A 98-YEAR-OLD veteran who spent five years as a prisoner of war has recalled how he was recaptured twice after trying to escape - and was lucky to eventually return home.

Harry Oliver, a miner at Coxhoe before being called up at the age of 20, spoke at the unveiling of the programme for Durham Cathedral’s 2017 Festival of Remembrance Concert.

The Durham Light Infantry veteran was captured months after the outbreak of the Second World War and moved across Europe to work for his German captors.

He said: “After the initial shock of being captured, the worst part was the lack of food. A lot of people starved to death.”

At the end of the war he faced a 450-mile “death march” through Poland into Germany where he was freed.

Reflecting attending the concert as a VIP, he said: “At a time like this I think of all the lads who didn’t come home. I’m home. I’ve had a good life . . . a wonderful life.”

The concert at 7pm on Saturday November 11 showcases work by local young people remembering soldiers in conflict on the 99th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War.

Extracts of a World War One musical Home Fires, created by students at local performing arts company Enter CIC, will feature alongside readings in connection with a WW1 postcard project from a local school, musical performances and the much anticipated muster parade

This year’s Festival of Remembrance looks back to remember the sacrifice of the fallen, but also engages with new projects, inspired by the past, to rehabilitate service-men and women who return from war.

In 1917, artist Juliet Norah Williams sent hand-painted postcards to Tynemouth-born Lieutenant Kenneth Garnett, who, after being severely injured in the Battle of the Somme, reconnected to the world through Juliet’s painted postcards of countryside scenes and mandolin players.

St John’s School and Sixth Form College, a Catholic Academy in Bishop Auckland, has been working with local veterans, historians and teachers to rediscover the power of Juliet’s idea of rehabilitation through postcards and images.

During the Festival of Remembrance student participants in the Postcard Project together with local cadets will be reading diary entries and excerpts of wartime correspondence, including some of the original postcards.

Performances this year will come from The Band of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, 102 Battalion Pipe Band, Durham Musical Theatre Company, Durham Musical Theatre Company, and Enter CIC. The Festival will be narrated by Alasdair Hutton, the voice of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Major Eric Ingram, who organises the concert, said: “We are delighted to be reuniting for another year’s poignant and uplifting festival. This year we remember the centenary of the USA entering WW1, the 50th anniversary of the Aden campaign and 35 years since the Falklands war.”

“The creativity and remembrance of young people that the Festival will showcase this year is especially important to the forward-facing aims of this event.

“All funds raised at the Festival of Remembrance will go to the ABF, The Soldiers’ Charity, who offer a lifetime of support to soldiers and veterans from the British Army, and their immediate families, when they are in need.”

The Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham, said, “We are honoured that so many ex-servicemen and women and their families choose to pay their respects each year with us at Durham Cathedral.

“Although we solemnly remember the lives sacrificed and risked both in historic and modern conflicts, just as important is celebrating their bravery and providing support and a sense of community to service personnel and their families.”

Tickets at £10 - £18 available from the Gala Theatre Box Office on 03000 266 600.