Longevity and dedication seem to sum up Leslie Dunn's career in The Archers.

For more than two decades, the Birmingham actor took on the mantle of Paul Johnson in the Radio 4 soap.

And if one instance typified his devotion to duty during an acting career spanning three decades, it was in 1977 when he defied doctors' advice and turned up to work - by ambulance.

After attempting to lift a gas cylinder on New Year's Eve, he aggravated an old back injury and was warned by doctors to stay in bed.

But he refused to let his colleagues down and hired a private ambulance to get him from his home in Hollywood, Birmingham, to the The Archers' BBC studio in Pebble Mill. There he read his script for three episodes of the radio serial from a wheelchair.

Afterwards, he said: "It wasn't an emergency in the true sense of the word, and I wasn't eligible for a public ambulance.

"It is very difficult for the scriptwriters to write out anyone at such short notice, so it was vital that I made it to the studios."

Born at home in Wheelers Lane, Moseley, in 1924, Leslie Dunn attended Camp Hill Grammar School and joined the RAF at the age of 18, where he trained as a flying officer in Canada. Always the keen actor, he would put on shows during the war to keep his fellow servicemen entertained.

In 1945, he married Joy and left the air force a year later. His acting career started at the Alexander Theatre in Birmingham, after he attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (Lamda) and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1949.

Five years later he landed his best known role in The Archers and was to stay in the soap until 1978.

His son Chris, a former member of the Birmingham band City Boy, who found fame in the late 1970s with their hit 5,7,0,5, said he had fond memories of his father's time on the show. I remember he used to take me to the studio and I used to watch them do all the recordings and sound effects.

"It was exciting," he said.

In 1978 however, Leslie made a shock departure from The Archers after becoming the second actor to be killed off in the series.

A spokesman for the programme said: "He created a dashing, but flawed character in his time. His role was an important one in the programme and his bankruptcy and untimely death was a major story of the late 1970s."

A year prior to leaving The Archers, he had established his own training company - Oral Communication Services, which built a reputation as a leading presentation training consultants.

After 25 successful years of training in presentation skills in no fewer than 18 different countries, Mr Dunn retired in 2003 at the age of 78.

His daughter Beverley described her father as an "intelligent, caring and charitable man", who was the president of The Birmingham Society For Mentally Handicapped Children, now Midlands Mencap, for 21 years.

She said: "He has had a wonderful life because he has been so fortunate to be involved in theatre, radio and television.

"He took those tools and applied them in running his own business to help people in a business sense be able to stand up and present without stumbling.

"In terms of his nature, he was a very intelligent man. Even in his late 70s, he got to grips with the internet and got proficient with that. He was a very proud man and encouraged us all."

Mr Dunn died last Friday at the age of 82 after a 12-month battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, three children and seven grandchildren.

The funeral will take place at 3pm on September 21 at the Robin Hood Crematorium in Shirley.