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World War Two prison camp escapee celebrates 100th birthday, BBC

A pilot who escaped a prisoner of war camp after being captured in Allied attempts to end World War Two early has celebrated his 100th birthday.

Ron Johnson's first operational flight came in the 1944 battle for the bridge at Arnhem and he was taken prisoner after being shot by a sniper in subsequent fighting at Oosterbeek.

He later escaped and hid "with a few biscuits" until he was rescued.

He said despite his age, he was "still feeling hale and hearty".

Mr Johnson, from Shrivenham, Swindon, was held in reserve on D-Day and flew during Operation Market Garden, an attempt to capture a series of bridges over rivers and canals on the Dutch/German border, in September 1944.

The failure of the operation was famously retold in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far.

The glider pilot was injured in subsequent fighting and taken to hospital, but it was overrun by German forces and he was taken prisoner.

He was held at Spangenberg Castle in central Germany, but six months later, he and fellow pilot Bob Garnett escaped and hid for over a week before being rescued by American soldiers and flown back to England.

"We thought it probably wasn't such a good idea to be marched towards the Russians, so we got away and hid in the hills for eight days with a few biscuits," he said.

"I still remember it all very well down to what I was doing at the time of the day."

Roger Beets, the chairman of the Airborne Commemorations Foundation Oosterbeek, said Mr Johnson was a "truly remarkable character" who "always amazes me with his witty comments [and] his great stories about his experiences".

Mr Johnson served with the Duchess of Cornwall's father, Maj Bruce Shand, and received a birthday card from Camilla, along with the traditional birthday greetings from the Queen.

He was joined by family and friends for a party in Farringdon on Saturday and said he was still enjoying life.

He added that had enjoyed a few glasses of red wine to toast his centenary.


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