Home for VE Day
Jack Lyon was shot down in a raid on Dusseldorf in June 1941 and spent almost four years as a PoW. Marched west by his German captors from Stalag Luft III as the war drew to an end, Jack finally returned home on VE Day.
Stalag Luft III is best known as the setting of The Great Escape, but the prisoners left inside the wire found themselves facing great uncertainty as the war drew to an end.
With the Russians rapidly approaching from the East, the German guards abandoned the prison camp, forcing their prisoners to set out on The Long March westward from Sagan, Poland.
The January temperatures were more than 20 below and the POWs marched through deep snow, sometimes sleeping without shelter in the bitter cold. Jack survived the forced march and was in Lubeck, Germany when local German forces surrendered on 2 May.
First picked up and transported by Americans, he then met up with the British 2nd Army and began the journey home. Transported on a Dakota, Jack landed at Dunsfold aerodrome in Surrey on the afternoon of VE Day, 8 May.
Jack says: "You would be surprised how much some people brought home. One man on my flight was carrying a sword and a hunting rifle!"
A 23-year-old Jack, however, arrived home carrying only one tin of Canadian dried milk, called 'Klim' in the PoW camp.
"It was very good," Jack recalls fondly. "One tin made three pints of good quality milk. The Canadian Red Cross parcels were excellent, much better than the British kits."
Welcomed with tea and buns by the Women's Volunteer Service, he was sent by train that same evening to RAF Cosford for a medical evaluation and complete change of kit, including new boots.
There was no going out that evening to celebrate VE Day or his return to England.
"I'd had enough!” says Jack, "I was ready to put my feet up."
After a good night's sleep at RAF Cosford, Jack was given a leave pass and card for extra rations.
"Little did they know, we'd had more food than them for weeks!" says Jack, who had benefitted from Red Cross food kits as he travelled across Europe.
And on 9 May, just 24 hours after arriving back in the UK, Jack was finally home.