AS the country marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day a former Ludgershall man has recalled his experience of the largest military assault ever conceived.

Bob Stoodley appeared on Channel 4’s Guy Martin’s D-Day Landing on Sunday, where he shared his part in the operation.

Acting Corporal Bob Stoodley was one of the first to land in Normandy as part of 22nd Independent Parachute Company, 6th Airborne Division.

The 95-year-old signed up to fight aged 16 but his mother scuppered his plans when she marched him straight back to the recruiting sergeant and revealed that he was underage. When he finally convinced his mother that he needed to contribute to the war effort, Mr Stoodley went back to the same sergeant who conveniently forgot what he had been told only months before.

He volunteered for the parachute regiment, qualifying in July 1943. Soon afterwards he volunteered for a top secret ‘Pathfinder’ section who were being trained with new radar technology that would guide paratroopers in to the right location in the early hours of the invasion.

“I think they trained us to believe we were quite wonderful”, he said. “They made us have carrots, ‘cause they said by having a lot of carrots we could see better in the dark.”

Talking about the operation Mr Stoodley added: “When we got on the plane there was a lot of joking, and I notice it gradually slowed up and then people were very quiet.

“The Spitfire had gone out to see where we were going to land and it had photographs to show there were no enemy there.

“The German camouflage must have been quite wonderful because when we landed it was like we had hit a wasps nest.”

He had been assigned two bodyguards but one was immediately shot dead. Under enemy fire he hid amongst the long grass in Drop Zone K in Normandy and tuned in the radio beacon.

His mission was a success with hundreds of troops landing safely at his drop zone, but not all the aircraft that delivered them got away.

“I always remember there was a Dakota, it was on fire and the pilot just kept going until they did the job and then they crash landed which was terrible, terribly upsetting.”

The Legion of Honour recipient said: “Unfortunately coming towards daybreak the Germans came back and that caused us come trouble. They brought a tank in and... blew me up. My hair got burnt, my face got burnt, I just felt dopey.”

He was captured and after his wounds were treated he was handed over to some of Hitler’s most fanatical troops, the SS, and became a Prisoner of War.

“Unfortunately, they found out I was a pathfinder,” he said.

“They kept asking, ‘How many units? How many more are coming? Where are you going?’ It went on and on and on.

“I tried to joke once or twice — that was rather a painful experience. You don’t joke with the SS. They don’t like it.”

After interrogation, Mr Stoodley remained in Prisoner of War camp until he was freed in 1945.