"As we neared Dunkirk it looked and sounded like an outpost of hell.”

These are the words of a British soldier storming the beaches of Dunkirk nearly 80 years ago.

Major Bill Towill, from Tadworth, enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1939 and was a medical orderly in an RAMC TA unit.

He boarded one of the last ships evacuating soldiers from the beaches before arriving in Bombay, posted in the 3rd Batallion 9th Gurkha Rifles that served in India, Burma, Malaysia and Java.

During that time he met his wife, Pamela Towill, and lived in Surrey with her before he died at 93 in December 2014.

Bill wrote about his "vivid" and "harrowing" experiences in Dunkirk, titled The Luck of the Draw, which now has fresh relevance with the release of the Dunkirk blockbuster in cinemas.

In his true, first-hand account, he wrote about how the small pocket flashlamp being used by soldiers to read the pages of a book had “no chance whatsoever” of lighting the room where “the bodies of scores of British soldiers lay in orderly rows”.

He added: “The sorrow, pain and death which had filled all our waking moments during the last few weeks seemed to have eaten into our souls and it looked as if all hope had gone."

As the Germans approached, Major Lovibond made soldiers draw lots for those who would head to Dunkirk and those who would stay to be taken prisoner.

Those who drew numbers would stay and those who drew blanks would go to Dunkirk.

He said: “Shakily, I put my hand into the hat and found I had drawn a blank.

“We set off along the beach, littered with bodies and discarded equipment and vehicles.”

As they neared the beaches, Bill described it as “an outpost from Hell”.

Bill said: “A thick cloud of black smoke from burning oil tanks hung like a heavy shroud over the whole of the western sky, blotting out the sun, fires were burning everywhere out of control, shell bursts dotted the beach, which was littered with bodies, cast off equipment and the wrecks of vehicles and boats.

“We had no food or water, nor any hope of getting any, but that was the least of our problems.

“Dante’s Inferno would have seemed a Sunday afternoon picnic in comparison and our hearts sank as we tried to rate our chances of getting away.”

Sunday, June 2 was the last day for evacuation and around 340,000 British had already been saved.

After being nearly buried by near misses and having to dig themselves out, he made it to the ship in time and passed out from sleep deprivation.

He said: “I often look back to that simple act of plucking a scrap of paper out of a hat as one of the most important things I have ever done in my whole life.

“What if I had plucked a number instead of a blank?

“How different life would have been and how greatly impoverished.”