THE Taunton veteran who played a key role in the D-Day landings has spoken about how his wartime experiences helped him cope after being attacked and left for dead by a hammer-wielding “monster”.

Jim Booth, 96, said he had not been left terribly “het up” by the brutal attack at his home on November 22 last year which left him with multiple skull fractures and in a life-threatening condition.

Brave and stoic, Mr Booth, who joined the Royal Navy aged 18 and served throughout the Second World War, commented: “yes well, worse things happen at sea as they say, in war”.

The great grandfather was attacked after answering the doorbell to a cold caller who claimed to be a builder and offered to fix some broken roof tiles.

Here is his interview - in three parts...

When Mr Booth refused, Joseph Isaacs, 40, pursued the older man through a passageway in his home, hitting him multiple times with it until he collapsed on the floor of his living room bleeding heavily.

Mr Booth was later told that one of the injuries on his arm showed that he had hit back.

Playing down his resistance, he said: “I think I probably just defended myself.

“But I’m very much saying, I blame myself because I was special services you know, I think I should really have known how to deal with this but I didn’t, I was too old obviously.”

During the war Mr Booth joined the Combined Operations Pilotage and Reconnaissance Parties (COPP) and trained for covert beach explorations at a wartime military base set up on Hayling Island in Hampshire in 1943 under the instruction of Lord Mountbatten.

Mr Booth became a submarine pilot for the X-craft - tiny submarines that waited on the seabed for days at a time - at the age of 23.

His team sailed from Portsmouth to Normandy to scout out where the British could safely land and on D-Day, Mr Booth climbed into a fold-up canoe and shone a beacon out to sea to guide Allied craft safely to shore.

Mr Booth was later awarded a Croix de Guerre military medal by the French for his gallantry.

Describing the attack, Mr Booth said the doorbell had rung - something which he was used to because “in those days I never bothered about security”.

He said: “There was this guy outside and in his hand was this obviously brand new, very shiny, claw hammer. He said ‘oh I’m a builder’.

“I said ‘what’s the problem’. He said ‘well I see that slates up there just by the roof look at bit loose and we could give you a very good deal.”

Mr Booth said when he refused Isaacs “advanced on me and started lifted up his claw hammer. He said ‘I could give you a very good deal’, came even nearer”.

He added: “And then he started shouting ‘money, money, money’. He started lifting the thing and advanced on me, pushed me backwards, right up the passage coming into this room, from the front.

“I now know that he, well I didn’t really remember it, but he hit me six times on the head as well as more on the arms with the claw hammer and the claw side of it too.”

Mr Booth, a keen cyclist, runner and gym-goer prior to the attack, said there were certain things he was no longer able to do because he was suffering from loss of balance but that he would go back to the gym as soon as he could.

Asked about his views on Isaacs Mr Booth said it was an “interesting question” particularly because he is a church man.

“You’re really saying could I forgive him,” he said.

“Not sure really. This is a really difficult one and for Christians it is difficult. It came up a lot.

“At the moment I’m indecisive about this because I feel at the moment the job is to get the trial done and him punished under the law and so on and so forth.”

Reflecting further Mr Booth said he presumed Isaacs was once a “very normal boy” who had “playing with trains and so on and so forth”.

“Presumably something terrible happened in his life and who knows what it was and turned him into a near monster,” he said.

“So to that extent I understand but obviously I can’t understand what he did frankly and why, there seems be no reason why. That’s how I am at the moment.”

Following the war Mr Booth carried on serving in the Navy as a regular and was sent to the Mediterranean in command of a minesweeper, HMS Vallay, before being invalided out with a war-damaged lung - which he said was “not too serious actually”.

He also met and married a member of the Women's Royal Naval Service (Wren) named Berry.

Together they had four children and farmed in Devon before finances forced a career change on Mr Booth who then became a teacher - though he claims he “wasn’t a very good teacher”.

At the time of the attack Mr Booth’s family described him as their hero.

They said: "He is the head of the family, a dearly-loved father to his four children and adored by his grandchildren and great grandchildren, to whom he's simply known as The Legend.”

Speaking of the support he had received Mr Booth said it had been “absolutely amazing”.

“I had something like 300 letters from people,” he said.

“This is one of the things I feel strongly about.

“They wrote out of the blue, without knowing my name even and they were all wonderfully supportive but they did all universally emphasise that they thought “he” as they called him, the criminal ought to go away for a very long time because they considered it attempted murder.”

Speaking about the legal proceedings, Mr Booth added that he felt “quite sure” what Isaacs did was attempted murder.