A Largs war hero who helped to liberate Italy from the Nazis has died at the age of 102.

James Mitchell's daughter Suzanne told the News her father had passed away peacefully on April 14 after a short illness.

James, a former 'Desert Rat', spoke to the News on his 100th birthday about his memories of entering the completely empty streets of Rome, and then of the Vatican City, along with the Allied forces in 1944.

James remained fit and active well into his second century, even joining son Peter in a golf buggy to watch a round of 18 holes at Trump Turnberry on his 101st birthday.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

In a previous interview with the News, James recalled: “My son and daughter took me back to Rome many years later and it was packed with holidaymakers, yet when we arrived there in the war, the Vatican was deserted.

“There was a big notice sitting at the door of the Vatican saying there was no gold left and that the Pope was 60 miles up the coast.

“Three of us had the whole place to ourselves. We even had a jump about on the Pope’s bed!

“I must have fired over 6,000 rounds of ammunition in anger during the push against the Nazis in Italy.”

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Incredible sight as Rome is without a soul as James and troops liberated city from Nazy tyrannyIncredible sight as Rome is without a soul as James and troops liberated city from Nazy tyranny (Image: Newsquest)
As a Desert Rat - the nickname given to the British Army's 7th Armoured Division - in the punishing heat of North Africa, James and his regiment fought against Rommel’s forces and the 10-mile-long minefields they'd laid to try and halt the Allied forces' push for Cairo and their targeting of Baghdad's oil reserves.

James said: “We got shelled for days on end and I still have shrapnel from the assaults in my body 80 years on - I can feel it in my back and my arm.”

The veteran also fought in the infamous Battle of Monte Cassino, where he lost two close friends.

He said: “The camaraderie within the regiment was always excellent. We had radio communications operatives who helped us keep in touch with what was happening in the war, but I always remember my comrades who were left behind."

James attended a thanksgiving dinner at the end of the Second World War, and saved the original service sheet as one of his most prized possessions.

After the war, Jim became an engineer for Caledonian MacBrayne. He moved to Largs with wife Isabel and family in 1978 before retiring in 1988.

James celebrated his 102nd birthday at the Brisbane House Hotel last year.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

He was also a long term member of Halkshill and Douglas Park Bowling clubs in Largs.

A spokesperson for Halkshill said: "Halkshill was very sad to hear today of the passing to the bowling green above of a good friend of Halkshill and a long serving member of Douglas Park Bowling Club, Jim Mitchell, aged 102. Condolences to all his family."

Suzanne said: "He wasn't ill until three weeks ago when he was taken into hospital. He had been living on his own with carers going in a couple of times a day.

"For his 101st and 102nd birthdays, Buckingham Palace sent one of the monarch's bodyguards to deliver the official birthday card."

Largs and Millport Weekly News: A lovely family shot from the early 2000s.A lovely family shot from the early 2000s. (Image: Newsquest)

James and Isabel were married for 61 years before Isabel passed away at Haylie House in Largs in 2013.

James's favourite tipple was a glass of whisky every day, and even the occasional Guinness, while he loved a cooked breakfast every morning. 

He was the longest serving member of Douglas Park Bowling Club and still visited after turning 100.

James is survived by four grown-up children, Marion, Peter, Suzanne and Jimmy, who live in Adelaide, Canada, Torquay and Symington respectively, as well as three grandchildren.