A FORMER wartime RAF aircrew member who underwent the Long March at the end of the Second World War is to speak about his experiences at a charity lunch in Devizes next month.

Air Commodore Charles Clarke joined the RAF in 1941 at 17 and took part in air operations on Lancaster bombers of 619 Squadron.

Shot down over Germany at the beginning of 1944, he became a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft 3, where the Great Escape took place, although he was not involved in that.

Instead, when it became clear that Germany was losing the war, he and thousands of other prisoners were taken on the Long March, a gruelling slog through Germany to keep them away from the approaching Allied forces as potential hostages.

Mr Clarke was finally liberated near Lubeck.

After the war, he stayed on in the RAF and his many appointments included commanding a large RAF station and overseas service in Palestine, Cyprus, Malta and Aden. He retired from the RAF in 1978 and held a number of business appointments until 1995.

He will be speaking at the lunch at the Bear Hotel ballroom on Friday, March 7, in aid of the Soldiering On Through Life Trust. Also speaking will be Wing Commander Tal Lambert, founder member and chairman of the trust.

Tickets for the lunch, £27.50 each, are on sale at the hotel reception on (01380) 722444.