FORTY years ago, Britain was in the grip of a record-breaking hot summer.

A heatwave ran from June until August, with many parts of the country – including Milton Abbas – recording 45 days without rain.

Coming on the back of an uncommonly dry year in 1975, the weather – with temperatures well into the 90s Fahrenheit (30s Celsius) – led to a drought that put lives at risk.

Heath fires became common in Dorset, a row of 400-year-old cottages at Sturminster Marshall were gutted.

We asked for your memories of that astonishing summer.

Dave Popham, of Somerford, was an ambulance man in London that summer, whose late wife was to have their first child in October.

He said: “Pubs ran out of beer, traffic and traffic lights caused chaos as the computers controlling them overheated, tarmacadam became an adhesive as it melted and people were collapsing in the streets from heatstroke, exhaustion and dehydration (or a combination of these), as well as the usual assortment of incidents/accidents.

“We went camping at a site near Battle/Hastings in June of that year, where I went fishing at night – on the beach, to let my wife sleep comfortably. I usually slept on the beach too and stayed as cool as possible during the day.

“To be directly exposed to the sun for more than a couple of minutes caused both of us (and others) to become sunburnt, as we were both fair-skinned and light haired. To go outdoors in bright daylight without a hat, for more than a few minutes, was to invite hospitalisation.”

“Having been trying for a child for the previous 10 years, including IVF and other strategies, for my wife to become pregnant was nothing short of a miracle. However, to be heavily pregnant during that summer was an ordeal that those similarly affected will never forget.”

Marcelle King of Upton said: “I remember that on the local news they were frying eggs on the promenade at Bournemouth beach. Also I got sunburnt on a daily basis.

“The only sun creams available were ones that burnt you to a deep rust colour as quickly as possible! Coconut oil was our 'sun tan lotion' of choice. No knowledge of skin cancer in those days.”

Terry Dugdale said: “I lived in Holton Heath and the road from the Bakers Arms to Wareham was melting and you could see the road surface bobbling and cars and especially lorries were sinking into the road.”

Reader Joe West said: “I was commanding an Army Air Corps helicopter unit at Netheravon on Salisbury Plain and I was tasked to take two helicopters to the New Forest to assist the Hampshire Fire Service tackle fires.

“We went down on August 25 and 27 and met the fire service on the east side of Hurn airport. We took up various fire commanders to look at the various fires.

“I had two interesting tasks. The first was to take up the then member of Parliament, Robert Adley, to view his constituency going up in smoke

“One other task was to pick up the chief fireman and take him around. He told me he was in the RAF during the war and had been a Lancaster pilot and had never flown since then.

“The Forest was well ablaze and the Hampshire fire fighters did well to control it.”

Alan Franklin wrote: “I remember driving with my family down to Poole, wearing just a pair of shorts and flip flops. As s Serviceman stationed at Blandford Camp, I had never been able to dress like this since I did a tour of duty in Cyprus.

“As a serviceman I was also called on several times to help fight the frequent heath fires. Hot, very dirty work.”

Bob Knight recalled: “I was a police officer in 1976 and we were sent to assist with the evacuation of the caravan parks and Hospital at St Leonards. As we were in the caravan park, trying to make sure residents and gas bottles were made safe, I heard a terrific roar and the fire leapt a complete field towards us. Needless to say we all made a hurried retreat.

“One of my colleagues was wheeling an elderly lady from the hospital in a wheelchair and she looked up at the Officer and said: ‘Isn’t this exciting dear? Just like the war.’”

The dramas of that summer included frightening heath fires at Canford Heath, Ebblake near Ringwood and Avon Causeway. Five hundred people heading for Matchams Country Club were trapped in Matchams Stadium as fire burned around them. Holiday-makers and residents were evacuated as 50ft flames came within yards of Oakdene caravan site at St Leonards.

A row of 400-year-old cottages were gutted by fire at Sturminster Marshall, while public health experts warned of the dangers of food poisoning in the high temperatures.

In truly British fashion, the heatwave finally ended in a thunderstorm, days after the government appointed a “minister for drought” – and on the August bank holiday.