ONE of the great privileges of my job has been meeting ex-servicemen and women, and sharing their remarkable stories.

I have interviewed veterans from the Second World War, the Korean War and the Falklands War. Reflecting on that intense time, they all said the same thing: that they forever cherished the camaraderie of those they served with.

“They were the best men I ever knew,” said Lester Hudson, who was 98 when I met him - Yorkshire’s last surviving Chindit. In 1944 Lester was airlifted into Burma with the special operations unit, tasked with infiltrating Japanese territory. The men moved on foot, each carrying over 70lbs of equipment, including rifle, ammunition and grenades. Lester was shot by Japanese snipers: “They were all over - in trees, underground. They shelled us for weeks. I went deaf with the noise.”

Hacking through the jungle with machetes, in intense heat, the men were ordered to leave the wounded behind. Lester owed his life to the ones who defied orders: “The bullet went right through me and out the other side. I had 12 men with me, they put up a smokescreen. I crawled, the lads helped me along.”

On November 12, 1944 Sgt Charles Basil Fish took off from Scotland in a Lancaster bomber carrying a newly developed Barnes Wallis bomb. Under fire, the 617 Squadron destroyed the Tirpitz, Germany ‘s last significant ship of its war naval fleet. I met Basil when he was 96, one of the few survivors of the legendary 617 squadron. He carried out 24 operations, as a navigator, until the end of the war. “We were a very closeknit crew,” he said, showing me his flying helmet, flight log book and escape kit, containing a German phrasebook and a silk scarf map. “I never really expected to survive the war. Afterwards I missed the crew. We were like a family.”

John Allen was 20 when he took part in the Dunkirk evacuation. Aged 100, he told me how bullets rained down as he and six other soldiers reached Dunkirk beach. By the time he was wading out to sea in shoulder-deep water, to a fishing boat that took him to safety, he’d endured a long, gruelling walk to Dunkirk. “We walked for miles. We took refuge in a deserted farmhouse - when we saw 100 Germans coming we ran,” he recalled. “When we reached Dunkirk their planes were so low I could see the pilots. We were dodging shellfire for days.”

Sitting in his living-room, leafing through old photos, John said quietly: “I’ve never forgotten those lads, and how we kept each others’ spirits up on that long road to Dunkirk.”

Jack Firth was barely out of school when he was sent as a spy to the tense Cold War frontline. Aged 19, armed with a pencil and paper, he meticulously translated Russian military details, close to Soviet-occupied East Berlin, as the noise of tanks rumbled in the east wind. For 60 years Jack kept his undercover work secret, but he never forget the 20 young National Servicemen he was stationed with.

Joan Chandler was 17 when she arrived in Singapore in 1959. Serving with Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, she treated soldiers with horrific injuries in the Malayan Emergency. “We nurses were on the front line, saving lives. We never got any recognition,” she told me, adding that she was keen to hear from other military nurses. “I have all these fantastic memories but no-one to tell them to.”

I recently met Mike Hollen, who has received the Nuclear Test Medal honouring veterans of Britain’s first nuclear testing programme. Mike was 18 when he set sail for Christmas Island in 1957. Standing on the flight deck, in anti-flash gear and goggles, he witnessed the first megaton blast.

Now 86, Mike wants to meet others who were involved, or fellow National Servicemen: “We can look back on a period of varied, unusual experiences”. Having tried in vain to find him a local veterans group, I feel saddened for those who, like Mike, don’t have access to a platform where they can share their extraordinary stories. As another Remembrance Sunday approaches, these stories must not be allowed to fade.