Inspirational Brinklow man Reg, hero of the real Great Escape, killed in car crash

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AN INSPIRATIONAL war hero is sorely missed by his loving family after being killed in a car crash.

Reginald Alfred Cleaver, 89, from The Crescent, Brinklow, died on Friday afternoon after a car crash in Brandon Lane.

Reg is survived by his wife Betty, son Rob, daughter Jan, grandson James, step grandsons Russell and Matthew and his great granddaughter Millie.

Paying tribute, his family said Reg enjoyed life and his enthusiasm, excitement and vigour was inspirational.

As a 17-year-old apprentice in 1939 at the outbreak of war Reg volunteered to become an ambulance driver, later finding himself working during Coventry Blitzed. This made him determined him to join the fight. As a flight engineer posted to the Royal Canadian Air Force 419 Squadron, Reg was shot down in 1943.

All the crew survived and all became prisoners of war at at the Stalag Luft III camp in Poland. Reg kept himself busy forging Nazi badges, buckles and buttons for fake uniforms - enabling many to flee. Their actions inspired the classic film The Great Escape.

On returning home Reg resumed his apprenticeship with Armstrong Siddeley Motors (later Rolls Royce) and retired in 1986 aged 64.

In his 90th year Reg still did 20 press ups every morning, cared for his wife Betty, attended regular bowls matches and enjoyed two four-mile walks a week.

Recently he was interviewed for a TV programme with Sir David Jason and a three part documentary, The Long March to Freedom, will be shown on the Yesterday channel in November.

In a statement, Reg’s family said: “He loved and cared for his family in the same way that he lived his life and extended the same care and friendship to his many valued friends. If anyone experienced a problem he was always available to fix it, whether in a personal or practical way. Reg was much loved and will be sorely missed by all his family.”

Witnesses or anyone with information to the crash can call police (01926) 415415.