A spitfire flyover, parachute jump and birthday cake – War veteran Len Gibson, 101, celebrates his amazing life at party in Herrington Country Park

A celebration to honour 101-year-old war veteran Len Gibson from Sunderland was held by cancer charity Daft as a Brush at Herrington Country Park.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 3:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 3:47 pm

The Sunderland veteran served during the Second World War, with Mr Gibson being a member of the 125 Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery when he was captured by the Japanese in 1942 and remained a POW on the Burma Death Railway for the rest of the war.

Faced with death by starvation, torture and disease everyday, Mr Gibson’s lust for life lifted the spirits of other prisoners when they were at their lowest.

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A celebration of 101-year-old Len Gibson's life was held in Herrington Country Park.

Nearly 200 of the 125 Regiment died during captivity and Len is now the lone survivor.

Cancer charity Daft as a Brush, who Len volunteers for, organised the day which included a Spitfire flyover, a parachute jump from the Red Devils who delivered Len’s new book “A Wearside Lad” and a special message from Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics – who Len inspired to play the guitar.

Pupils from Hasting Hill Academy, where Len was deputy head for 17 years, performed war time classic songs for the veteran, who was joined by his family for the special day.

Len with Daft as a Brush founder Brian Burnie.

Speaking after cutting his cake, which he joked would cost “a tenner a slice”, Len said: “I don’t know where all you people have come from but you came out with the sun this morning and I’m so pleased to see you all.

"It’s all due to this gentleman here (Brian Burnie), he calls himself Daft as a Brush but I think he is as wise as an owl, he way he works, he is as busy as a bee and I think at times, he is as cunning as a fox but he has a big heart – he has always cared for the people who have cancer.”

Len’s son, Dave Gibson, was also at the event and he revealed to the Echo that his dad would be loving all the attention.

The 73-year-old said: “It’s a special day on two counts. First of all, it’s great for dad but for Daft as a Brush as well which is what dad wanted – however he does enjoy all the attention.”

A Spitfire performed a fly over in honour of Len.

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The event was also important for Daft as a Brush, who announced that between March and June next year, they will be expanding to help cancer patients in Aberdeen, Londonderry, Cardiff and London.

Founder Brian Burnie commented: “Me and Len go back 20 years. I am 77 and without a shadow of a doubt he is the greatest gentleman I have ever met in my entire life.

"He is absolutely remarkable. Len is the star of the show. We haven't had to do anything. People have bent over backwards to come along and say 'well done Len'."Its hard to believe that 76 years ago when he left that Japanese prisoner of war camp he has been giving and helping people all over the North of England.

Len joked that his birthday cakes were "a tenner a slice".

"He is a true giant of a gentleman."

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Pupils from Hasting Hill Academy, where Len worked as deputy head teacher, performed classic war time songs for the veteran.
War veteran Len Gibson at the celebration of his life in Herrington Country Park.
Red Devils LCpl Lee Crudgington sky dived in to present Len Gibson's new book to him.