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Great Escape Survivor Celebrates 100th Birthday

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A former World War II prisoner of war who played a role in the famous Great Escape today marks his 100th birthday.

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Jack Lyon was a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF during WWII, is marking his centenary with a party hosted by the Royal Air Force Association’s (RAFA) 1066 Branch at the Albatross Club in Marine Arcade.

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Mr Lyon was taken as a prisoner of war to the Stalag Luft III camp, and was one of 200 servicemen primed for escape on March 24, 1944.

The daring attempt has been immortilised in the famous 1963 film, The Great Escape.

During the attempt, tunnel diggers attempted to create an underground pathway through which they might escape.

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.”

Unfortunately, the escape attempt proved unsuccessful, and 50 of those re-captured were later shot.

Nevertheless, The Great Escape lives on as one of our greatest stories of military bravery.

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