BOURNEMOUTH, England, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Alfie Fripp, the oldest surviving British World War II prisoner of war, died Thursday at the age of 98.
Fripp's family announced his death on Facebook, The Independent reported. He had been hospitalized in Bournemouth in southern England.
Fripp, who enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1930 when he was 17, retired in 1969 with the rank of squadron leader.
In 1939, he was newly married when he was in the crew of a plane shot down over Germany less than two months after Britain and Germany declared war. He spent more than five years in a succession of German prison camps, including Stalag Luft III, the camp made famous by the mass breakout depicted in the movie "The Great Escape."
Flight Lt. Mike Casey, a pilot captured with Fripp, participated in the escape. He was one of the 50 executed on the orders of Adolf Hitler after they were recaptured.
Fripp himself had been transferred to another camp before the escape. In 1945, he and other POWs held in camps in Poland were forced to march in winter to Germany as the Soviet army approached.
After he left the RAF, Fripp and his wife, Vera, settled in Bournemouth, where he taught school for several years.
In 2009, he visited Stalag Luft III for the first time since he had been a prisoner there.
"I'm glad I came to remember Mike -- you reflect back on all the memories and the people you knew," he said. "As for the Germans, I've forgiven them but not forgotten."