Video report by ITV News Reporter Martha Fairlie
Len Gibson wears many hats - he is a war hero, musician and community champion. On Wednesday, people came out to show their gratitude at a flypast for the 101-year-old who has dedicated his life to entertaining others.
“I never thought that such a thing would happen in my life. It’s going to be a beautiful day today,” Len said.
“Whilst I was a prisoner of war, I have experienced hell, and to be here today, it’s heaven”.
During the Second World War, Len served with the 125 Anti-Tank Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery.
In 1942, a boat he was travelling on was bombed by the Japanese, making him among thousands of prisoners of war forced to work on the so-called ‘Death Railway’ in Burma.
Len survived starvation, torture and bouts of malaria – but the guitar was always his way of entertaining himself and others and keeping spirits high.
When he returned home to Sunderland, Len became a teacher, and his passion for the guitar never stopped.
Among those he helped was neighbour Dave Stewart, who went on to co-found the pop group, The Eurythmics.
“I just want to thank you so much for inspiring me when I was a young kid, about the guitar,” Dave said.
Len is also active in his community, urging people to support the ‘Daft as a Brush’ hospital transport charity.
This prompted the charity’s bosses to show their support by getting the local community to return the favour.
Brian Burnie, founder of the Newcastle-based charity, said the community was more than happy to get involved.
“We’ve had to do nothing. People have just fallen over backwards to come along and say: ‘Well done Len’. He is a truly remarkable gentleman,” he said.