GORDERN Forsey spent the Second World War in his hometown of Poole building vital equipment for tanks and aircraft and later running a prisoner-of-war camp in the New Forest.

The 90-year-old recently told the Echo about his memories of the air war over the town, during which he worked as a firefighter protecting local buildings.

During the day he worked as a miller at Humphris and Sons in Park Road, starting in 1939, where at first he helped to manufacture tank guns.

"We played a big part, particularly in the desert war," he said.

"One day we had a Major who was back from Africa pay us a visit.

"He thanked us for the guns but said the workmanship was too good, the guns were jamming with all the sand in the air over there, and that we should make them a rattle fit.

"After they bombed Southampton we switched to making parts for Spitfires, Horsa gliders and Seafires for use on the aircraft carriers."

Eventually, with the arrival of the Wehrmacht's Tiger tanks on the battlefield, Mr Forsey and his colleagues returned to producing guns, specifically the 17-pounder anti-tank gun mounted on the American Sherman tank.

In 1945 he was called up for service.

"I thought I would have to go to Japan, but the atomic bombs stopped that business," he said.

At Trentham, near Stoke on Trent, Mr Forsey trained to be an officer with 'C' Company for 16 weeks.

He was then posted to run a prisoner-of-war camp at Setley Plain, near Brockenhurst in the New Forest.

The camp was built in 1941 to hold Italian prisoners, but three years later it had started taking some of the many German soldiers captured following D-Day.

"I couldn't drive at the time," said Mr Forsey, then a lieutenant.

"I had a team of German lads who taught me to drive.

"In fact I never passed a proper test. My Army licence was just converted to a civilian one when I left the service."

Daily Echo: 90 year old Gordon Forsey, who witnessed the crash of pilot Cecil Hight during the Battle of Britain.Collect picture of Gordon in January 1947 as a rookie just after he was called up for service.Gordern in January 1947 as a rookie just after he was called up for service.

When Mr Forsey first arrived at the camp, he was asked by his commanding officer to describe what he saw.

"I said it was a bit of a shambles, and he said it was up to me to sort it out," he said.

"I told him I would need his backup because to do so I would need to make myself very unpopular."

In time, Mr Forsey had whipped his men into shape, and was proud to be told his was the "smartest" POW camp in the south of England.

"The prisoners used to go and work out on the farms nearby, so we were delivered treats by the farmers, rationing wasn't much of an issue at the camp.

"All my German drivers were decent people. One of the the prisoners had been lucky – he was just outside Stalingrad when it was surrounded and he managed to avoid getting captured by the Russians.

"We also had a Major from the SS, who had been a camp commandant. He was a real bastard, and after the war he was sent back over to Germany to face trial.

"When we sent the others back they didn't want to go to Berlin. Many of them stayed in the UK, they had nothing to go back to."

After its military use had ceased the camp was handed over to the New Forest Rural District Council and used as temporary accommodation for the families of returning troops for several years.

Mr Forsey was due to be posted to Singapore during the Malayan Emergency, and prepared a sheet with the next of kin of the soldiers under his command, so as to contact their families should any of them be killed in action.

As it turned out, his wife fell ill and he was given compassionate leave, thereby again escaping a posting to the Far East for the second time.

Mr Forsey returned to engineering after his military service had ended, working on aircraft as diverse as the de Havilland Comet and Concorde.

Daily Echo: Gordern, front row fifth from left, in training with 'C' company 164 (Infantry) O.C.T.U early 1947 in Trentham-on-Sea.Gordern, front row fifth from left, in training with 'C' company 164 (Infantry) O.C.T.U early 1947 in Trentham-on-Sea.

He still works with his son in Alderney, making a range of specialist machine parts.

Descended from a family of West Bay fishermen, he has taken up deep sea fishing in recent years, taking a boat out from Cape Verde with a crew of islanders on regular occasions.

"I like to tag and release, I don't like to kill any of these animals," he said.

"It took me an hour and a half to catch my biggest fish, a 450kg marlin, back in 2006. We tagged and released it so hopefully it is still swimming around out there."

Mr Forsey was married to Joan for 56 years, until her death around 14 years ago. They had two sons and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He lives alone in Parkstone.