A WAR veteran who left his family home in Pershore to fight for king and country has been dipping into his memories to help create an historical record.

Walter Johnson, who now lives in Stourbridge, was a member of the 6th Airborne Division of the 9th Parachute Battalion (the Red Berets) who were sent into Normandy ahead of the D-Day landings in June 1944.

Born in Sedgeberrow and a pupil at Pershore Senior School, Mr Johnson joined the Worcestershire Regiment at the age of 16 in 1938. Five years later he joined the Paras and is described on the division's training record as "well above average, a capable performer and good jumper".

Now with fellow soldiers, he has recalled his experiences for a book by author Neil Barber entitled The Day the Devils Dropped In.

For Mr Johnson it has been an opportunity to "get it off my chest" and to "remind people, and give the younger ones something to be proud of."

The Paras played a pivotal role in Operation Overlord, helping to save 20,000 lives, though many of them made the ultimate sacrifice themselves.

Their task was to take out the German coastal defence battery at Merville before dawn on D-Day and to protect the left flank of the British Second Army by denying enemy access to the ground between the Rivers Orme and Dives, north east of Caen.

But of the 500 soldiers dropped before enemy lines, only 150 reached the rendezvous point and a further 82 died taking out four German guns only two hours before the landings were due to take place.

Mr Johnson was one of the lucky ones, though he was injured.

In the book he describes what happened when he was first dropped, losing his rifle and landing in an elm tree.

"After a few vigorous swings back and forth I managed to grab the trunk. I undid my harness and slid, with my hands tightly around it, down and it seemed 25 feet maybe 30 feet. Anyway, I found myself in a wooded area.

"My hands were skimmed from sliding down the trunk but it didn't worry me too much, as least I had landed with no other injury. Drawing my fighting knife from its sheath, I started to advance towards the direction of the rendezvous.

"Everything was so quiet and I heard cows mooing nearby...Which way to go was a problem so I just followed a truck. Next thing I fell in a ditch full of water. I could have done without a bath really. I kept going, and eventually met up with more Paras. Who they were I didn't ask. You just kept very quiet and followed in their wake."

He also recalls how he was injured:

"I seemed to be deafened by the noise of the battle and confusion which was now going on as I found myself running and looking for cover, seeing Germans running here and there in all this. All this in a matter of seconds, and as I made my way I was caught by a sniper. My hand was pinned to the butt of my rifle and down I went, and probably caught by an explosion as my smock smelt as though it was on fire."

The Day the Devils Dropped In is published by Leo Cooper and is available from bookshops at £19.95.

Mr Johnson told the Journal: "This is the only truthful account that's been published because it's the stories of the men who were there."

Next year, the 60th anniversary, Mr Johnson hopes to meet up with other survivors at a reunion in Normandy.