"He's a fantastic ambassador for Sunderland" - War veteran Len Gibson honoured at book launch after passing away aged 101
Sunderland Death Railway veteran Len Gibson has been honoured at his own book launch after sadly dying two days before, aged 101.
The 101-year-old, from West Herrington, died in hospital on Saturday – just two days before the release of a memoir about his life, which will raise funds for the Daft as a Brush cancer charity.
Len was was one of the last survivors of the infamous Burma Death Railway and endured over two years of forced labour, physical cruelty, malnutrition, scorpion bites, typhus and malaria as a prisoner of war.
A minute silence was held in memory of Len at the Brush House in Gosforth and guest speakers including Brian Burnie, the founder of Daft as a Brush, Mayor of Sunderland Cllr Henry Trueman and Northumbria Police Chief Constable Winton Keenen spoke at the event.
Brian Burnie paid tribute to Len and announced that he will be doing a sky dive in memory of him to raise money for the charity.
Freda Elstob, 82, a neighbour of Len’s in West Herrington said: “He was a lovely man and he remembered names and songs and poetry from years ago – his stories were fascinating and he would always tell them in a funny way.
"Len had a fantastic life and has always been a bit of a flirt with the ladies, he was loved by so many and will be sorely missed.”
In 1942 Len was with the 125 Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery when the ship taking them to the Far East conflict was bombed by Japanese planes.
Len was rescued from the ocean but after making it to shore, was forced to work on the infamous Mergui Road building the "Death Railway" in Burma (now Myanmar) until liberation in 1945.
The Mayor of Sunderland Cllr Harry Trueman also paid tribute to Len, saying: “Every town and city needs an ambassador and I think we had the best, he was everything.
"He’s a fantastic ambassador for Sunderland and even after sadly passing away, he still is – He was so enthusiastic and will greatly missed.”
Len’s book will be available online (at £12 plus postage) from www.DaftasaBrush.org.uk or by phone on 0191 28 55 999.