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The award-winning diver from Lincoln who once came face-to-face with Hitler...

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: November 17, 2012

  • Still diving: Donald Sutherland

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A 93-year-old with a passion for diving may have been one of the last English people to see Adolf Hitler before war broke out.

Donald Sutherland, of Burton Road, Lincoln, was on a trip to Germany at the end of July 1939 when he ended up within a few feet of Hitler.

Mr Sutherland, who won Veteran Sportsperson of the Year at the Lincolnshire Sports Awards, can remember the day clearly.

"We were in Munich and there was a celebration taking place. Hitler came past in a procession," he said.

"That evening, there was another large celebration and we went past the opera theatre where Hitler was.

"There were SS soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder all the way around.

"They had no expressions on their faces. It was like they were wearing masks.

"It is sad that men could be made to conform to such an extent. They were made to be brutal."

Mr Sutherland's father was an engineer and often spent time in Germany, staying with families while on business.

Despite being on the verge of war, Mr Sutherland never felt hatred towards the German people and signed up as a conscientious objector once war started.

"Of course what Hitler was to go on to do was terrible," he said.

"But I couldn't sign up, I couldn't kill people.

"I remember cycling to work one day and seeing soldiers running up to sacks and thrusting their bayonets into them, twisting them and screaming.

"I couldn't do that, that was war.

"I signed up as a conscientious objector. In 1941 I moved to Lincolnshire and went into farming for the rest of the war.

"My wife once said if I had shot Hitler then it would have saved all the trouble but in reality it would have made things a whole lot worse."

Mr Sutherland started diving at the Boultham Park open air pool before joining the over 50s swim club at Yarborough Leisure Centre ten years ago.

Despite having had two hip replacements, Mr Sutherland continues to dive up to three times a week.

"I love it," he said.

"I started at Boultham and then went along to Yarborough where we were offered coaching.

"I put myself forward, learnt a few skills and went from there.

"I have competed in competitions and still dive off the three-metre board now."

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