The pensioner on the front line

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The Independent Online

After a hyperactive career as a First World War officer, a South African rugby international and a big game hunter, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Scott might have retired from combat when he turned 62 in 1939.

Instead, the redoubtable veteran embarked on a 5,600-mile journey to see active service in the Second World War and was ultimately deployed in Spain for the clandestine Special Operations Executive (SOE). The extraordinary efforts of Mr Scott to, in the words of one admiring officer, "have a crack at the Boche", are detailed in an Army file released at the National Archives.

After failing to sign up in South Africa, where he owned a mine and indulged in lion hunting, the well-known sportsman who had served for four years in the trenches from 1915, persuaded the captain of a Free French ship sailing to Liverpool to take him on as a gunner in 1942.

Upon his arrival in Britain, he lied on his Army enlistment form, knocking 20 years off his age, and served as an instructor before his inability to crawl through barbed wire led to his dismissal.

In a letter of recommendation to the SOE, one officer wrote: "He does not mind what he does, I gather, so long as he gets into a scrap. So long as he does not have to move very fast or over difficult country he is active."

After initially considering sending him to Nigeria to train guerrillas, the SOE record states that he was sent to Spain. Sadly his activities there remain shrouded in mystery.