London, Mar.18 (ANI): A war hero who helped inspire the film The Great Escape has died aged 87.
Bill Dean, a resident of Cadishead, Salford, Greater Manchester, died in his sleep in Salford Royal Hospital on Tuesday, March 9. He had been in hospital for a week with heart problems. His grandson Alex Beech said he died in the manner of his chosing.
Dean joined the Royal Air Force in 1940 and became part of the Bomber Command, completing 14 missions before he was shot down over Berlin in January 1944.
He was sent to Stalag Luft 111 in Poland a month before the breakout and helped Flight Lt Colin "The Forger" Blythe create fake passports for 200 servicemen selected for the escape, reports The Telegraph.
Seventy-six made it beyond the wire before the Germans realised what was going on, but many were recaptured and at least 50 were executed.
In January 1945, Dean was among the remaining prisoners who were forced to march 2,000 miles to a camp at Luckenwalder, south of Berlin, where conditions were much worse than Stalag Luft 111.
By April of that year, security at the camp slackened enough for him to walk out. He was given shelter by a German woman for several months, before being picked up by Americans and sent back to England.
Dean went back to serving in the RAF and in the 1950s became acting squadron leader with the City of Chester Squadron.
In 1956, he started his own business as a retailer of luxury goods to delicatessens.
He married in 1946 and had one daughter, Victoria and a grandson, Alex.
His funeral will be held on March 29 at 2.20 p.m. in the Peel Green Crematorium.(ANI)