Great Escape veteran Jack Lyon dies, aged 101

Jack Lyon
Image caption Jack Lyon, who was caught when the escape tunnel was uncovered, described the Hollywood film of the wartime escape as “absolute rubbish”

The last veteran of World War Two’s Great Escape has died at the age of 101 – just days before the 75th anniversary of the audacious bid for freedom.

Jack Lyon, a former RAF navigator, died at his home in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, on Friday.

He was lookout during the breakout bid from Stalag Luft III in 1944, but the escape tunnel was uncovered before he had the chance to get out himself.

Ironically, he said the plot being rumbled probably saved his life.

According to the RAF Benevolent Fund, he had been the last known living veteran of the escape attempt, which became the subject of a Hollywood film in 1963.

None of the 76 who escaped from the Nazi camp is now alive – 73 were recaptured, of whom 50 were executed on the orders of Adolf Hitler.

Image caption Jack Lyon was captured after his plane crash-landed near Dusseldorf

In an interview with the BBC on his 100th birthday in 2017, Mr Lyon said: “Had I got out, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you because my chances of getting home were virtually nil. I was under no illusions about that.”

And he described the Hollywood portrayal of the escape bid, which starred Steve McQueen and a motorcycle, as “absolute rubbish”.

He said: “Not one American took part in it, and as for the motorbike, it never existed.”

RAFBF chief executive Air Vice Marshal David Murray, 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.

“To truly pay tribute to his memory and all this who have gone before him, we must never forget.

“Jack’s death is especially poignant as it comes just two weeks before the 75th anniversary of the Great Escape, on March 24.”


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