Jack Lyon, a one of the last surviving veterans of World War II's Great Escape, was laid to rest in a moving ceremony at Eastbourne Crematorium this week. The former RAF navigator died at age 101 last month at his home in Bexhill, Sussex, just days before the 75th anniversary of the 1944 Great Escape breakout, The Evening Standard reported.
Lyon was captured by Nazis after his bomber plane was shot down in 1941. He was taken to the Stalag Luft III camp where other prisoners enlisted him to be lookout ahead of their planned breakout, which was foiled by guards – but not until 76 men escaped, although all but three were recaptured.
Lyon’s funeral drew veterans, serving members of the armed forces along with friends and family from across the world who gathered to pay their respects, the BBC noted. Speaking at the ceremony, his niece Jacqui Tarisciotti said she would miss her "lovely uncle" who showed immense courage in the face of danger.
Patricia Welsh, a member of the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) Association and close friend to Lyon, said he remained modest following the Great Escape – an intricate plan that gain legendary status over the years – which "he would talk about in a very matter-of-fact manner."
Lyon's step-grandson, Adrian Biffen, recalled how he would "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."
Lyon was a lookout as allied soldiers tried to escape through a tunnel they had painstakingly dug. He didn’t get the chance to escape, as the tunnel was discovered.
Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, chief executive of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said Lyon's death was poignant in wake of the 75th anniversary of the Great Escape.
"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," Murray said. "Their tenacity and determination spoke volumes about the values and bravery of the entire RAF, in helping to win the fight against the Nazis. To truly pay tribute to his memory and all this who have gone before him, we must never forget."
Lyon's family requested that donations in his memory be made to the RAF Benevolent Fund in leu of flowers.
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