Alfie Fripp, prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III, dies aged 98

Alfie Fripp
Image caption Alfie Fripp returned to Stalag Luft III in Zagan on the 65th anniversary of the real-life Great Escape

One of the longest-serving British prisoners of war during World War II has died aged 98.

Alfie Fripp died in hospital in Bournemouth on Thursday morning, the PoW Association confirmed.

Mr Fripp spent almost all of World War II in captivity after his plane was shot down by the Luftwaffe in 1939.

He was held at 12 different PoW camps, including Stalag Luft III, the scene of prisoner escapes which were dramatised in the film The Great Escape.

The pilot of the plane he was shot down in was one of 50 Allied airmen who escaped from the camp, only to be caught by the Nazis and executed on Hitler's orders.

'Ladies' man'

Mr Fripp, who lived in Southbourne, joined the RAF in 1930 and married his sweetheart, Vera Allen, in September 1939, three days after war was declared by Britain on Germany.

His squadron of Blenheim bombers was sent to France, and just weeks later his aircraft was shot down by the Lufwaffe during a reconnaissance mission and the crew was captured.

Image caption Alfie Fripp was one of many RAF servicemen held at Stalag Luft III

As well as spending time in Stalag Luft III, he was also on the Long March of 1945, when thousands of PoWs were forced to march in winter from the camp in Sagan - now Zagan in Poland - to Spremberg in eastern Germany.

Many perished from the cold and starvation.

Family friend Pat Jackson, whose father was held with Mr Fripp at Stalag Luft III, said: "He was a lively, wonderful, inspirational man.

"He was marching past the Cenotaph in November 2012 - I was with him.

"He walked four miles a day. He was a ladies' man, full of humour and wit and up for anything, and that spirit - he had an amazing spirit."

Patricia Fripp announced the death of her uncle on Facebook earlier.

She wrote: "For the friends of Uncle Bill, AKA Alfie. He passed away this morning surrounded by his family.

"He never complained, was always cheerful and will light up heaven."

Mr Fripp spent Christmas in Royal Bournemouth General Hospital where he was being treated for fluid on his lungs.