Bexhill POW who played role in the Great Escape to mark 100th birthday

RAF veteran Jack Lyon in May 2011. Picture by Steve Hunnisett
RAF veteran Jack Lyon in May 2011. Picture by Steve Hunnisett

A war veteran and former POW who played a role in the famous Great Escape is set to celebrate his 100th birthday next month.

Jack Lyon, from Bexhill, who was a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF in the Second World War, is marking his centenary year next Saturday (September 2) when the Royal Air Force Association’s (RAFA) 1066 Branch is hosting a party at the Albatross Club in Marine Arcade.

The pensioner was a prisoner of war in the Stalag Luft III camp and was one of 200 servicemen primed for escape on March 24, 1944.

Months went into the planning of the escape, which later led to the making of the famous 1963 movie, The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen.

The operation involved a network of tunnel diggers, document forgers, tailors and planners.

Speaking to the Observer in 2011, Mr Lyon said: “It was our duty to try and escape and most people tried at least once. The guards expected it. I wouldn’t say we made friends with them, but we were on good terms. They had their job to do and we had ours.

“There were 200 of us and we had to do it without being noticed. We held a football match to distract the guards and then afterwards, the team of people who were going to break out went back into Hut 104, and the team from Hut 104 went elsewhere. Once we had made sure we were in 104, we were given a number and then told to wait in different rooms until we were called. I was number 79. I never made it into the tunnel but I would not have got away anyway and when so many of them were murdered it didn’t seem important anymore.”

All but three of the escapees were rounded up, with 50 of those captured later shot. Mr Lyon said a lot of his friends were shot after the escape and still keeps records of all the people involved in the break-out.

He has contributed to several books on the escape and published his own book, War and Pieces.

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