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"Our aircraft had been observed liked a great torch in the sky'"

Former Flight Lieutenant Jack Lyon was just 23 when he joined the RAF as an Aircraftman. He entered Stalag Luft III, the scene of The Great Escape, in 1942 when it opened and was later moved to the north compound, home to the tunnels 'Tom' , 'Dick' and 'Harry'.

"It was June 1941 and we were returning from a raid on Dusseldorf when we were hit by flack. The port engine caught fire, it was impossible to extinguish it and we were forced to bail out.

"The only casualties were the rear gunner who broke his ankle. But it was touch and go because the pilot told me afterwards that he left his cockpit with about 1500 feet showing on his altimeter, so it was a close thing.

"We landed near the German/Dutch border at a place called Goch. There was no question of any escape at that scene.  The aircraft had been observed like a great torch in the sky for quite a while and they were virtually waiting for us to land.

"We were always treated quite courteously – the only thing I remember is being presented with a Red Cross form, which they wanted me to fill out. It hadn't been okayed by the Red Cross at all it was prepared by German intelligence but we'd been warned about that. They promised us that if we supplied the information that our loved ones at home would be immediately informed that we were OK but of course I didn't do it.

"I didn't like Stalag Luft III because it was situated in an area with rather scruffy black pine trees. Everywhere you looked you'd see them – it was very depressing mentally. But they treated us alright. I spent my time studying; the Red Cross in Geneva supplied books on practically any subject you could think of.

"In four years I never suffered physical abuse, not even verbal abuse. It was actually a good place for learning, when they weren't digging tunnels, that is..."

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