RECAP: Spitfire flyover as Sunderland war veteran Len Gibson celebrates life at party in Herrington Country Park

A celebration to honour 101-year-old veteran Len Gibson from Sunderland was held at Herrington Country Park today which included a Spitfire flyover and a Red Devils drop in.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 2:14 pm

A party for Len Gibson, a Second World War veteran who spent four years at a Japanese prisoner of war camp was held today, Wednesday, May 19 in Herrington Country Park to honour his life and celebrate his 101st birthday.

The celebrations included a Spitfire flypast, the Red Devils dropping in, and performances from violinist Bradley Creswick, a Scottish piper, a male voice choir and 120 pupils of Hastings Hill Academy, where Len was Deputy Head for 17 years.

Former Lance Bombardier Len survived the horrors of the Burma Death Railway to become a musician who inspired Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.

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Celebrations at Herrington Park as a Spitfire flyover is planned to honour Len Gibson
Celebrations at Herrington Park as a Spitfire flyover is planned to honour Len Gibson

Len signed up for volunteer work to help cancer charity Daft as a Brush, which provides free transport to and from hospitals, roll out across the UK.

A new Daft as a Brush ambulance will be named 'Len Guitar Gibson and there will be messages of support from Dave Stewart, Kate Adie CBE, and Australian footballer Keith Adams, among many.

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War veteran Len Gibson Herrington Park live updates

Last updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2021, 12:14

  • A party to honour Len Gibson, the Japanese POW veteran is being held at Herrington Country Park
  • Celebrations will include a Spitfire flypast and the Red Devils dropping in
  • Len has taken on a new challenge at the age of 101 to volunteer for cancer charity Daft as a Brush

Herrington Park party to honour Sunderland war veteran

A party for war veteran Len Gibson has begun this morning to celebrate his 101th birthday and to celebrate his life.

Len survived the horrors of the Burma Death Railway to become a musician who inspired Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.

A celebration is being held today to honour his “amazing life”.

Len celebrated his 101st birthday on Sunday, January 3.

To mark Len’s special day, cancer charity Daft as a Brush organised a birthday cake and card, along with standard bearers and a military bugler to play outside of Dairy Lane Nursing Home in Houghton, where Len is currently living.

Len Gibson’s war story

Mr Gibson was a member of the 125 Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery when he was captured by the Japanese in 1942.

He then became a POW on the Burma Death Railway before his liberation three and a half years later in 1945.

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

Following his release from captivity, the veteran returned to his hometown of Sunderland a sick man and fell in love with one of the nurses, Ruby, who brought him back to health.

Len’s lust for life lifting spirits of other prisoners

Len was with the 125 Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery when his ship was bombed, and he lost his beloved banjo.

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.

Always the entertainer, Mr Gibson, who now lives in New Herrington, constructed a guitar out of an old wooden crate and pilfered telegraph wires and would sing and play to fellow prisoners in the camp.

The veteran returned to his hometown of Sunderland a sick man and fell in love with one of the nurses, Ruby, who brought him back to health.

When Len returned home, he continued to play the guitar in his back garden. Neighbours, including future Eurytmics star Dave Stewart, would join in.

Celebrations begin with introduction from Executive Director at the Customs House

An introduction by Ray Spencer from the Customs House Theatre in South Shields will kicked off celebrations.

Former Lance Bombardier Len Gibson arrives at Herrington Park in Sunderland to as celebrations to honour his life begin.

War veteran Len Gibson has arrived at Herrington Park in Sunderland.

Len’s sister Ena Gardner joins Len ahead of a Spitfire flyover planned as part of today’s celebrations.

Hastings Hill pupils accompanied by a Rothbury Piper

Children from Hastings Hill Academy have walked from their school to Herrington Country Park.

“It’s a special day on two counts"

Len’s son Dave Gibson, 73 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 the attention too.”

Pupils from Hasting Hill Academy singing for 101-year-old war veteran Len Gibson.

Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear

Lord-Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear Mrs Susan Winfield, OBE was spotted with Len Gibson on a day full of celebrations.

A day of celebrations

Pupils from Hasting Hill Academy sang for Len Gibson as part of a party in Herrington Park to honour his life.

Our reporter Ryan Smith captured Len joining in with a bit of singing.

Live spitfire flyover for 101-year-old war veteran Len Gibson

Our reporter Ryan Smith took this video of the Spitfire flyover in Herrington Park.

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