Remarkable Ron dug tunnels in daring WW2 POW camps escape attempts
AS war stories go, it's as remarkable as anything depicted in classic films such as The Great Escape or Wooden Horse.
But unlike actors Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough, Ron Wade, from Bishop's Cleeve, experienced the horrors of Nazi prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III for real.
The 96-year-old, an aircraft gunner during the World War 2, was captured after having to bail out of his bomber and held captive at the Luftwaffe-run camp.
While there he helped to dig escape tunnels, burrowing underground in secret as he and his fellow prisoners did their best to thwart their captors.
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Ron said: "We wanted to cause as much disruption as possible.
"We'd use bed boards or whatever we could get our hands on to make the tunnels.
"Then, of course, we had to get rid of the reddish earth by dropping it through our trousers and stamping it into the ground."
Ron had been flying towards the German port of Wilhelmshaven in January 1941 when his aircraft was hit and the engine caught fire.
Before jumping out he went back to free the navigator, whose harness had got tangled, pushing him through the hatch before jumping out himself.
The delay meant he was injured by exploding ammunition as he escaped the aircraft.
After landing near Den Helder in Holland, he was found covered in snow with a severe head wound and handed over to the Germans.
He was in a coma for a week and suffered loss of memory, blinding headaches and epilepsy.
The injury also resulted in a permanent loss of taste and smell.
For six months he was listed as 'missing presumed killed' and his parents only discovered he was still alive through a radio broadcast from Germany.
After being taken to Frankfurt for interrogation, he was being transported to prison at Stalag Luft I when he nearly got himself shot.
A Nazi officer was inspecting the train and all German guards sprang to attention with a 'Heil Hitler'.
Seeing this, Ron sprang to attention with a loud 'Hail Churchill'.
The officer drew his revolver and glared at Ron before putting it back in its holster.
"It was a close call," said Ron. "The thing is with Germans is that they had very little sense of humour. It's probably what cost them the war in the end."
Ron continued to be a thorn in the Nazi's side by mounting escape attempts at other camps. He was finally liberated on VE Day after four-and-a-half years of captivity.
Although Ron could no longer be passed fit for flying with the RAF once the war was over due to his injuries, he later obtained a private pilot's licence.
Latterly he has been able to continue flying through the Gloucestershire branch of the Aircrew Association which runs a charitable scheme to return WW2 aviators to the skies.
"It was great to be up in the air again," he said. "I've always said flying is the best way to travel."