Jack Lyon, one of the last few remaining people who were involved in the ‘Great Escape’, is a life member of the Association and lives independently, close to its Bexhill on Sea club. Jack was shot down over enemy territory in WW II and was held in several prisoner of war camps before being transferred to Stalag Luft III, at Sagan, south-east Germany. At the time of the escape, a total of 76 men were able to tunnel out of the camp – which housed allied airmen – on the night of 24–25 March 1944. It was the largest breakout of its kind.
As well as throwing the party, the branch wanted to celebrate his centenary, and arranged for a special certificate, signed by the Association’s President Air Marshal Sir Baz North.
“I often come down to the club here”, Jack said at the party. “They are a nice bunch of people. I’ve got no relatives, virtually. My own family are no longer around.”
At the event, he talked of his time in the RAF as well as his time working for Shell (the oil company) in London. There he had met Douglas Bader. “When he was invalided out of the service he joined Shell as a management trainee,” Jack continued. “Of course I sort of met him again in the prisoner of war camp. And I had already met him in Venezuela because he had come out on a fact finding mission; he was thinking we might persuade the company to buy British aeroplanes rather than American ones. Anyway, it was a gathering a bit like this one, and they said ‘This is Mr Lyon from head office’. And I said ‘We’ve met before haven’t we?’. And he said, ‘Yes, yes. The last time I saw you, you were shall we say, ‘inspecting the escort that was going to take you to another camp’ [referring to the attempts to escape from . He said, “Oh my goodness yes, yes.” And I knew him for quite a long time after the war.”