HE served 21 years in the Royal Air Force and 31 years in the Police Force, but nothing could prepare Alan C Wood for the evening of August 14, 1981.

While serving in Dorset Police he was sent to a house in Abbott Road, Bournemouth, where he was told “something strange was going on”.

“In spite of the warm August sunshine, it was deathly cold inside,” he explained. “I saw the television was lying on the floor and the kitchen floor was covered in broken glass and china. As I moved in I saw a six foot dresser in the kitchen fall over and crash to the floor. I was the only person in the house.”

Other objects had been flying around the ground-floor rooms and eventually a priest was called who conducted an exorcism. Later, a spokesman for the College of Psychic Studies in London said it was a classic case of poltergeist activity.

It wasn’t the first time Alan had had a brush with the supernatural. When he was serving in the Royal Air Force at RAF Netheravon (a First World War airfield) in the 1940s, he saw the dark ghostly figure of a First World War pilot in flying clothing standing at the foot of his bed.

This incident was just one of many during his career, and led to an interest in things which go bump in the night. Alan’s latest book, Military Ghosts, is a culmination of more than 60 years of research on the subject.

It’s a gazetteer guide of ghosts and legends of armies, navies and air forces over the years, going right back to Viking long ships and Roman legionnaires to more modern military phantoms.

And the author, who lives in Bournemouth, cites Dorset as having one of the most sightings of military ghosts in the country.

At Badbury Rings, for example, a thousand Saxons were killed by King Arthur’s cavalry and their ghosts linger to this day, while on the A3081 at Cranborne a Bronze Horseman ghost has been witnessed.

With Corfe Castle’s bloody history, it’s little wonder that ghost tales abound. French knights were captured and starved to death at the castle, and their cries and moans are heard on still nights.

And nearby, at Worbarrow Bay, don’t be surprised if you should happen across a ghostly Roman Army on the march.

Of course, no military ghost book would be complete without the more well-known spectres which haunt our area.

Elizabethan sailor Sir Walter Raleigh, who at one time owned Sherborne Castle, is said to walk through the building and grounds every September 28 – St Michael’s Eve. After his walk, he disappears near a tree known as Raleigh’s Oak.

Then there’s Lawrence of Arabia who retired from the Royal Air Force in 1935, and rode his motorcycles at speed around the county from his base at Cloud’s Hill.

In May of the same year he suffered a traffic accident on his Brough Superior after he swerved to avoid two boys on bicycles. He died six days later at Bovington Army Camp hospital.

A ghostly figure in the flowing white Arabic dress which Lawrence wore in the desert has been reported at the hospital, and entering his cottage. The unmistakable roar of the ghostly Brough Superior motorcycle still sounds on local Dorset roads, usually just before dawn.

And in the Tank Museum close by is a captured Second World War German Panzer Tiger tank. On several occasions, custodians of the museum were alarmed to see the figure of a German officer peering in through the windows.

Alarmingly, the lower sills of the windows are eight feet from the ground, so the ghost – nicknamed Herman the German by staff – must be very tall or is floating in the air.

Alan concludes: “Over six decades I have gathered a mass of evidence for the existence of life after death that is too much to ignore.”

But he urged people ultimately not to be frightened of ghosts. “It’s the living that hurt you,” he said. “Not the dead.”

Military Ghosts by Alan C Wood is published by Amberley priced £14.99 (paperback).