Alexander Campbell Borrie 17 August 1924 – 21 May 2023
WWII veteran Alec Borrie, 98, died in Darent Valley Hospital on 21 May. He was one of the last surviving members of the 1st SAS.
Alec Borrie volunteered for the army in 1942 and joined the Gordon Highlanders. After four months training, there were no vacancies in the battalions, so he was sent to the Highland Light Infantry. His first mission was on the Orkney Islands looking for spies. The weather was terrible, so when in 1944 they were looking for volunteers for the Parachute Regiment, the Commandos and the SAS, Alec volunteered for the SAS having no idea at that time what the new SAS was.
He was hired for the elite commando unit as a 19-year-old soldier by legendary SAS commander Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Mayne. Alec, who was serving in the Orkney Islands, and some of his pals, responded to a message on a noticeboard calling for volunteers for a commando parachute regiment.
He was interviewed and accepted and became part of the 1st SAS. He did his training near Kilmarnock with about 30 men who were whittled down to about 15 during the training process.
Some of the SAS went to D-Day but Alec was dropped off in France a few days later and, after picking up a jeep, drove through the German lines towards the south of Paris, just 150 miles from the front line. Once behind the lines, he didn’t see another English person for two months. One of the first things he was involved with was shooting a small convoy which turned out to be much bigger than they thought so it was very nearly his first and last action. Coordinated through the wireless, they helped the Resistance by dropping in food and aided with training. It was not the safest of places as they were surrounded by Germans. Of the total 1st SAS in France, over half didn’t return; they were either killed in action or betrayed and shot as spies.
From here, Alec moved onto Brussels and then to Holland where he was assigned to patrol the River Maas. The Germans were on one side and the British on the other, and bizarrely as it now sounds, they would wave at each other most mornings. One day, Alec had to drive into Germany to pick up an agent and was not stopped as he drove over the bridge but waved on his way.
Alec came home on leave in 1945 for four weeks but after two weeks, as the British crossed the Rhine into Germany, he received a telegram ordering him back. There he acted as reconnaissance for the Canadians but each day the SAS would move forward and the Canadians behind them might only move a couple of miles, so they were pulled out.
This was Alec’s last mission as one day while out in the jeep, he drove over a mine; two of the passengers were lucky to escape with injuries and sent home, but the third passenger was killed.
A father and grandfather, Alec was a carpenter by trade and lived in Slade Green.
Perry Smith, Taxi Charity volunteer and Alec’s friend, said: “I was introduced to Alec by the Taxi Charity. It was a great honour and I got to know him very well over a number of years. I would visit him weekly and we would enjoy catching up over his favourite fare: a bacon sandwich followed by a jam doughnut. We would talk about a wide variety of subjects, not just his military experiences, which were colourful to say the least! Alec always impressed me with how up to date he was with current affairs. I took him Biggin Hill and he wangled me a seat in a Spitfire in the hangar! Great memory. Sadly, Alec broke an ankle and caught COVID twice leading to him not getting the physio he needed and confining him to bed over the last 12 months. We talked every week about getting him to his favourite pub when the summer came. He never lost heart or his sense of humour. His passing is a sad loss but he’ll not be forgotten.”
Dick Goodwin, Honorary Secretary of the Taxi Charity, said: “Alec was a real character and I loved hearing his tales from the war. He put all his war memories into his autobiography and I am delighted that I have a signed copy. For over 30 years, Alec attended the Field of Remembrance at Westminster only missing it during the Covid restrictions. He will be greatly missed and we send our condolences to his family.”
Alec’s funeral will be held at Eltham Cemetery and Crematorium, Crown Woods Way, London, SE9 2AZ at 11am on 14 June.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans: www.justgiving.com/campaign/in-memory-of-alec-borrie
Interviews with Alec Borrie