At the outbreak of WW2 Des lied about his age and joined the Home Guard at 13 years old. He became a Sergeant by 15 and was mentioned in dispatches for rescuing people from a bombed building.

When he was old enough he joined the Reconnaissance Regiment who were tasked to go to the front line and report back troop movements and advances. He joined the Phantoms which were a top secret unit who operate behind enemy lines. David Niven was also a Phantom. They drop behind enemy lines usually one phantom and one SAS operative. His friend was due to be dropped into France however he became ill, so they sent Des at 17 years old as he was the only one trained. Rules state you have to be at least 18 to go on active service. Hitler sent out a directive that, if any German soldier captured a British soldier with a P (Phantom) on his shoulder. Do not take prisoner. Execute immediately, this was due to their skills of escape and evasion and the knowledge they would have of Axis troops. He was dropped behind Caen before D-day to report on enemy troops. After the landings he witnessed a troop of Canadian soldiers from his observation post being wiped out by friendly fire from American fighter aeroplanes.

He carried out two further drops into Belgium and Arnhem. He finished the war on duty at the West German border. To top his heroic career in the war for the first time Des had the honour to lead the parade on Armistice Day on Whitehall in 2015 from the front. There were only five of the phantoms left.

Now there are only four (As of May 2016).