Jack Lyon Great Escape, Second World War has died at 101.
THE last veteran who was involved in the Great Escape during the Second World War has died at 101.
Jack Lyon, a former RAF navigator, died at his home in Bexhill on Friday, just days before the 75th anniversary of the epic breakout, which is on March 24.
He joined the Air Force when he was 23. In 1941 Mr Lyon’s bomber plane was struck by anti-aircraft fire near Dusseldorf in Germany. All the bomber’s crew survived the crash-landing but were captured by the Nazis and taken to prisoner of war camps.
Mr Lyon, who was a flight lieutenant, ended up in the Stalag Luft III camp. He was recruited by other prisoners to carry out surveillance of the compound ahead of the famed 1944 Great Escape breakout.
However, the plot was discovered by prison guards before Mr Lyon could escape.
In an interview with the RAF Benevolent Fund in October last year, he branded the mission “a success, but at great cost”.
None of the 76 who escaped the Nazi camp is alive. Seventy three were recaptured and 50 were shot.
According to the RAF Benevolent Fund, Mr Lyon was the last known living veteran to attempt the escape.
In an interview with the BBC last year, he described the 1963 American epic war film The Great Escape as “absolute rubbish”. One of the film’s most famous scenes was actor Steve McQueen trying to evade German soldiers and jumping over barbed wired fences at the German-Swiss border.
Mr Lyon said: “Not one American took part in it and as for the motorbike, it never existed.”
He said: “We were allocated a position and told not to move until called. It was going to be a long night.
“After an hour or so of this, air raid sirens sounded and all the camp lights went out.
“We were left in total darkness until I heard a single shot. We guessed that probably meant the tunnel had been discovered so we did everything we could to destroy anything incriminating. There were maps, documents.
“The odds of successfully breaking out of the camp were slim. In a mass breakout, with nationwide hue and cry and bad weather, I would say they were virtually nil. Well I suppose I was lucky.”
Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, chief executive of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “Jack belonged to a generation of servicemen we are sadly losing as time goes on. His legacy and those of his brave comrades who planned and took part in the audacious Great Escape breakout are the freedoms we enjoy today.
“Their tenacity and determination spoke volumes about the values and bravery of the entire RAF, in helping to win the fight against the Nazis.”