John “Jack” Campbell Shakespeare Miles is on the cusp of celebrating his 100th birthday.
He has firmed up plans to take a romantic cruise with his girlfriend Pauline, so they can watch the sunset together.
But even after spending so many years on Earth, there are six words that this World War II veteran can never forget:
They were uttered to him by a group of prisoners of war (POWs) he saved after they had been captured by the Japanese.
Miles, a pilot in the Royal Air Force, was sent on a mission that involved the evacuation of 31 released British POWs from Saigon.
“They were as thin as rakes,” Miles said. “They’d been starved.”
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He picked up the prisoners and off they went – but then something happened on their way to Rangoon, Burma.
“I lost both engines, Sir Isaac Newton took over control,” Miles said. “And down we went.”
Miles managed to make an emergency landing.
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Then, on the following day, the prisoners thanked him.
“Those words have stayed with me forever,” Miles said.
The memory is one that Miles keeps with him as Remembrance Day approaches.
Over 70 years after the end of WWII, he can’t help but think of those who aren’t here anymore. But he regrets nothing about his service.
“We were fighting for our homes,” Miles said.
“It’s worth fighting for, and even sacrificing and laying down your life to win.”