A 99-YEAR-OLD who is set to celebrate his 100th birthday on Monday has spoken about the “heavy rain and bitter cold” he experienced as a prisoner of war in World War 2.

William Ledbury, of Penarth, was held in a variety of camps, spending 18 months in the last camp in Brux, Czechoslovakia. He said he and five of his fellow servicemen were taken prisoner and survived on small amounts of soup and a bit of bread each day during their capture.

“It was a very strange experience, although I never saw much death or a lot of violence so my experience is probably not as bad as some,” said Mr Ledbury, who was stationed in the war as a 1st Army Gunner.

“We had to go to a mine three miles away, that’s what we did each day. We had all winds and weather. Barely anything to eat and drink and you started at 5am in the morning.

“We would get a piece of bread and we had a cup of some sort of soup.”

Mr Ledbury said he has vague memories of what happened when the Russians came to liberate the camp. He said he was peeling potatoes and the Russians thought he and the prisoners were Germans until it could be verified they were British.

He said: “The afternoon before the Russians came, the Germans holding us hostage got us all out of camp and took us to the nearest village. There was a long train with long steel and metal wagons for us to stand on.

“I mounted one of the wagons when we heard something that saved our lives. Afterwards, I believe it was the Red Cross. Somebody said ‘get back to camp’ so when we got back we found we were still under German guard and the next morning we went for what turned out to be our last shift.

“When we came back we heard something we had never heard before, sirens, long and loud.

“I said ‘what’s that for?’ and we got back to camp we asked what it was and they said, the war, its over. It was wonderful, we all couldn’t believe it.”

The 99-year-old said he has never really spoken fully about his time in the war, but has written memoirs, for the BBC’s WW2 People’s War - which is an archive of World War 2 memories written by the public and gathered by the BBC.

Mr Ledbury said he will celebrate his birthday on Monday at Penarth Pier Pavilion with his family and friends.

He said his guest of honour will be a member from the Red Cross. As Mr Ledbury said: “If it hadn’t have been for the Red Cross, I wouldn’t be here today.”

After the war, Mr Ledbury married his wife Betty and moved to Penarth shortly after. They have two children, two grandchildren and four great grandchildren.