South West Wales

Soldier Roy Wooldridge's life saved by Erwin Rommel

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Media captionRoy Wooldridge was given his first Military Cross for actions while in El Alamein in 1942

A former soldier has revealed how a Nazi general spared him from the firing squad in World War Two.

Roy Wooldridge, 95, from Hendy, Carmarthenshire, was seized while on a mission in France just before D-Day and taken to Erwin Rommel.

The Royal Engineer was brought before Rommel and asked if he needed anything. He replied "a pint of beer, cigarettes and a good meal".

Now, that empty cigarette packet will feature on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow.

Mr Wooldridge, who was twice awarded the Military Cross, was sent a telegram ordering him to report to his unit just three days after his wedding in 1944.

The lieutenant, who was later promoted to captain, was sent to the French beaches with a colleague to ensure there were no mines which could blow up the boats during the D-Day landings.

Due to the secretive nature of the mission, he was not wearing a uniform or carrying identification.

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Image caption Erwin Rommel was a respected general who was nicknamed the Desert Fox

The duo were captured on a dinghy in the Channel by Nazis aboard a U-boat.

Mr Wooldridge, who now lives in Cardiff, was repeatedly interrogated and told "if you don't answer the questions, we'll hand you over to the Gestapo and you'll get shot", but all he would divulge was his name, rank and number.

'Saboteur'

He was then blindfolded and taken to a chateau where he was ordered up a flight of stairs.

"I opened the door... and there standing behind the desk was Field Marshall Rommel, so I gave him the courtesy of standing to attention.

"I respected him as a clean fighter, under his command there was no atrocities by the German troops."

After his request to the general, he was taken to the mess hall where a stein of beer, a packet of cigarettes and a meal of meatballs, potatoes and sauerkraut were waiting.

He asked the German soldier sat next to him: "I am only a British lieutenant, why have a been brought to see General Rommel? He said 'because General Rommel is always interested in meeting people who are doing something a bit unusual.'"

After his meeting with Rommel, he was taken to Paris.

He said: "When I got to the Prisoner of War camp, a German guard who spoke English said 'you're a very lucky man, if you hadn't been to see Rommel you would have been shot as a saboteur.'"

Mr Wooldridge took a collection of memorabilia, including his medals and the cigarette packet, to be valued by the experts on the Antique Roadshow.

Antiques Roadshow, BBC One, 23 November at 20:00 GMT.

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