A SECOND World War veteran has said he is “absolutely thrilled” after receiving a letter from Nicola Sturgeon on his 103rd birthday.

John Mackellar, who lives in Glasgow, was surprised by his niece when she handed him a letter from the First Minister hailing his “fantastic milestone”.

The former Highland Light Infantry soldier said he felt like a “VIP” when the SNP leader thanked him in May for his service in the armed forces.

Sturgeon wrote: “Many happy ­returns for your 103rd Birthday – what a fantastic milestone!

READ MORE: Veteran Yesser 'over the moon' after receiving letter from Nicola Sturgeon

“I am aware of the storied ­history of the Highland Light Infantry in the Second World War, from its ­participation in the earliest days of the conflict in September 1939, through to the final days in Europe almost 6 years later.

“I understand from your niece that you were among the last members of the regiment to leave France in 1945 – you no doubt went through a great deal and I wanted to express my sincere thanks, and that of those across Scotland, for all that you and your comrades achieved on our behalf.

The National: Veteran glows after letter from First Minister

“While the Highland Light Infantry no longer exists, I am glad that its history and traditions exist to this day within the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

“Maintaining this link to our shared history is so important and we will never forget the sacrifices that were made and will never forget those fine soldiers who never made it home.

“I believe you are having a Birthday celebration at the Three Craws on 28th May. I am sorry that I will not be able to join you, but I hope you have a wonderful time, celebrating your special day with family and friends.”

Asked if he preferred Sturgeon’s letter on his 103rd birthday to the Queen’s on his 100th, he laughed and said “Sturgeon’s”.

The National: John Mackellar worked at the Post Office for 40 years after his service in the armyJohn Mackellar worked at the Post Office for 40 years after his service in the army

Mackellar joined the army when he was just 17 and was posted to Belgium and France. He later worked for the Post Office in East Kilbride for some 40 years before retiring.

Talking at his care home in Glasgow, he reflected on his time in the war, and the brutality of it. One of the worst parts, he says, were the countless young men, many his friends, who travelled across the English Channel and never made it back.

There were many times he himself thought he would never come back, such as the time he had sought to help a worried soldier, finding his trench nowhere to be seen when he returned.

“I thought we’d never get out of here,” he said. “I had mates that never came back. A waste of a good life. John Mackellar is a lucky man.

The National:

“I went in this dug-out because this guy was scared. I was scared myself, and when the shit came down you couldn’t believe it.

“When I came back my trench wasn’t there anymore. So this guy saved my life. I was kidding on I wasn’t frightened but I was.”

As he discusses his own experience of war, he points to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and asks “can you see any sense in a war? I can’t”.

The centenarian still keeps up to date with the news, rolling his eyes at the mere mention of Boris Johnson.

The National: John Mackellar, right, spent much of his early adulthood in the warJohn Mackellar, right, spent much of his early adulthood in the war

A keen independence supporter his whole life, he’d recently been given a lifetime membership of the SNP, which he said he was “over the moon” about.

Asked how he felt about it, Mackellar said: “It’s wonderful to think Scotland is, at last, is waking up to what we will lose if we don’t pursue independence.”

Mackellar switched from Labour to the SNP decades ago and has been campaigning for indy ever since.

The veteran said he had a “wonderful feeling” Scotland would gain independence, saying “we are on the right road”.

READ MORE: Yes activist on his 70 years backing indy – and why he’s never wavered

Asked for the secret to a long life, he urged people to “accept that you are a very lucky person to come into this world”.

And asked what it’s like to be 103, Mackellar said: “It’s too old. You can’t do very much. But if you do have a good day then you do feel better.”

The National: Linda Murray said her uncle John was her 'hero'Linda Murray said her uncle John was her 'hero'

His niece Linda Murray who visits him often, said her uncle was her hero. She said to know Mackellar was “an honour, an absolute honour”.

Linda looked at Mackellar and said: “When people talk about their ­heroes, you really are my hero. In every sense of the word.”