Breakish man Jimmy Clark, very likely to be Skye’s last surviving link with the D-Day landings, has died this week at the age of 99.
Jimmy – who was raised in Glasgow with family links to Skye – was part of the legendary Royal Marine Commando unit which trained at Achnacarry in Lochaber prior to the landings of 1944.
He was at Sword Beach in Normandy on 6th June 1944 among the thousands of allied personnel who fought to secure a foothold in northern France, laying the foundations for the country’s liberation and ultimately victory over Nazi Germany on the Western Front.
After the war he served with the Camerons and the Argyll and Sutherland HIghlanders in the Middle East, before moving to Skye when his military service came to an end. He worked for Sutherlands Garage and for 17 years on the Kyle-Kyleakin Ferry, as well as being an active crofter in Breakish.
Speaking to the Free Press in 2019, exactly 75 years since D-Day, Jimmy said: “Watching the footage does bring back the memories. I recognise places, and the uniforms. I was there – up through the streets in Normandy. It does make me feel proud.”
Jimmy was among the commandos who helped to secure Pegasus Bridge – a key strategic crossing point of the Caen Canal which had initially been held by the 6th Airborne Division, dropped in by parachute during the early hours of D-Day.
He remembered moving through the village of Sallanelles and being wounded by mortar shrapnel, when he had to crawl for shelter in a shop doorway before catching up with the other soldiers in the party.
He then spent two days on a hospital ship, and after treatment in the UK returned to join the Allied advance.
In Holland, he held off machine gun fire and was among a party who discovered a map of key enemy positions on the body of a fallen German captain – an action which, following his earlier heroics in France, earned him a second mention in dispatches.
In 2016 French Consul General Emmanual Cocher travelled to Skye to present Jimmy with France’s highest military honour, a medal as a ‘Chevalier’ in the French Légion d’Honneur.
The letter confirming the award, from French ambassador Sylvie Bermann, confirmed the heroism which embodied that generation.
“As we contemplate this Europe of peace, we must never forget the heroes like you, who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France,” she wrote.
“We owe our freedom and security to your dedication because you were ready to risk your life.”
Jimmy, of Ashfield, Upper Breakish, died in the care of Wyvis House Care Home, Dingwall on Monday. He is survived by his wife Jessie, son Alistair, daughter Mairi and their extended families.
His funeral will take place on Friday 3rd March at 12 o’clock in Broadford Church of Scotland.