As the air raids grew increasingly severe in intensity, life in the Auxiliary Fire Service, proved to be a complex, far more dangerous occupation than George had ever imagined. To avoid British fighters, air raids took place at night which brought its own difficulties. Writing about fire fighting on the waterfront, he says…
“Spatial awareness becomes distorted by the brightness of the fire and the contrasting blackness. Coils of hose constantly trip us, one wrong step and we could end up in the dock. Wet hoses attract shreds of glass that not only cut our hands, but make small holes that shower us with water, soaking us from head to foot. The heat from the fire roasts our fronts while our backs are frozen. And holding the hose is like grasping an enormous snake, relax your grip for a second and it’ll whip up, break your arm, smash your nose or crack your skull.
Oh! and did I mention the high explosive bombs that continue to fall around us.”
During those stressful times, sketching became a coping mechanism that helped George to escape, until the government required paper to be rationed. Improvisation was the only answer, old greetings cards, discarded exercise books, official forms, no potential drawing material was ignored. And the AFS training manual’s blank pages, ostensibly for notes, became ideal for George’s quickly sketched cartoons during down-time between raids.
Over 2,700 Merseysiders lost their lives, including 68 firemen during the Blitz. The stories in Flights of Fantasy may be a practical way for older children/young adults to understand the life their Grandparents – and Great Grandparents – endured – and enjoyed during the first half of the 20th Century.