Archie Lyon obituary

Other lives: Glider pilot captured after nine days of intense fighting at the Battle of Arnhem in 1944

My father, Archie Lyon, who has died aged 97, was one of the last surviving members of the Glider Pilot Regiment, part of the Army Air Corps, and a veteran of the Battle of Arnhem, in 1944.

As part of Operation Market Garden, the allies’ failed bid to secure a bridgehead across the Rhine in the Netherlands, he landed behind enemy lines in a force of almost 12,000 men, over half of whom were to be taken prisoner. His regiment suffered the highest proportion of fatal casualties during the battle; Archie was captured after nine days of intensive fighting.

The son of Jean (nee Beith) and David Lyon, a mining engineer, Archie was born in Renfrew, near Glasgow, and educated at Paisley grammar school, where he was a keen sportsman. At the outbreak of war, he was apprenticed into a reserved occupation. However, after his father was killed by enemy action in 1941, while returning by ship from Accra where he was managing gold production at the Ashanti goldmines, Archie joined up.

He trained as an infantryman, parachutist and pilot, gaining his wings on a Gipsy Moth biplane. He was on the reserve wave during D-day but took part in the Battle of Arnhem flying a Horsa glider.

After capture, he was interred at Stalag Luft VII in Silesia. The camp was evacuated in January 1945 ahead of the advancing Soviet army. In severe winter weather, 1,500 PoWs were marched to a railhead more than 150 miles away in 19 days. They were then transported to Stalag Luft IIIA, which was liberated by the Red Army on 22 April 1945.

After demobilisation, Archie attended the Royal Technical College in Glasgow (now the University of Strathclyde), studying mechanical engineering. On graduation he joined Shell and was posted overseas.

He had met my mother, Beth Breingan, at the tennis club in Renfrew in 1947, and she travelled out to marry him in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1951. He also worked in Egypt, Sierra Leone and Ghana. However, the desire for a closer family life prompted a move back to Scotland in 1966, where he joined Ballantine’s Distillery in Dumbarton, where he was in charge of fire prevention, health and safety at 20 Lowland and Highland distilleries.

Archie was an advocate of industrial health and safety and became a member of what is now the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. Moving from one flammable product (petroleum) to another (whisky), my father often remarked that his role was as “chief fireman”. He introduced a modern safety culture into his industry with an emphasis on fire prevention and control, and designed bespoke systems using pneumatics to avoid electrical faults.

In retirement he greatly enjoyed golf and, despite macular degeneration rendering him effectively blind, played off a handicap of 18 having previously memorised the pin positions on the greens.

He was married to Beth for 69 years; she died two months after him. He is survived by me and my brother, Neil, and by his grandchildren, Jared and Alice.

Stuart Lyon

The GuardianTramp

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