German field marshal Erwin Rommel takes refreshment  in the Lybian desert during the 1941 campaign
German field marshal Erwin Rommel (left) takes refreshment in the Libyan desert during the 1941 campaignGetty

A British soldier who fell in to the clutches of the Nazis during D-Day in World War II has revealed Rommel gave him beer and cigarettes after his capture.

Roy Wooldridge hailed the German field marshal as "fine man and clean fighter" for the gesture, which he did against orders from Hitler to execute spies.

The unlikely exchange came to light when Wooldridge – now aged 95 – took the packet of cigarettes Rommel gave him on to the Antiques Roadshow TV program.

Wooldridge had been in France as an Allied spy for the D-Day landings of June 1944, when his team was spotted and captured by the Germans behind enemy lines.

Once in captivity, he was told to smarten up because he was to meet someone important.

"I was told that Rommel always wanted to meet men who had been doing something unusual when they were captured. Rommel asked me what I was doing in France but I didn't say anything. He then asked me if there was anything I required," said the former Royal Engineer.

"I just said I could do with a pint of beer, a packet of cigarettes and a good meal. Then I was dismissed. I was taken to his mess and served by his waiter and on the table was a stein [mug] of beer, cigarettes and a plate of food. I couldn't understand it."

Rommel was highly regarded by his opponents as a highly skilled commander who was not a fanatical Nazi.

He oversaw a string of victories for Hitler's war machine during WWII before being forced to commit suicide after being implicated in a plot to assassinate the Fuehrer the same year he gave Wooldridge beer and cigarettes.

Wooldridge added: "I was meant to have been shot. I was told on several occasions during my interrogation that is what would happen unless I talked.

"Hitler had issued orders that commandos were to be shot but Rommel declined to obey that instruction. Rommel saved my life. He was a very fine German and a clean fighter."