Sussex

Funeral held for Great Escape veteran Jack Lyon

Jack Lyon
Image caption Jack Lyon died at his home in Bexhill at the age of 101

A funeral has been held for one of the last veterans of World War Two's Great Escape who died aged 101.

Jack Lyon, a former RAF navigator, died at his home in Bexhill, Sussex, last month.

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

Veterans and serving members of the armed forces gathered to pay their respects at Eastbourne Crematorium.

His niece, Jacqui Tarisciotti, said while he was very brave, he was her "lovely uncle" as well, and she would miss him terribly.

Image caption Jack Lyon was captured after his plane crash-landed near Dusseldorf
Image caption Tributes described "difficult days of captivity and better days later in freedom"

At the funeral: Chrissie Reidy, BBC News

Friends and family gathered at Eastbourne Crematorium to remember Jack Lyon, some of whom had travelled from across the world.

Many came in uniform to pay their respects to a man they described as modest but brilliant, who loved to tell a joke.

The dignified service was peppered with humour and anecdotes about a veteran who had enjoyed a fiercely independent life.

Friends described Jack's steely grit - a man who even in his 90s would march past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, so the friends he lost would not be forgotten.

Image caption Jacqui Tarisciotti said Mr Lyon was a brave veteran, but also her "Uncle Jack"
Image caption Some had travelled from across the world and many came in uniform

One of his friends, Patricia Welsh, a member of the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) Association, became friends with Mr Lyon when they met at St Leonards railway station seven years ago as they both made their way to the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.

She said he always remained very modest about his involvement with the Great Escape.

Image caption Veterans gathered to pay their respects at the service

"He would talk about it in a very matter-of-fact way," she said.

Mr Lyon always believed the plot being rumbled probably saved his life.

Of the 76 who escaped the Nazi camp, 73 were recaptured and of those, 50 were executed on the orders of Adolf Hitler.

Image caption The dignified service was peppered with anecdotes

Adrian Biffen, Mr Lyon's step-grandson, said his grandfather was always telling stories.

"He was always going round to the schools and universities and the associations telling the correct history of the prison camp - not the American version as he so eloquently put it."

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."

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