COUNTY NEWS PICTURES: Sussex war veteran, who played part in Great Escape, marks his 100th birthday

100th Birthday of Jack Lyon - Last Survivor of the 'Great Escape'. Photo by Derek Canty SUS-170309-115624001
100th Birthday of Jack Lyon - Last Survivor of the 'Great Escape'. Photo by Derek Canty SUS-170309-115624001

A war veteran and ex-POW who played a role in the famous Great Escape in the Second World War celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday (September 2).

Jack Lyon received a card from The Queen and held a party, with the Royal Air Force Association’s (RAFA) 1066 Branch organising the event in his honour.

Mr Lyon was a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF in the Second World War.

He joined up in September 1939 on the second day of hostilities between Germany and the UK. After training he served in 56 Squadron, flying Whitley Bombers and was shot down on his third operational trip in early 1941.

Mr Lyon, from Bexhill, then spent the next four years in captivity.

He 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.

Mr Lyon was involved in the escape and was dressed up ready to go into the tunnel when it was discovered by the Germans.

All but three of the escapees were rounded up by the Germans, with 50 of those captured later shot.

A lot of Mr Lyon’s friends were shot after the escape and he 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.

Mr Lyon left the RAF after the war and returned to work for the Shell oil company.

While working he travelled widely around the world.

He was an active member of the RAF ex-POW association and has maintained an active interest in all matters RAF.

Mr Lyon, who lives alone, has a wide circle of friends and acquaintances and has spoken about his wartime adventures to many notable institutions, such as Eton and Wellington colleges, numerous professional societies and special interest groups.

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