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Tributes to Whalley war hero and PoW who died at 99
A RIBBLE Valley war hero, who spent four years as a prisoner of war, has died aged 99.
Great-grandfather Sam Brearley, who served with the with the 1st Armoured Brigade during the Second World War, died in hospital.
Originally from Bacup, Sam, the son of the former Burnley football player Bert Brearley, joined the war effort aged 27 in 1940.
The RADA-trained actor, who was living in Whalley, was sent to Greece to help fend off the German advance.
On April 6, 1941, Sam was captured in the port of Kalamata as the Germans invaded the country.
He was sent to a prisoner of war camp, where he received very little food and was barely allowed to sleep.
Sam was moved a number of times, but finally reached Spittal in Austria in 1942, where he joined other troops digging graves for Russian soldiers.
In order to keep up their spirits, Sam and his fellow soldiers started to put on shows for the other POWs and built a theatre in an old barn.
He was freed in May 1945, when American soldiers took over the camp. He returned to Bacup where he met his future wife, Evelyn.
They moved to Kent and opened a newsagents before moving back to Whalley more than 10 years ago.
Sam did not receive his three service medals until 2010, when one of his carers urged him to get in touch with the Ministry of Defence and tell his story.
Sam’s close friend, Stanley Whittaker, said the veteran was a great man who had plenty of stories to tell.
He said: “He had been a friend for many years, having first known him when I was a teenager.
“He produced shows for Rawtenstall Amateurs and the Rossendale Players, which I was in.
“After Sam moved south I lost track of him until he returned to Lancashire in his 80s and I was able to renew our friendship.
“He was a lovely friend and one with so many interesting tales about his theatre life and, particularly, about life as a prisoner of war.
“He well deserves his peace, God bless him.”
Sam’s funeral will take place today at 3pm at Burnley Crematorium.