HE was a prisoner of war and survived the historic Dresden bombing but now Britain’s oldest para veteran who jumped into Holland at the battle of Arnhem has died – just days before his 102nd birthday.

Victor Gregg, who lived in Swanmore, dropped into Holland on September 17 in 1944 as UK forces tried to seize vital bridges from the Nazis.

He was one of 582 men who jumped into Holland with the 10th battalion, the Parachute Regiment in Operation Market Garden. Only 36 survivors returned to the UK – the rest were either killed or captured after less than a week on the ground in a mission. It was later made into a film A Bridge Too Far.

More than 10,000 allied paras dropped on September 17, 1944, but the Germans were waiting for them and the allied paras were hit hard with 1,495 killed and 6,525 taken prisoner.

Before the allies dropped they formed up at the village of Somerby in Leicestershire where they waited for their turn to lift off from RAF Spanhoe in a fleet of Dakota aircraft and flew across the channel to Holland - jumping 64 miles behind enemy lines.

As the paras tried to withdraw Victor was captured by the Germans and became a prisoner of war. He was held after being sentenced to death for burning down the factory where he was working as punishment for trying to escape his POW camp.

While there, he was caught in the Dresden bombing in February 1945.

Victor was born in London in 1919 and he joined the army in 1937.

The Mirror reported that Victor recently recalled: “As we approached the drop zone I think we were all quietly anxious, the Germans were firing at us and as we jumped some chaps were shot dead in the sky, it was awful.

“Blokes were running around to find their mates and moving to forming up points on the drop zone, but the Germans were relentless and many of our men were killed where they landed.

“The days that followed were horrendous, we were almost wiped out. We quickly ran out of ammunition and food and we were forced to take supplies from those who had passed away, just to make sure we could continue the fight against the Germans.

“By day six my two mates on the gun with me were dead, we were exhausted out of ammunition and finally captured and taken off to a prisoner of war camp, we did our best.”

Victor was an established author, whose eye-witness account of the brutal and controversial slaughter of German civilians is told through his book The Rifleman: A Front Line Life, with an e-book account of his experience in Dresden entitled Dresden, A Survivor’s Story.

After receiving huge acclaim, Victor went on to write Kings Cross Kid – a tale of childhood between the wars, and Soldier Spy: A Survivors Tale, which tells of Victor’s post-war life, involving M15, M16 and the KGB.

In tribute, historian and presenter Dan Snow said: “Victor Gregg has died. Days before his 102nd birthday. Veteran of North Africa, Italy, Arnhem. Survivor of the fire bombing of Dresden.

“Of all the veterans I met, he talked with particular honesty about war. How it took his friends and it left him brutalised and traumatised.”