Sailor who became toast of Pathe News after single-handedly shooting down a German bomber;
Born: March 2, 1920; Died: February 22, 2013.
Jimmy Seggie, who has died aged 92, was a naval gunner and war hero who found fame during the Second World War when he shot down a German bomber with one round of his gun. The incident was featured in Pathe News reports in cinemas across the country and from then on the young sailor was affectionately known as One Round Seggie.
He joined the navy when he was 17 after training as a chair maker with Balfour's West of Scotland Cabinet Works in Beith. His mother Mary died when he was nine and he was raised by his father William.
After passing the Royal Navy entrance exam, he headed to Portsmouth for basic training. He settled in quickly, learning everything from parading to rifle drill and seamanship.
Within a few years the Second World War had started and he saw action in the 2nd Battle of Narvik before taking part in the Dunkirk evacuation in May 1940. He and his shipmates spent a week non-stop transporting men from Dunkirk to Dover on 800 legendary little ships.
The incident that made his name happened while he was serving as a gunner on HMS Southsea, a converted seagoing paddle steamer.
Built at Fairfields, Govan, in 1930, it was once advertised as the largest and most luxurious excursion steamer on the south coast but had been requisitioned for war service. She was two miles offshore near Newcastle when the German Dornier bomber struck.
The Beith Supplement, his local newspaper, reported the event: "A young Beith sailor, Gunner James Seggie, has brought distinction to the town by his exploit of destroying a Dornier bomber. Gunner Seggie is a member of the gun crew on the paddle minesweeper, Southsea, and during a dive attack on the ship by the Dornier, he blew the aircraft to pieces with one round of his gun.
"Despite his youth – he is only 20 – Gunner Seggie has seen plenty of action during the three years he has been in the Navy. As a member of the crew of HMS Ikaros, he was in the famous action at Narvik, and he also took part in the epic evacuation at Dunkirk."
Reflecting on the incident that brought him celebrity, he was sad that five crew members of the Dornier lost their lives, but was philosophical about the price of war.
"If I hadn't shot down the Dornier," he said, "then it's likely that they would have sunk the Southsea or perhaps killed civilians in Newcastle. It was a desperate time."
The shooting incident saw him featured on the front cover of War Weekly for his amazing exploit. He was also mentioned in despatches. The event featured on Pathe News in cinemas across the country. When it arrived in Beith it was so popular, with sell-out cinema crowds every night, it had to be held over for a second week so everyone could see the Beith sailor on the big screen.
During his time in the Navy, he saw much of the world including sailing up the St Lawrence River when it was icebound and carrying out escort duties in Malta, Bermuda, US, Canada and west Africa.
In 1942 he sustained a serious leg injury working on a gun turret. Indeed his leg almost required amputation, but for the skills of an American military surgeon. He was later invalided out of the Navy due to his injury. He spent the rest of his life quietly working at Royal Naval Armaments Depot, Beith, until he retired.
Unassuming, he rarely talked about his navy days and experience of war. He simply called them tough times.
"I achieved my life's ambition to join the Royal Navy," he said, "and I simply did my very best as a gunner on several ships in action, when too many young servicemen were killed and horribly maimed." He was married for 51 years to Mary (Murdoch) and is survived by sons John, Jim and Victor. His wife predeceased him.
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