mr Edgar signed up for the British Army at the age of 20, in 1940. After just three months with the Gordon Highlanders he was transferred to the Intelligence Corps. Mr Edgar trained at Anderson Manor in Dorset as part of 62 Commando, and with SOE’s Small Scale Raiding Force, he played a critical role in two raids on the German-occupied Channel Islands in 1942 (learn more here).
After wireless training he became a member of SOE’s Inter-Allied Mission Tilleul (Linden Tree), which parachuted into the Haute-Vienne area of France in July 1944, to help coordinate local Resistance activities and arrange supply drops of arms and medical supplies by parachute.
The SOE was formed in July 1940 from the amalgamation of three existing secret organisations. Its purpose was to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe (as well as Southeast Asia later in the war) against the German-led enemy and to aid the Resistance.
Few people were aware of SOE’s existence. Those who were part of it were sometimes referred to as Churchill’s Secret Army.
At the beginning of 1945, following his time in France, he also parachuted into Burma with the SOE to fight the retreating Japanese. After their surrender, he stayed in Sumatra for 12 months on peacekeeping operations.
However, wife Valerie said Mr Edgar would not like being called a hero, saying: “Jim often said he was a small cog in a big wheel, who was just doing what he had to do for the war effort at the time.
“He had friends who were killed in the war and anyone he knew from that era is now gone.
“We know he is very lucky to have made it to 100.”
All the same, RSLWA invites you to join us in wishing Mr Edgar the warmest of birthdays on this very special milestone, his 100th birthday.
You are a hero in our eyes, Sir, and we salute you!