Flyboys’ Wikipedia page states, “The film’s only military adviser for the entire project was Jack Livesey, a convicted defrauder, who fabricated his résumé and military service to gain employment as an administrative assistant at the Imperial War Museum, London” (Historical Accuracy). The article from UK news source Daily Mail provides a glimpse into his extensive background as storytelling, which may or may not have affected the facts or portrayal of the Lafayette Escadrille in the film Flyboys.
Benefits cheat who escaped jail term thanks to ‘fantasy’ Falklands heroics is exposed as a liar (Levy 2011)
To friends and colleagues, John ‘Jack’ Livesey was a military man who had served his country with distinction in the Paras and had been awarded a medal for gallantry.
So when he was charged with fraudulently claiming nearly £30,000 in benefits, two senior military veterans stepped up to submit glowing character references to the court.
The testimonials helped Livesey escape a jail term – but afterwards doubts were raised about the 57-year-old’s claims to have served with the Parachute Regiment, seen action in the Falklands War and undertaken six tours of Northern Ireland.
He was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice when a police investigation revealed his Army career amounted to a short stint in the Catering Corps.
Livesey, of Purley-on-Thames, near Reading in Berkshire, has admitted inventing a ‘fantasy’ world, but denies the charge on the grounds that he doesn’t remember the references being used as mitigation.
During a trial in Peterborough Crown Court, a jury has heard how he was charged with fraudulently receiving incapacity benefit in 2004 while working at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire.
He later received a 12-month jail term, suspended for a year, after Judge Jonathan Haworth said he had taken his ‘good character’ into account while sentencing him.
One of the glowing references submitted to Cambridge Crown Court was from Air Commodore Peter Thorne, 88, who flew Vulcan bombers and Spitfires during the Second World War and met the defendant when they worked together at the Imperial War Museum.
Phoney war hero: Livesey, pictured with his medals, said his lies ‘eventually took over my life’
He wrote: ‘Prior to Duxford, his success in the British Army was marked by the award of the Military Medal for bravery in action with the Parachute Regiment in the Falklands War.
‘Later in his Army career he suffered a crippling accident and became non-operational, but due to hospitalisation and convalescence he studied successfully for a degree in modern history.’
The latest court hearing, which began yesterday, heard from Major Gordon Corrigan, who served in the Royal Gurkha Rifles and was made an MBE in 1995 and also provided a reference seven years ago.
Major Corrigan, who retired from the Army in 1998 to become a military history writer, said: ‘I was embarrassed. I felt a fool. I was annoyed that I had misled the court, although it was not deliberate.
‘I actually felt sorry for him. It was a mixture of emotions.’
Cambridgeshire Constabulary established Livesey served as a chef with the Army Catering Corps from 1971 to 1974 after concerns were raised about his claims.
During a police interview, he admitted creating his military ‘fantasy’ after he was discharged following a mental breakdown.
The 57-year-old falsely claimed to have served with the Parachute Regiment (pictured) and fought in the Falklands War
He told officers: ‘My fantasy got bigger and bigger and eventually took over my life and I made a first class a*** of myself.
‘The fantasy was that I was in the Para Regiment. I built this fictional guy up which was better than admitting the failure that was my military career.
‘The fantasy world I created is not new – it started about 30-odd years ago when I left the Army and went into the psychiatric hospital RVH Netley [Royal Victoria Military Hospital near Southampton].
‘It wasn’t the best way to end your military career. It was going to be my dream – the Army was a wonderful life and I screwed it up and created this fantasy.
‘If I hadn’t told those lies way back when, the story wouldn’t have got out of hand, but when I see these guys you don’t know how to stop the merry-go-round.’
Asked about the character references, he said he couldn’t remember them.
‘It’s a huge black hole. I don’t know if I saw them, I don’t know if I read them,’ he added.
Roger Harrison, defending, told the court there was ‘no dispute’ about the fact his client had never been in the Paras or received a military medal.
The case continues.