The RAF Association is deeply saddened to learn that Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE, one of the last surviving prisoners of Stalag Luft III at the time of the Great Escape, has died at the age of 95.
Air Cdre Clarke, who had a long and distinguished RAF career, was a Bomb Aimer during the Second World War.
Joining the RAF in 1941 at the age of 17, Charles was posted to 619 Squadron at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire.
His Lancaster Bomber was shot down over Germany during an operation to Schweinfurt in February 1944. Three of his crewmen died in the crash, but Charles survived and was taken prisoner.
Charles was a recent arrival at the Lower Silesian camp during the Great Escape. Although not involved, Charles was aware of the operation and recalled hearing a shot fired by guards when they discovered prisoners were missing.
The following day, he and his fellow prisoners were made to stand outside for several hours, while the Germans counted them. Of the 76 prisoners who managed to get away, 73 were recaptured and 50 subsequently executed.
Following the Long March from Stalag Luft III, Charles and his comrades were eventually abandoned by the Germans as the Allies neared victory. The prisoners and he was freed by the British 11th Armoured Division at the end of April in 1945.