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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 17:48 GMT
Funeral of 'Great Escape' veteran
Jimmy James
Sqn Ldr Jimmy James is laid to rest
The funeral of a veteran who took part in the prison breakout immortalised in the film The Great Escape has taken place in Shropshire.

Sqn Ldr Bertram "Jimmy" James was one of 76 men who broke out of Stalag Luft Three, the supposedly escape-proof Nazi prisoner camp, in World War II.

His funeral was held on Thursday in St Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Ludlow, and was led by Father Jim Robinson.

Sqn Ldr James, 92, died earlier this month at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

His coffin, draped with the Union Jack and military standards, stood at the front of the church.

He was tireless in explaining to the young the evils of Nazism and the horrors they perpetrated
Father Jim Robinson

David Blakeway Smith, a friend of Sqn Ldr James for more than 30 years told the congregation that when he went to collect his friend's death certificate he told the Registrar it should list his occupation as "escaper".

"Jimmy is the only real life hero and the single most remarkable person I ever met," he said.

"The idea of escape dominated the whole five years of his captivity - he made 13 escape attempts.

"When asked why, he replied 'it's my duty as an officer to escape and continue the war'."

Mr Blakeway Smith said the veteran wondered why he had survived and so many of his good friends had not.

Sqn Ldr James later found "a new purpose in life giving talks to schools, squadrons and other groups about his experiences".

"Now he could start talking and telling others about their bravery, their courage," Mr Blakeway Smith said.

'Final victory'

Father Jim Robinson told the congregation of Sqn Ldr James' life as a husband and churchgoer.

He had been devoted to Madge, his wife of 60 years, and served his parish regularly - and had been scheduled to read the lesson last Saturday.

"He was tireless in explaining to the young the evils of Nazism and the horrors they perpetrated," he said.

"Though Jimmy escaped death more than once, he could not escape it in the end."

But this, he said, was not defeat but the "final victory".

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Sqn Ldr Jimmy James is buried in Shropshire



SEE ALSO
Escape veteran was 'true legend'
19 Jan 08 |  Shropshire
'Great Escape' war veteran dies
19 Jan 08 |  Shropshire
RAF veteran visits Nazi war camp
24 Mar 04 |  Shropshire
'Great Escape' survivors reunited
20 Mar 04 |  Cambridgeshire

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