Spitfire flypast to honour 101-year-old Sunderland war veteran Len Gibson as he backs Daft as a Brush cancer charity
Sunderland war hero Len Gibson is taking on a new challenge at the grand old age of 101.
Former Lance Bombardier Len survived the horrors of the Burma Death Railway to become a musician who inspired Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.
Now he is following in the footsteps of Sir Tom Moore and signing 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.
The great-grandfather is appealing for volunteers and copies of his book, A Wearside Lad, will be sold to raise funds for the cause.
He said: "When you know the hardship and sacrifice others have made you want to be able to spread joy and happiness.”
Len was with the 125 Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery when his ship was bombed, and he lost his beloved banjo.
Forced to work on the infamous Mergui Road, building the 'Death Railway' in Burma, he worked out how to make a guitar, and entertained prisoners each night.
Critically ill on his return home, he spent months in hospital, where he met the nurse, Ruby, who was to be his wife for 70 years.
When Len returned home, he continued to play the guitar in his back garden. Neighbours, including future Eurytmics star Dave Stewart, would join in.
A celebration of his life at Herrington Country Park on Wednesday, May 19, will include 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.
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.Daft as a Brush founder Brian Burnie said: "Len is incredible – he has never stopped helping people in over a century - and to have his support to help us recruit volunteers to launch our ambulances in other cancer centres around the country is wonderful.
"We know there are volunteers in cancer centres around the country who would love to get involved in their area and we want to hear from them."