Charles Clarke OBE – Veteran of WW2 and The Great Escape has died

It is with great sadness this morning that I read of the death at the age of 95 of Charles Clarke OBE. 

He was also a member 617 Squadron – the Dam Busters – with its officers mess in The Petwood Hotel at Woodhall Spa – and it is there that I stayed along with my daughter and family  who were visiting from Australia in January of this year and met Charles Clarke and his friend who were also staying at the Hotel.

Charles Clarke

ABOVE – Charles Clarke – and right with his Squadron

The Petwood Hotel was a real favourite of his and he came back there often as it had great memories for him of those WW2 days. We were lucky enough to chat to him over breakfast and found him fascinating company – as did my young Grandaughters.

It was indeed a privilege to have met him and share a breakfast conversation with him.  He belonged to a young heroic band of men who risked their lives – and many gave their lives – in the cause of the nation and us all.

He was a very nice man -  an astonishing wartime story from a true War Hero.

Woodhall Spa

WORLD War Two hero Air Commodore Charles Clarke who was held as a prisoner during The Great Escape has died aged 95, it was announced last night.

The Lancaster Bomber crewman became a teenage prisoner of war in 1944 when his plane was shot down and he was captured by the Nazis.

The Officers Mess 617 Sqaudron

ABOVE The Officers Mess for 617 Sqaudron at the Petwood Hotel Woodhall Spa

Cdr Clarke was described as a “giant of our nation” by John Nichol, the former RAF navigator who was himself taken prisoner during the first Gulf War.

He tweeted: “V sad to say Air Cdre Charles Clarke has died aged 95. Shot down in 1944, 3 of his crew perished & he ended up in Stalag Luft 3 just before the Great Escape.

Then the prisoners at that camp – and Charles was one of them – were marched many miles in freezing conditions  back into Germany on what became  known as The Long March. Many prisoners did not survive.

“He was a wonderful man, a great friend, a supporter of countless charities & a giant of our nation. Blue skies Sir. RIP”

RAF Cosford in Shropshire also paid tribute to Cdr Clarke, who visited the training station in 2018 with fellow POWs.

“Devastated to hear this evening that Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE has died. Lancaster bomb aimer and POW, he continued to inspire us all to the last,” the station tweeted.

Petwood Hotel 2

 

This post on the Blog filmsofthefifties.com – may not be film news but in a way it is.   Charles Clarke had been with 617 Squadron ( Dam Busters) and at the camp at the time of The Great Escape – and there are great links to the film world there.

BELOW: Air Commodore Charles Clarke was the man wielding the specially designed silver shovel at the groundbreaking ceremony today.

Charles Clarke at the Bomber Command Memorial Lincolnshire

Bomber Command veteran Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE breaks the ground at Bomber Command Memorial in Lincoln in 2016

 

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